‘It’s our time’
Newark High grads ready to embrace change
For members of the Newark High School Class of 2017, the realization that they were actually graduating hit them all at different moments.
For Lexus Christopher, the moment came during senior night for the volleyball team when she realized she was playing the sport for the last time. For Jessica Arellano, it came on the last day of school as she saw many of her friends on the soccer team for the final time. And for Mubarak Onaneye, it came as he was falling asleep the night before.
“I was thinking about what I’m doing tomorrow and I realized, ‘Oh yeah, I’m graduating,’” he said. “People were starting to doubt me, so it feels great graduating.”
But regardless of how and when they realized it, 273 NHS seniors walked across the stage at the Bob Carpenter Center Wednesday night and officially became graduates. For some, that rite of passage — and all the changes that come with it — was a long time coming, while others admit it crept up on them.
Karen Pinales, 17, attended her cousin’s graduation the night before but said she still “didn’t realize it was me.” Pinales, who plans to study human service management at Delaware Technical Community College in the fall, said she wavered between “excited and nervous” when it came to graduating, emotions she shared with her friend Phra Darmawan, 17.
But Darmawan, who plans to study biology at the University of Delaware next fall, admits to leaning a bit toward the excited end of
“After watching all those photos on social media, it’s finally me,” she said.
Donovan Hill, the school’s class president, described the whole experience as “daunting” but said he was only a little bit nervous about the speech he had to give. Hill, who will attend Roanoke College in the fall, said it wasn’t until he rehearsed his speech earlier in the day that it really set in.
“It finally hit that I’m grad- uating in 12 hours,” he said.
As he spoke to his classmates from the podium, Hill encouraged them to soak in the moment and enjoy every second as many of them had been waiting for graduation since the first day of high school. But while their lives will change dramatically once they receive their diplomas, Hill reminded his fellow graduates that they’ve already adjusted to a lot of change in their lives, from a new principal to a new political climate.
He also reminded the Class of 2017 that change is not something to fear. Quoting a close friend, Hill said it is often the unfamiliar rather than change itself that people fear.
“The quicker we learn this initial assumption, the quicker we can change that fear into curiosity,” he said. “It has been an honor to grow alongside you, learn alongside you, laugh alongside you and, most importantly, change alongside you.”
Valedictorian Emily Thompson also spoke of the changes she experienced during her time at NHS and thanked one of her teachers, Robert McDowell, for helping make much of that change happen.
It was McDowell, a sci- ence teacher at NHS, who made her realize that the speech she got to give as valedictorian was not really about her, she said.
“I know that many of you deserve to be up here just as much as I do because I’m not the smartest graduate in this room. Intelligence and self-worth are not measured by a class ranking,” she said, encouraging the graduates to learn from others whenever possible. “That’s the real purpose of education, not standing behind a fancy podium and claiming false superiority.”
The students weren’t the only ones who experienced change this year though. Aaron Selekman took over leadership of the school from longtime principal Curtis Bedford, who moved into a district-level position, in the fall. Selekman became emotional during his speech as he recounted calling the seniors down at the beginning of the school year and urging them to dream big.
He encouraged the graduates to engage in their life, wherever it may take them, but also assured them that they will always remain connected to their high school.
“No matter where you go in this world, you will al- ways have a hive to come back to,” Selekman said.
Patrick McGay and Zachary Baillie, both 18, believe that connection will remain strong through the many friendships they made in high school that they know will continue after graduation.
For Baillie, he not only found friends at NHS but felt he really found himself and grew a lot over the last four years.
As both he and McGay move onto UD in the fall, Baillie said he’s very ready for the next chapter.
“I just want to experience life as it is,” he said. “We’re young, it’s our time.”
More than 270 students graduated from Newark High School during a ceremony at the Bob Carpenter Center on Wednesday night.
Donovan Hill, president of the Newark High School senior class, addresses his fellow graduates.
Newark High valedictorian Emily Thompson honors science teacher Robert McDowell.
Newark High graduate Madeline Campbell recieves her diploma from her mother, Christina School Board President Elizabeth Paige.