‘It’s our time’

Ne­wark High grads ready to em­brace change

Newark Post - - Front Page - By JESSICA IANNETTA jian­netta@ches­pub.com

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

the spec­trum.

“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.”

NE­WARK POST PHOTO BY JOSH SHAN­NON

More than 270 stu­dents grad­u­ated from Ne­wark High School dur­ing a cer­e­mony at the Bob Car­pen­ter Cen­ter on Wed­nes­day night.

NE­WARK POST PHOTO BY JOSH SHAN­NON

Dono­van Hill, pres­i­dent of the Ne­wark High School se­nior class, ad­dresses his fel­low grad­u­ates.

NE­WARK POST PHO­TOS BY JOSH SHAN­NON

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.

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