IHS Class of 2023 has done it

Irvington High School Principal Malikita Wright introduces Valedictorian Tayana Dacres before her commencement speech during graduation.

The Class of 2023 graduated from Irvington High School with speakers encouraging them to continue growing, to be accountable, to be aware of their mental health and to look out for others.

The ceremony was held June 22, outside behind the school, in the stadium filled with family and friends cheering on the graduates.

After the traditional procession with “Pomp and Circumstance” playing, the flag was presented by the school’s noted Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps Color Guard.

About-to-graduate-senior Jada Hill sang the “Star Spangled Banner” and Shevine Bambury sang “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

Assistant Principal Darren Love and Principal Malikita Wright greeted the audience, congratulated the students and offered advice. “You have grown not only in knowledge and skill but in resilience,” Principal Malikita Wright said.

“You have pursued excellence with unwavering dedication.”

She also encouraged the students to take a moment to appreciate the magnitude of their achievement and warned that they will encounter obstacles throughout their lives.

“Remember that every obstacle is an opportunity,” Wright said. “It is in adversity that true character is revealed.”

Wright also spoke about remembering the good times with friends during high school.

“Cherish the friendships you have made,” Wright said, adding later in a similar vein, “Leave your mark not only in your chosen field but on others.”

Superintendent of Schools April Vauss followed Wright telling the students they won’t be forgotten as they grow older.

“As you go on your journey, you will not be alone, we will be cheering you on,” Vauss said.

Board of Education President Syesha Benbow told the students to remember that “listen and silent are spelled with the same words.”

Salutatorian Louvianov Nicolas Paul spoke to her classmates and thanked those who supported her including her family, her sisters, God and her pastor.

Paul, who finished with a grade point average above 4.0, said she was “a homebody” but she wished she had done more during her time in high school and encouraged others to look inward but also to push themselves.

“Every day there must be something, even if it is miniscule, that you discover about yourself,” Paul said. “You deserve to give yourself a chance to be the best version of yourself.”

She also encouraged her classmates to ask for help when they need it.

“Remember to ask for help and don’t be afraid to grow,” she said.

Valedictorian Tayana Dacres followed Paul after Wright gave her a big introduction that included mentioning she was president of the National Honor Society, a cadet captain and had done more than 212 hours of community service.

Dacres said she was an average student in elementary school but a report card in sixth grade made her feel she needed to do better and led her on the path that brought her to the stage where she currently stood.

Dacres thanked her parents, grandparents, brother, twin sister, extended family and mentor and said she hopes the success she plans to have in the future will be an inspiration.

“I want to prove to people that even if you are from a small town like Irvington,” Dacres said, “you can succeed.”

The guest speaker was state Sen. Renee Burgess, who is from Irvington, graduated from the high school and represents the township in the legislature.

“I would like my presence here to be an inspiration,” she said, adding that to get where she is today, required work.

“I kept pushing and I stayed focused,” she said.

In a quick and concise delivery, she gave the students specific advice, including “celebrate yourselves unapologetically;” “create and develop a strategy”; “check your mental and physical health” and “talk to someone who can help you sort things out.”

Burgess told the students to set their goals high and to “close out those elements of the past that held you back.”

“The journey is not going to be easy, friends and family will fail you, but do not fear failure,” Burgess said. “Believe you are worth it. Believe you are great. Believe in a higher power.”

And when you do make it, help others.

“When you make it, reach back and pull someone forward,” she said.