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Township high school holds in-person graduation ceremonies

Half of 100 expected students attend the Aug. 12 events

Washington Township High School held two in-person graduation ceremonies on Aug 12, but though more than 100 students were anticipated for the events, only half attended.  

“You chose to endure the heat and humidity that only New Jersey could provide on the August morning just to be joined together one final time,” said Principal Jonathan Strout, master of ceremonies for the graduations.   

The class of 2020 is the 55th graduating class from WTHS. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the school offered a virtual graduation ceremony on June 18 and had a drive-by event for students to pick up their diplomas on June 22, 23 and 24.

The in-person graduations allowed students to gather in a socially distant setting one last time as a class. The school choir had virtually recorded the national anthem, the school alma mater and the song “Moving On” during the spring semester. Those recordings were all played during the ceremonies.  

This was also the first year that saw two students chosen as  co-valedictorians, twin brothers Tristan and Colin Lee. Colin was able to give his co-valedictorian speech in front of his peers. He prefaced it by asking who was familiar with the film “Bee Movie,” and began his speech with a quote from it. 

“‘According to all known laws of aviation, there is no way a bee should be able to fly,” Colin said. “Its wings are too small to get its fat little body off the ground. The bee, of course, flies anyway, because bees don’t care what humans think is impossible.’”

Colin also spoke to his peers about how life is constantly changing and that no one should be afraid to face the impossible. 

“We have an odd relationship with the impossible,” he noted. “Why we claim some facts in life are simply unchanging as much as we might try, we regularly achieve feats of this so-called impossibility.”

Colin finished his speech by leaving his peers with a challenge.  

“While your goal in life may not be to sue the human race, or maybe it is, there is something we can all take from (‘Bee Movie’ character) Barry B. Benson,” he said. “To utterly disregard the idea of impossible. Live life knowing that anything can happen, and that you are not bound by the now you see before you.

“Bees have never been afraid to change the world, so why should you be.”

Superintendent Joe Bollendorf and board of education President Judy Kozempel addressed the graduates and wished them well on their new journey. They spoke about how COVID-19 has created unprecedented times and how the board of education has looked at every decision during the last few months as parents, not just teachers.

After the reading of names, the last speech was given by Strout, who became emotional while speaking to students about how proud he was of them.  

He spoke to the students about a tattoo he put on his arm before the 2019 graduation ceremony. The tattoo was written in his mother’s handwriting and read, ‘You make me so proud, love mom,’ with the word “so” underlined twice. Strout explained to students that he learned at a teaching conference the most important thing you can say to a child is that you are proud of them.

“You have left an undeniable mark on this school and there will never be another class like the class of 2020,” the principal added. “As you leave the field today, I want you to know you have made us so proud, with ‘so’  underlined twice.”


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