The evening of June 26, 2013 will be an evening Montclair High School Class of 2013 graduates will remember for the rest of their lives; because yesterday evening was the evening they graduated high school and kissed the public school system, that had been such a integral part of their lives, goodbye.
“Graduating is so bittersweet,” says graduate Leo Poggie. “It’s great to be moving on, I’m really excited to go to college, but at the same time I’m sad to leave my high school experience behind. I really did have such a great time with all my friends and participating in all my sports and other activities.”
A lovely was ceremony held in the amphitheater, at the Montclair High School main building. The class of 2013 had the privillege of having a commencement address delivered by Montclair’s mayor, Robert D. Jackson; whose daughter Taylor Jackson was graduating along with the class of 2013.
Mayor Jackson told the graduates it was now time to “Man up, woman up and show the world you are someone to be reckoned with” and to “leave these hallowed halls and achieve greatness.”
“I think Mayor Jackson’s speech was short and to the point which was great. It really packed a punch,” says graduate Emma Fishman. “It was very well written and he was incredibly well spoken.”
Senior Class President Malik Wright also spoke.
“Malik’s speech was great and very moving,” adds Fishman. “It was obvious he had made a real effort in writing it. He did a really great job. It was a very nice addition to the ceremony.”
The presentation of the diplomas passed by quickly and without a hiccup.
After tossing their graduation caps up in the air with a fervor that moved everyone in the vicinity, graduates were whisked off to a line of buses waiting to take them to Project Graduation. The Class of 2013 was transported from the high school, on about eleven buses, to an arcade and amusement center, I Play America, in Freehold Township, NJ.
Students had been given awesome tie-dyed t-shirts earlier in the day when they’d picked up their wristbands. Some chose to cut their shirts to make their own fashion statements while others left them as is. Either way- before boarding the buses Midland Ave. was a sea of blue, black, and white swirled tie-dye.
The bus ride itself was the most exciting part for most of the students.
It was exhilarating to stick their heads out the window and cheer along with the hundreds of Montclairians who stood outside their homes and businesses yelling words of encouragement, honking their car horns, and extending their arms for hi-fives.
It was amazing to see how much the community truly cares for the seniors.
“My favorite part of the night was definitely the bus ride,” said graduate Courtney McMorrow. “It was just great because seeing all the people standing on the sidewalk, cheering at our bus, was just so moving. It really shows how much this town has supported us.”
However- a few bus riders were a little unlucky. Some were hit with eggs, cottage cheese, or water.
But that didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits and as the buses made their way around town all the graduates continued to cheer and chant.
The venue for the night featured many exciting activities including laser tag, go-karts, arcades games, bumper cars, bowling, carnival games and other fun rides and activities. All the attractions were set up in what appeared to be a fake little town, complete with a boardwalk and ocean mural painted on the wall. It was like being inside a dollhouse.
Out of all the activities, laser tag was one of the favorites of the night.
“I think laser tag was definitely my favorite part,” says graduate Nick Twomey. “When it got late, playing it was so important. At two in the morning, laser tag was what gave me the adrenaline to stay awake.”
A lot of students found themselves winning big in the arcade and many could be seen on Midland the next morning hauling large plush stuffed animals and other prizes back to their cars.
Project Grad also gave students a lot of time to get their yearbooks signed by their friends and classmates. A solid two hours were spent with graduates scuttling to and fro trying to get as many signatures and heartfelt messages as they could.
“It was really fun being with my whole class,” shares graduate Ben Sabin. “I liked being able to sign yearbooks and hang out considering it’s probably the last time I’ll see some of them.”
However, despite the fun, it was a long night for everyone.
“It’s a really great idea and it’s so fun for the first few hours but at a certain point you just get so tired and maintaining that high energy you arrived with feels impossible,” explains Ethan Kramer.
“I fell asleep behind an air hockey table,” admits graduate Autumn Green.
“This went past my bed time,” laughs graduate Faith Hill. “All the arcade games and activities just really wipe you out- especially if you’re not an arcade person.”
While a lot of the students were very tired and cranky by the time they pulled up to Midland around six in the morning (counting an early graduation rehearsal, many had been awake for nearly 24 hours) none of them truly regretted going.
““I mean it’s a long night, it really is, but I enjoyed myself,” shares graduate Eliana McCann Smith. “I had a lot of fun and I’m glad I went.”
“Project Grad is great,” says graduate Keith Harrison. “It really is a nice way to bring us all together one final time. It allows us to look ahead, but still hold onto our friends and high school memories for one last night.”
Wednesday was a remarkable day for the Class of 2013 and it surely won’t be one they’ll forget anytime soon.