As the members of the 2009 Scotch Plains-Fanwood High graduating class filled into the school’s football stadium last night, many had nervous smiles across their faces and a hesitant nature to their walk.
After crossing the stage and receiving their diplomas, though, those worried looks were quickly replaced by cheers, fist pumps and celebratory dances.
“Oh what?!” the students shouted.
Last night, 375 students graduated during the early evening ceremony, and as Board of Education President Trip Whitehouse noted, many of those students were some of the school’s highest achievers. There were 52 members of the National Honor Society this year, he said, along with nine National Merit Scholars, one National Merit Finalist and two recipients of National Hispanic Recognition.
“Our class of ’09 holds a special place in my heart,” Whitehouse said.
Families and friends of the grads completely filled the bleachers on both sides of the field. Several had homemade signs for their students, while many others had congratulatory balloons and flowers.
As each student crossed the stage and received their diploma from Whitehouse and Principal David Heisey, those in attendance cheered loudly and blew horns in celebration.
“Where did all the time go?” Valedictorian Karthik Kumar asked in his speech. “Here we are, almost in the blink of an eye, at the end of our high school career … trying to figure out what the future has in store for us. But what we all should remember is that just our presence here speaks volumes about what we have already achieved, and what we will continue to achieve.”
Superintendent Margaret Hayes reminded the students to remember the lessons they have learned over the past four years, not only personally and from teachers, but from one another.
"Here's to the ability to feel passion and act on it," she said, quoting from a poem written by Salutatorian Michelle Conway.
There were many laughs shared throughout the ceremony.
Class President Jaclyn Law reflected on the number of senior pranks that were pulled in recent weeks, including throwing bird seed around and writing early dismissal notes with excuses like “I have to attend a tea party with my teddy bear.”
“The pranks were our last hurrah of 2009,” Law said.
After the ceremony, students tossed their caps into the air and broke out in one final “Oh what?!” “09!” chant before filing out of their rows and completing a walk around the track.
They were greeted at the end with hugs and gifts from their parents, families and friends.
“I have never been so proud to call myself a member of this class,” Law said. “If the world sees in all of us what I do, we’re going to change it.”