HomeWashington Twp. News'A collective journey of growth': Township high school graduates 516

‘A collective journey of growth’: Township high school graduates 516

Courtesy of Washington Township School District
Senior Gia Marie Passante hugs her father, Washington Township School District Assistant Principal George Passante, who presented his daughter with her diploma.

The 516 members of the Class of 2024 stood one last time inside the Washington Township High School stadium on June 17 for the school’s 59th commencement.

After welcome remarks from Executive Principal Ray Anderson, summa cum laude graduates Lily Engelien and Olivia Nelson led the ensemble in the Pledge of Allegiance. The school choir performed the national anthem and the annual commencement song, “Moving On,” as arranged by teacher Amy Melson.

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The senior class executive board then offered remarks reflecting on the senior year that was.

Summa cum laude graduates Emily Westenberger, Anna Tobler and Chelsea Petro followed with touching speeches, encouraging their classmates to remember the good times as they seek to achieve even greater things in the future.  

“A few weeks ago, when approached to write a speech, I had a conversation with my dad,” Westenberger recalled. “While it began with a ‘How to write a good speech’ lecture, it turned into a reflection on his childhood. He spoke about his favorite movie as a kid, ‘Back to the Future,’ and how he would rip apart the house trying to build his own time machine.

“We laughed at it at the moment,” she added, “but it made me think how pivotal the (classic 1980s-era) movies from his childhood were to my childhood as well.”

Westenberger then quoted the 1986 movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and referred to the graduates’ experience with COVID

“The question isn’t what are we going to do?” she remarked, “the question is what aren’t we going to do? We logged into freshman year from our homes … We are walking out of Washington Township High School as a family.

“… Keep pushing towards your dreams,” Westenberger continued, “and create your own avenues. As John Keating says (in the 1989 film “Dead Poets Society”), ‘Make your lives extraordinary.'”

Tobler spoke of how graduation is just the beginning of the graduates’ success.

“Deep down, I know that this place has prepared us for the world outside of high school.” .

She, too, spoke of the COVID experience, remembering how the class’ high-school journey didn’t go smoothly, with freshman and half of sophomore year “in and out of school,” mostly in front of a computer screen.

“We are resilient,” she maintained. “Look at us now. We have created so many beautiful bonds with one another and we truly enjoyed this last year together. To me, this makes us family.

“Washington Township has given me a family outside of my blood line to lean on.”

As her classmates begin their new chapters, Tobler told them it’s “time to put ourselves to the test.”

“We are smart, strong, compassionate and well-rounded students,” she observed, “and I have no doubts in all our abilities to lead a good life.”

School Superintendent Dr. Eric Hibbs then told the crowd they were to celebrate “a collective journey of growth, perseverance, and the undeniable spirit of seizing every opportunity.”

“Life is a collection of moments,” he advised. “Each moment presents an opportunity, a chance to shape our destiny. As we embark on our next phase of our lives, let us reflect on the truth that every opportunity is a gift waiting to be unwrapped, a chance waiting to be taken, an opportunity to demonstrate your integrity, drive and impact on the world around you.

“Opportunities are like fleeting stars, brilliant, but momentary,” Hibbs continued. “We must learn to recognize these moments, reach for them, and not be afraid to grasp them with both hands … Don’t be a bystander in your own story; take risks, dare to dream and, most importantly, act on those dreams.

“… The world is yours: Go out and make the most of it.”

The superintendent then presented the class to the board of education, while seniors Talia Morrison and Khang Nguyen led the roll call of graduates.


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