Though high school will officially be a memory for the Class of 2012, speakers at Thursday night's commencement ceremony encouraged graduates to be inspired by what they learned throughout their years of education in and strive for more than just good test scores in college.
spoke about an empty trophy case in the high school lobby that is only empty because the trophies are currently being cleaned. She asked her fellow classmates to seek passions in life so that even if they do not have something physical to show for their accomplishments, they know they have done a great deal.
"I hope that our dream is and will always be real," Liu said.
She also reminded her classmates that they should take chances and not only do what is comfortable to them.
"As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others," she said.
Principal Doug Sanford told the students that they had spent more than 16,000 hours in classrooms and said he believes the amount of time spent in school was to prepare students for "when you wake tomorrow."
"That enormous length of time was intended to help you feel, rest assured, that when you rise, you will have the tools to be successful on whatever path life takes you on," he said. "Furthremore, it is my sincerest hope that tomorrow, you will wake with a path in sight. Just as education is about preparing you for life's challenges, it is equally intended to help develop a passion and curiosity for what life has to offer."
message during his own speech was similar, as he told his classmates to think beyond scoring well on tests and help make global changes. He said society often acknowledges those who test well, but there is more to life.
Dusaj humorously quoted the Twilight series and Rebecca Black's infamous song, "Friday."
"'Yesterday was Thursday, today it is Friday, tomorrow is Saturday and Sunday comes afterwards,'" he recited, of one of the lines in the song.
"We've long since passed through the Thursdays of middle school and now the Fridays of high school and as we move on to the Saturdays and Sundays of the years to come, 'We, we, we so excited, we so excited.'"
Student Jennifer Inglesino thanked the senior class advisors, as well as the students' parents, for helping to support the students throughout their schooling. Heidi Avrov spoke about how her senior year of high school was the best in her life and the many memories she made with her fellow classmates. (See the attached video for portions of their speeches.)
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Paul Fried asked the graduates to consider what they want to be "after today" and to think about how they will be viewed by others as they make their way through life.
He described graduation as a "defining moment where you can reinvent yourself."
Board of Education President Dr. Karen Cortellino's remarks strayed from the traditional graduation speech and focused heavily on the impact government intervention has had on public education.
" where No Child Left Behind left off, yet no one has explained why we are racing or what the top is," she said.
She told the graduates she would not offer advice Thursday but rather request for them to "protect the integrity of public education in this country."
"We have become obsessed with testing, ranking and competition," she said.
Cortellino spoke about the "growing trend of state intrusion" and Gov. Chris Christie capping superintendents' salaries and school district budgets and the effect both will have on education and programming in the future. She also compared American schools to international schools and said that in America, educators worry more about test scores, whereas other countries' school systems focus more on creativity and imagination of students.
"Are we creating a nation of thinkers or a nation of test-takers?" she asked.
However, she also commended the graduates, who she earlier called an "accomplished group," for demonstrating the positive effects public education can have on students.
"You are proof that our public schools are succeeding," she said.