A mixture of excitement, joy, nervousness and some sadness seemed to be the common reaction experienced by students, family, friends, and faculty on Thursday night, as members of the graduating class of 2011 bid farewell to and embarked on the next phase of their lives.
Emotions started to rise earlier in the day, said Nicole Muscarella, student government oresident, who presented the welcome speech.
“When we were rehearsing this morning and each of our names were called, you could see it on everyone’s faces, the reality began to set in–that this was really happening, that we were actually graduating,” said Muscarella.
She said she is looking forward to attending Penn State University in the fall to study social work and rehabilitation, but Thursday, she said, she was feeling a nervous excitement as the hours until graduation grew short.
she addressed the change that her class was about to experience, but she acknowledged that there have been many changes during the four years the students have spent together—and she said they learned to adapt along the way. And they will adapt again as they move beyond graduation.
She also spoke about her love of dance and the dances during high school that she will always remember. In keeping with the theme of dance, she quoted the soulful lyrics sung by Lee Ann Womack, “And when you get the chance to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance.”
Superintendent Thomas J. Ficarra spoke about the two definitions for knowledge in Italian, one for the purely factual knowledge, another for knowledge that is a combination of the intellectual and the emotional.
Ficarra said that it is his hope and wish that the students will seek out knowledge that is understood both with their minds and their hearts.
Just prior to entering the arena, several students shared what they were feeling.
“The four years went by really fast. It feels like freshman year was just last year,” said Anthony Harrell of Morristown, who is looking forward to attending Morris County College in the fall to pursue athletic training.
“I feel excited, and scared,” said Gael Dominguez, who is heading off to St. Elizabeth College in the fall.
Carl Barrett said he, too, was feeling a combination of excitement and a little anxiety as he faced the next stage of his life. Barrett will be attending Morris County College in the fall, and plans to transfer to William Paterson College for business management.
Kerri Farrell of Morris Plains said she was feeling excitement and a great sense of relief that her son Brandon was graduating.
She said it was also fun to see so many other mothers whom she had known from her son’s years in cub scouts.
Marcia and Bill Trignano of Morris Plains also felt a mix of emotions as they prepared for their son Marc’s graduation.
“I’m happy, but a little sad to see him go,” said Bill Trignano.
“I’m excited that he’s going to my alma mater–the University of Scranton,” said Marcia Trignano.
Eleanore Vergillo, Marc’s grandmother, who taught high school for 26 years, said, “I can’t wait to see him graduate.”
“It’s a great milestone,” said Virginia Sobol, whose son Danny was graduating.
Sobol’s brother Jim Doyle of Hoboken said his wish for Danny is that he is able to pursue his dream of writing for film and television.
“I’m ecstatic but feeling so many emotions at once,’ said Diarra Bailey, who was eager to see her daughter Alariamapp graduate.
"I have to say I feel a little sad. It's like watching my babies grow up," said Kris Lott, a substitute teacher at the high school. "I hope that whatever they do, they find great happiness and satisfaction in their next adventure."
Valedictorian Jenny Shih was not only getting ready to deliver her speech to an audience of over 1,000 but just hours before graduation, she was packing for her month-long trip to Taiwan and China.
“I’ve been really excited since I was accepted to Harvard, but this is still an ending, and I’m feeling kind of sad to leave behind my home, family and friends–but I am excited about the new challenges ahead," she said.
, she spoke about the habits and routines that her class members have become accustomed to but they will now be stepping into a new chapter of their lives where they will be forced out of their comfort zones.
She urged her class to consider the philosophy of Ralph Waldo Emerson who said, “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”
Shih said, “Go out and explore the world without delusion. Go out and live unscripted lives, unhindered by robotic routine. Go out and carve a pioneering trail free from selfish desire. Go out and help others. Go out and make us proud.”