Hundreds of Deptford High School’s seniors celebrated the end of a long school year at their graduation ceremony on June 15.
Thousands of people showed up to the Joe Corbi and Jim Hawkins Spartan Stadium to witness the graduation of 238 students, the 63rd commencement in the school’s history.
The ceremony opened with an introduction by the Class of 2023’s Vice President, Leyna Le, and the presentation of the flag by the color guard of the school’s NJROTC program for the national anthem. Principal Jason Strauss then began the ceremony with a brief speech.
“Our graduates will be leaving the halls of Deptford High School and continuing their formal education or going to various careers,” he told the crowd. “We depend on our graduates to assume the leadership positions in the world and to guide us into the future.”
Several students also took the opportunity to speak, reflecting on their time in school and what the future might hold for them.
“Congratulations guys,” said class President Hanna Shein. “Looking around me and seeing all the grown-up faces of my peers, many of whom I’ve known since pre-kindergarten, it is hard not to have tears brought to my eyes.
“The students behind me have watched each other grow in every possible way and have learned a lot more from each other than I could ever fit into one speech.”
Seats on the field were reserved for several dignitaries, including principals from other schools in the Deptford district, former teachers, administrators, and members of council and the board of education.
“Our invitation to speak is a symbol of the cooperation between the school board and the township administration, and it shows the importance of education in our community,” noted Mayor Paul Medany.
“Wherever you go – to college, to a job, to the military – just relax this summer,” he advised. “We’re going to ask a lot of you, and we’re still going to ask a lot for you, if your path isn’t set, you make sure to define your own success.”
Two empty chairs on the field paid tribute to late community members. One was for late Deptford police officer Robert Shisler, who died in May from injuries sustained in the line of duty. His chair was draped by the jersey he wore to play baseball at the high school.
The other chair was for 18-year-old Victor Rodriguez, who was days away from his Pitman High School graduation when he drowned in Alcyon Lake. A moment of silence for both men came at the start of the ceremony.
The ceremony ended with students turning tassels to symbolize closing one chapter in their lives and moving on to the next.
“It’s a great night to celebrate the students after all the years of education,” said school board President Joe McKenna, “and hopefully their education has set them up well for their future in life.”