Timber Creek Regional High School held its 20th annual commencement on June 15, celebrating the achievements and accomplishments of more than 200 graduates as they gathered on the football field at Ralph E. Ross Athletic Stadium.
Welcoming the graduates and their families was Class of 2022 President Monica Thomas, who noted that while high school can often be a challenging four years, the class faced the added challenge of the pandemic.
“Life has thrown us every which way, but still, we held on,” Thomas said. “Some of us have held with a firm grip, while some of us were barely hanging by a thread, but we all held on, and for that we should be extremely proud.”
This year’s class featured six valedictorians and three salutatorians: the former were Mariana Cantero-Amozoqueno, Khanh Dang, Jada Feggans, Julia Lam, Meghan Ryan and Tatum Stielow, and the latter were Richard Lara Ortiz, Emily Liszewski and Mel Tonogbanua.
During the ceremony, each of the nine high achievers had the opportunity to highlight one symbolic gift traditionally given in a specific year and describe how it connects to their high-school anniversary. They alluded to the journey the students have embarked on throughout high school and the wild possibilities in the years ahead.
The nine gifts highlighted were fruits and flowers, paper, candy, copper, leather, oak, steel, porcelain and pearl.
In her speech, Liszewski discussed the impact that paper – a first-anniversary gift – has had on the graduates’ lives and the impact it may have in the coming years.
“On a couple’s first anniversary, paper signifies a blank slate, the opportunity to begin a new life while the threads of the paper’s fiber represent connectivity and strength moving bravely forward to a future together,” she said.
“The power of paper comes from its versatility; it becomes what we make of it,” Liszewski added. “Some of us will take the paper we are given and turn it into paper mache, coloring the world. Others will use it to bring education to the community through novels and newspapers.
Stielow, meanwhile, praised her fellow graduates for pushing through the difficult times.
“A pearl is actually created when an irritant enters the shell of an oyster,” she noted. “The oyster, like Aphrodite, turns something negative into something beautiful. No one can deny the allure of a pearl, which is why it’s a common anniversary gift, however, people do not truly understand what it takes to make something so beautiful with a specific process that can take up to four years.
“Every one of us is a pearl,” Stielow added. “As we stand here today, all of us are symbols of beauty and perseverance through our four years of Timber Creek.”
Looking back, Principal Kelly McKenzie congratulated the graduates for their perseverance, and said they’ve added to the grand tradition of battling when the going gets tough, whether in school or in life.
“The last few years manifested unpredictable circumstances, but throughout this myriad of problems and possibilities, this truly is and was an exciting time,” she said. “We learned to smile behind the mask. This school now and has always symbolized a beacon of hope.
“It will always be the sunshine.”