BLOOMFIELD, NJ — A procession of Bloomfield High School seniors and teachers made its way down Belleville Avenue to Foley Field on Wednesday morning, June 23, for a traditional commencement, leaving behind more than a year of lockdowns and a senior year fractured by the pandemic. For the venerable school, it was the 167th graduation ceremony. Listed in the program were 467 seniors who resumed a semblance of normalcy only a few months ago. Taking the podium to begin the ceremony at the stadium, BHS Principal Chris Jennings spoke to the point.
“We can all agree that the Class of 2021 was on the short end of the stick,” he said, adding that, nevertheless, it was a lovely day and everyone was finally together again. “Let’s enjoy it,” he said simply.
The Pledge of Allegiance was led by Senior Class Vice President Kayla Valente, and “The Star-Spangled Banner” was performed by the BHS Madrigals under the direction of Julia Aiello. Senior Class President Nisha Doshi then addressed the audience, saying it had been a tough year.
“Upon entering Bloomfield High as freshmen, we were told to cherish the next four years,” she said. “As freshmen, we brushed it off.”
But that first year, Doshi said, was a time of personal discovery. And by the end of sophomore year, everyone thought they had a complete knowledge of all staircases and floors.
“When we became juniors,” she continued, “we were told it would be the toughest year; the one that would count the most. And then the pandemic hit.”
Looking back on it, she said it was “crazy to think” a little over a year ago that school would be reopening in a few weeks following the initial lockdown. And then there would be senior year, Doshi said, which was something high school juniors dream about.
“But we were living in history,” she said. “We don’t control the world, but we do control what we put into it.”
She concluded by telling her classmates that, when they look back on BHS, whether with sadness or joy, always to remember the friends they made there.
This was followed by the salutatory address from Gabriel Farabaugh, who said it was amazing that the Class of 2021 would be receiving four-year diplomas after three years, calling it a “magic trick.”
But in a more serious tone, he said the pandemic “morphed our class.”
“We deserve to remember how far we’ve come,” Farabaugh said.
Valedictorian David Odekunle then began his address with a quote by professional wrestler Mark Batterson: “You’re always one decision away from a totally different life.”
Odekunle said senior year was nostalgic, but bizarre. He likened his high school experience to his hallway locker: As a freshman, he acquainted himself with it by learning the lock’s combination; as a sophomore, no problem, same locker; but as a junior, he used the locker for only half a year; and then as a senior, finally getting back to school and seeing his locker again, wondering if he remembered the combination. From his high school experience, Farabaugh imparted some advice to his classmates.
“No one has high school figured out,” he said. “Our experiences were different, but Bloomfield High was always there for us.”
He said life can sometimes be unfair, but they were together again because during the pandemic and lockdown, they got out of bed at 8 a.m. and turned on the computer camera for virtual learning.
“We stayed committed to our education,” he said. “We were driven by the thought that what we were doing wasn’t forever, but it was for something.”
He closed with a quote by Maya Angelou: “People will never forget how you made them feel.”
“We should aspire to leave a positive impact on our community,” Odekunle said. “It’s what brought us here today.”
The graduating class was then presented by senior class advisers Desiree Testa and Courtney Mullane. Bloomfield Board of Education President Jill Fischman accepted the class. Diplomas were presented by Schools Superintendent Salvatore Goncalves and Jennings.
Photos by Daniel Jackovino