Working Together for a Bright Future

570 graduate in 143rd Vineland High School Commencement Ceremony

Warm, sunny weather reflected the mood of both graduates and families alike on Tuesday as 570 seniors took to the field at historic Gittone Stadium for the 143rd annual Commencement Ceremony.

Despite minimum COVID-19 restrictions still in place, the crowd’s cheers for the soon-to-be graduates filled the stadium as the students filed to their socially distanced seats on the turf. Many of the graduates, wearing new Class of 2021 face masks, let their creativity shine through colorfully decorated caps--many reflecting on both the struggles they’ve faced the last two years and their hopes for the future. 

Vineland High School principal Suzette DeMarchi officially began the ceremony by welcoming the students, parents, and other guests before recognizing the hardships the students have overcome in their last year and a half of high school. 

“You are truly a resilient and amazing group of students,” DeMarchi said. “I commend you as you have proven over and over that nothing is beyond your reach. Your future is bright and your possibilities are endless.”

Speaking on behalf of the Student Government Association was president Bailey Dickenson, who encouraged her classmates to use the last year as a learning tool to guide them in the future.  

“We have gone through so much this year together,” Dickenson said. “It taught us that as you live your life, don't take anything for granted. Go achieve your dreams with confidence.”

Following Dickenson was Class of 2021 president Tyler Muessig, offering wise words of advice for his fellow graduates. 

“I have learned that if you prepare for the worst, then anything more than that creates happiness and a feeling of accomplishment,” he said. “From this day forward, we march on to develop our unique stories, and with every story comes challenges. We have to remember to never take anything for granted within this life we have been given.” 

Muessig also asked for a moment of silence to honor senior Daniel Diaz, who passed away in April following an accident.  

“Daniel brought kindness, happiness, love and joy to his friends and family,” Muessig said. 

Following his speech, Muessig then presented DeMarchi with the class gift: a tree planted at VHS South in honor of Diaz. 

DeMarchi then announced a surprise new scholarship in honor of Superintendent Dr. Mary Gruccio, who will be retiring at the end of the month following 46 years of service to the Vineland Public School District. An anonymous donor funded the scholarship, to be awarded annually to a student pursuing a career in education and who is active in the community. The first recipient, announced by DeMarchi during the ceremony, was Brooke Dickenson.

Mayor Anthony Fanucci, speaking next, encouraged the students to put the last year behind them and focus on the positives to come. 

“This is what it’s all about,” Fanucci said. “We’re not going to be defined by a virus. We’re not going to be defined by negativity. And I know that none of you are either. I think today is your day to make the final choice to be defined by greatness.”

An emotional Dr. Gruccio took the stage next, reflecting on her career and her joy that the graduates were able to celebrate some of the traditional senior moments. 

“I’d like to congratulate each of you on your accomplishments and on reaching this milestone in your life,” Gruccio said. “I recognize that this was not a typical school year for you, but we are blessed that we were able to have a prom and graduation as things improve. I will always remember this class, and the Class of 2020, for the way you handled this unprecedented challenge with strength and resilience.”

A graduate of Vineland High School, Gruccio encouraged the students to keep a special place for Vineland in their hearts and offered some words of wisdom for the future.

“As an alumnus, I encourage each of you to always remember where you came from and be proud of it,” she said. “As you reflect on tonight, remember that each of you are unique and special. It only takes one person to make a difference in this world. Each of you has the ability to be that person. As you move forward in life, remember: be just in a world of inequality, love when others hate, and surround yourself with people of integrity. I am so proud of all of you and I wish you nothing but the best.”

Rounding out the speeches was Board of Education president Scott English, imparting his own words of advice to the graduates. 

“Life is exactly what you choose to make it,” English said. “It comes with no guarantees, it is never easy, and it definitely doesn’t come with an instruction manual. It's a journey of ups and downs with many highs and lows along the way. So go out there and continue to embrace all the challenges that come your way. Never give up, and be legendary.”

Following the singing of the alma mater by the VHS Select Choir, Dr. Gruccio personally presented a diploma to Daniel Diaz’s family, seated on the track in front of the graduation platform. 

The ceremony concluded with students receiving their diplomas by twos and then exiting the platform on their way to new lives in higher education, military service, and employment.

The Commencement Exercises were videotaped by VPS TV and will be broadcast on Comcast Channel 9 and Verizon FiOS Channel 41 periodically at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. for the next few weeks. It is also available on our YouTube channel, VLDSchoolsTV.

Click on the link below for a gallery of still photos of the 2021 Commencement: