635 Vineland High School seniors accepted their diplomas on a hot, overcast Wednesday evening at historic Gittone Stadium to become the school's 141st graduating class.
After days of practicing in the heat and weather forecasts that threatened rain up until the last minute, both the graduates and their families enjoyed a dry evening for the festivities. The graduating class embraced their evening, breaking into spontaneous chants, cheers, and a choreographed dance set to a medley of songs.
By the time the familiar strains of Pomp and Circumstance echoed throughout the stadium, the crowd had taken every available seat and standing space. Their cheers and screams filled the air as the graduates filed out and took their places in the bleachers facing the audience.
In a new feature this year, students were allowed to decorate their caps for the celebration. Many students used the opportunity to express themselves through inspirational quotes, song lyrics, photos, and even a pizza box.
Vineland High School principal Suzette DeMarchi officially kicked off the ceremony by welcoming the students, parents, and other guests.
“Class of 2019, this is your day,” DeMarchi said. “I commend you, as you have proven over and over that nothing is beyond your reach. I must say, Vineland High School’s Class of 2019 is truly the best and brightest and I am so proud of each and every one of you.”
Salutatorian Rucha Shah, who drew several cheers from her classmates throughout her speech, took the stage next. Shah highlighted many of the Class of 2019’s accomplishments, and credited living in Vineland as one of the keys to their successful future.
“If you’re from Vineland, chances are you know what it is like to struggle and to face adversity,” Shah said. “If you’re from Vineland, you know what it’s like to overcome the odds and achieve success. If you’re from Vineland, you know what it’s like to build yourself from the bottom to the top, overcoming all odds. Graduating beside us we have students that have earned full rides to Ivy League schools, students that have spearheaded initiatives to further a cause important to them, athletes with full rides to play not one, but two sports in college. Us Vinelanders are beyond fortunate to be part of such a well-rounded community, with individuals that fearlessly set out to achieve their goals with such grace and vigor. This melting pot we call home has set us up for success.”
Valedictorian Sara Parks took the stage next, using the game of Monopoly – a favorite of hers and her siblings growing up – as a metaphor for the graduating class.
“When you walk across this stage tonight, you are passing “Go” and collecting the $200 dollars,” Parks said. “We have what we need for this next lap around the board. Now we have to get working our way around for yet another time. But, this time is different. This time we have experience. Yes, when we go around this time the board will look different from the last. There will be new, frighteningly large houses or hotels to land on or open space where a house used to be. But, regardless of how different the challenges in front of you look, at their core, they are challenges you have already conquered.”
President of the Class of 2019 Jada Morgan credited her family with helping her grow into the person she is today. She also encouraged her classmates to embrace the opportunities ahead of them and take charge of their future.
“In a month our outlook on life and ourselves will have changed,” Morgan said. “In just a year, some of us may not know what our next step is, or maybe your dreams will have come true. All of those different possibilities are inching closer every day, and there is no way you can hold it off. Either you take your life and make it yours, or someone else will take it and make a shipwreck out of it.”
Mayor Anthony Fanucci credited teachers and family members for guiding the students throughout their education, and encouraged the students to continue to make Vineland proud.
“Be proud that you’re from Vineland,” Fanucci said. “Be proud that you’re a shining example of what the future holds for Vineland. Because I know I’m proud of you.”
Dr. Mary Gruccio, Superintendent of Schools, passed along words of wisdom to the students for their future endeavors.
“As you reflect on tonight, remember that each of you are unique and special,” Gruccio said. “It only takes one person to make a difference in this world. Each of you have the ability to be that one person.”
Vineland Board of Education President Scott English offered parting words to the graduates, encouraging them to continue to succeed, regardless of where the future takes them.
“Your journey is now complete in the Vineland Public School district,” English said. “I can only hope that each of you have taken advantage of all the good things that the district has to offer you. I encourage each of you to continue to be great, stay focused, and continue to make us all proud.”
English then presented the ceremonial first diploma to Morgan.
The senior members of the VHS Select Choir impressed the crowd with several selections throughout the ceremony and VHS poet laureate Alexia Opromollo recited a passionate original piece to an enthusiastic crowd to wrap up the pre-diploma portion of the ceremony.
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 this evening, June 20, at 7 p.m. and periodically at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. for the next few weeks. It is also available on our YouTube channel, VLDSchoolsTV.
Souvenir copies may also be ordered through the following link: http://bit.ly/2Xr7hyB
Click on the link below for a gallery of still photos of the 2019 Commencement Exercises.
Full list of graduates:
Click on the following links for a full copy of the student speeches.
Valedictorian – http://bit.ly/2WUdgYC
Salutatorian – http://bit.ly/2WWlX9r
Class President – http://bit.ly/2x5z74H