GLEN RIDGE, NJ — In a momentous reassertion of tradition before family and friends, Glen Ridge High School graduated 136 seniors at Hurrell Field on Thursday evening, June 17. GRHS students in the Class of 2021 were grateful and relieved to have an in-person commencement; the joyous atmosphere was acknowledged by speakers during the ceremony.
Following a student procession to the bleachers from across the football field — the girls in white dresses followed by the boys in white dinner jackets — Principal John Lawlor welcomed event guests, saying it was great to be celebrating together again. He then introduced Senior Class President Meghan Emma Liddy. Taking the podium, Liddy said no one had been sure whether the ceremony would even take place and then got down to presidential business.
“I’m up here to tell you what this class was about,” she said, citing sports accomplishments, a memorable yearbook and, significantly and for the first time, two co-valedictorians. She said senior year was a culmination of memories for each student. Her greatest memory was being class president.
“We made it here today, despite everything,” she said. “And this is only the beginning.”
Massimo Piero Pavan served as class speaker; this speaker is traditionally chosen by graduating seniors.
Pavan thanked his family and teachers for their support, while acknowledging that he sometimes did not live up to expectations. Fondly recalling late-night car rides, he said memories were “a double-edged sword.”
Reflecting on growing up, Pavan said Glen Ridge was an insular community that was sometimes overbearing and a breeding ground for loneliness. Addressing his classmates, he said he has known almost all of them most of his life and was amazed at what has gone into each of them. He said he was grateful for his friendships.
This address was followed by the awarding of the Citizenship Cup to Samantha Grace Rooney.
The first co-valedictorian, Jack Stephen Bronstein, then spoke.
Bronstein thanked the administration for having a graduation ceremony. He said 15 months ago, when the school shut down, he first thought it was exciting. But as the lockdown continued, he found it difficult to be at home, missed his friends and was grateful when normalcy returned. He vowed never to take family or friends for granted again.
He thanked his teachers for “making us better people” and his parents for keeping him on course. He also acknowledged his siblings and the family dog. He told his classmates to “recharge” over the summer because, with their imaginations, they are bound to accomplish great things.
In his introduction, Lawlor said co-valedictorian Alexander Michael Dreier always acted professionally.
Dreier thanked his teachers for helping him be a student and an actor; thanked the school drama club; and also thanked his two older sisters, “who have given me lots and lots of good advice and never let me get away with anything.” He congratulated Bronstein, who, he said, happened to live across the street from him.
“It must be something in the water,” he joked.
What was important, Dreier said, was for a person to figure out their personal expectations. He said he was happiest when his expectations were consistent with his goals. He asked his classmates to laugh, enjoy life and follow their passion.
Superintendent Dirk Phillips was the final speaker.
“Often at graduations, you hear how broken the world is,” he said. “But at graduation, I wish to focus on positives.”
Phillips said the world is not broken, not as long as hope, compassion and love can be found. He then had four pieces of advice for the seniors.
“One: Go to every college class; sit in the front and ask questions,” he said. “Two: Don’t listen to the devil. Three: Participate in study groups. And four: Get involved in your interests; expand beyond the dorm room and the classroom.”
Diplomas were presented by Board of Education President Elisabeth Ginsburg, followed by a rousing recessional march.
Photos by Daniel Jackovino