WEST ORANGE, NJ — Orange High School held a joyous celebration, as only the OHS Tornadoes can, on Wednesday evening, June 22, at Codey Arena, for its graduating senior class. The program listed 242 students to receive diplomas. Among the class’ many hard workers, the valedictorian was Omenma Abengowe and the salutatorian was Jhasmin Quinberlin Lopez.
The evening began with a moment of silence for the 19 students and two teachers killed at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, during a May 24 attack by a lone gunman. Among the commencement speakers was OHS Principal Jason Belton, who told his graduates that now was the time to roll up their sleeves and pursue their dreams. He cited several seniors who had shown him they had the right stuff.
One student, he said, told him he wanted to be a pilot. This person later sent him a selfie of him skydiving wearing an OHS sweatshirt.
Another example was when two students asked for permission to create a fundraiser to make the prom more affordable for some of their less fortunate classmates.
“That’s what we send our kids to school for,” he told an appreciative audience. “Sometimes, I get caught up in the A’s and B’s of schoolwork, but that small conversation spoke big to me.”
Belton told the seniors, as they meet with success in the ensuing years, to take people along with them so others can share in their success. This theme is a connecting link between successive speakers and OHS graduating classes: Go out into the world, achieve your success, but come back to Orange and lift up the community, because someday you will have the power to do it.
“A diploma is bigger than the credits you have for them,” Belton said. “And at this point, you should be strong enough to say ‘no’ to some things because of your responsibilities.”
He then asked the seniors to repeat after him: “We are proud, we are one, we are Tornadoes.”
Photos by Daniel Jackovino