HILLSBOROUGH: Graduates’ spirit rules to the end

Class of 2013 saluted at last commencement at Hillsborough High campus

By Gene Robbins, Managing Editor
   Each high school class has its own personality, Hillsborough High School Principal Karen Bingert told the graduation audience at last Thursday’s commencement exercises.
   And the one before her, she gushed, will be remembered largely for its school spirit — right from the get-go in freshman year.
   She had heard the buzz about the Class of 2013 from middle school teachers “who were all talking about what a special class you were,” Ms. Bingert said.
   She said she recalled the night she knew it was true: Spring 2010 during Spirit Night, that raucous and frenzied explosion of springtime energy that pits the four classes against each other.
   ”Your class figured out Spirit Night much quicker that the average bear,” she said.
   Then, in the next year, the class took command of the occasion — “in a way no other group of underclassmen had ever done,” she said. “There were phantom whispers of ‘This is/our house’ coming from the sophomore section of the gym like the ghost of things to come.”
   The energy continued right through this spring when, as part of Spirit Week, the class put together a hilarious video and senior dance “beyond comparison,” she said.
   ”Your class redefined school spirit, and Hillsborough High School is all the better for it,” she said.
   Commencement went off with barely a hitch on a warm, but tolerable, summer night in the last graduation ceremony to be held on the school athletic field. Next year, the ceremony will move indoors to Sun Bank Arena in Trenton.
   As in 2012, there were water bottles at the foot of the chairs for faculty, school board members, administrators and guests — but none this year for the 598 imminent graduates. Seniors had to steady their mortarboards in a slight breeze.
   Sunglasses dominated, and 3-inch-high cork heels seemed to be the females’ fashion of the day. One such-shorn young lady tumbled as she finished the entrance walk around the track.
   Just 24 minutes into the ceremony, with everyone seated, the first of what seemed to be a larger-than-normal complement of beachballs than normal began bouncing above the graduates’ heads. Only when the objects became inflatable dolls did teachers intervene.
   Three student speakers had their own spin on the legacy of the Class of 2013.
   Valedictorian Marielle Brady said she had come to understand “how driven this class is.”
   ”We are a grade of determined individuals . . . we are the grade of those who work too hard, who are scary successful,” she said. “This is a class of doers, of darers, of those not afraid to take a chance and have a good time doing it.”
   Marielle told her classmates they had overcome one of life’s hurdles — surviving high school — and they have succeeded.
   She warned her classmates they are about to step into a world where their future is in their own hands.
   ”Today is the moment where the passenger becomes the pilot,” she said.
   She knew her classmates could do it, she said,
   ”You’re not being asked to be perfect,” she said. “Rather, embrace the challenges ahead, and learn from the mistakes you make, rather than wonder, ‘what if?’”
   Class President Ezra Baeli-Wang, who announced the class gift will be a contribution to a “school spirit-related beautification project that will be taking shape next year,” recalled how the class morphed during its four years, making the transition from thinking about “me” and changing to “we.”
   ”Though this has been a largely collective experience, we will all leave this place behind with entirely unique memories of the journey,” he said.
   Salutatorian Joy Zou told her classmates they all have different abilities and skills.
She said she thought the greatest achievement of the class “is living for ourselves. It is being our own persons, and choosing to excel in many different fields. It is also our ability to look past the judgments of others and simply focus on ourselves . . . Most of all, it is our ability to appreciate others for all that they have done because we now that everything we do carries some meaning for someone out there in the world.”
   Her parting advice?
   ”Always close the garage door, don’t leave anything on a Bunsen burner, check to see that the screen door is open before you walk out onto a patio and be kind because a little bit of kindness and tolerance from every person really does go a long way,” she said.