Eastern Regional High School kicked off its June 20 graduation ceremony with a roaring performance from the school band as guests and graduates packed McAleer Stadium for the first “normal” graduation since the pandemic began.
After a brief introduction from school Vice President Jake Younger and a performance of the national anthem by the Eastern Chorale, the mic was turned over to valedictorian Vikram Meyyappan and salutatorian Carly Schulman.
“We stand here in solidarity, proud of what we accomplished and hopeful for what the future will bring,” began Meyyappan, who drew laughs from the crowd as he joked about putting off the writing of his speech until lunch detention.
“I sat there for 20 minutes, unable to put pen paper, or should I say hand to keyboard?” he said. “Even at home, I spent hours on this speech without writing a word. How typical of a procrastinator.
“Life is a learning experience, pursuing your interests and keeping an open mind will take us far,” Meyyappan added. “As a class that has overcome the challenges of high school and a global pandemic, we should await the future with a vitality greater than [those] which preceded us …”
“It seems like just yesterday we were getting lost in the hallways, uncontrollably clapping during assemblies and trying to figure out the best ways to each lunch,” said Schulman, who talked about navigating challenges over the past two years.
“Eastern’s Class of 2022 is [composed] of the most passionate, resilient people I know …” she noted. “I can’t wait for the world to see everything that we have to offer. They truly aren’t ready for us.”
In addition to speeches from Meyyapan, Schulman, and Class President Robert Golin, the crowd heard from Principal Dr. Robert Tull Jr.; school Superintendent Robert S. Cloutier; Guidance Supervisor Jason Susko; and Congressman Donald Norcross.
“Class of 2022, as I look out and see all of your faces, I’m glad everyone has made it back from the senior trip,” joked Susko, referring to airline flight cancellations that stranded seniors in Florida’s Disney World for an extra two days.
“These young people before you today have taken advantage of everything that Eastern Regional High School has to offer,” said Tull. “…These students are prepared to move beyond the halls of our schools and begin to navigate the pathways that will lead to further education in life.”
Norcross briefly addressed service to the nation’s military, citing students who have bypassed college to join the armed forces. Norcross’ son is a veteran.
“[Here] at Eastern Regional High School, one of the reasons I’m here today is you have the highest number of [students] who have decided to put service before self and join the service for our great country.” Norcross said. “… It’s so important today that we recognize these men and women.”
Prior to the announcement of graduates, Cloutier shared some words with the crowd that reflected on the past year.
“The normal four-year, high-school experience was disrupted as we experienced general uncertainty, literally [every day],” he noted. “Despite it all, the Class of 2022 persisted and thrived; the class of 2022 heroically earned outstanding achievements in academics, the arts, and athletics.
“The theme I shared with the staff this year was to visualize our students’ success,” the superintendent added. “This class was perfect in helping us … As I look on this field with a full stadium of parents, our visions are converted into the emotions of pride and confidence.”
After nearly two hours, Golin rushed to the stage to direct his classmates in the much-anticipated moving of their tassels.
“Alright guys, it’s time to do what we’ve all been waiting for today,” he remarked. “Will the Class of 2022 please move their gold tassels from the left to the right side.”
A cloud of caps tossed in the air accompanied cheers throughout the stadium as Eastern grads officially became alumni.