Threatened claps of thunder could not have competed with the roar of the applause for the Class of 2012 Friday evening.
The 82nd graduating class of Robert E. Fitch High School tossed beach balls, floated bubbles, cheered and laughed, and for sure a few tears were shed as 299 graduating seniors and 45 graduating night school students said their collective goodbyes to their now-alma mater. But not before getting plenty of worldly, practical and heartfelt advice from peers and administrators.
Class president Andrew Lewis encouraged his classmates to embrace Jeffersonian ideals, keep in mind, “you only live once,” and remarked he looks forward to seeing “what happens at class reunions.”
Salutatorian Charles Young, realizing where his bread is buttered, thanked the community for supporting the building of a new high school and reminded his peers that none have been promised a “yellow brick road to happiness,” but encouraged all to stay true to the ideals of “character, responsibility and strength.”
Valedictorian Randall Fitzmorris said he had quite the time figuring out what words would be most meaningful and memorable.” He spoke of the support he’s had from his family, friends and teachers.
“Teachers pushing me to do more, friends pushing me to unwind and my family trying to find that middle ground,” he said. He spoke eloquently about specific students who inspired him and closed with a genuine sentiment: “The best is still ahead…it’s just never easy saying goodbye to a family.” His Fitch family.
And Commencement Speaker Daron Chandler moved the entire audience and class with his touching admission about when he first arrived at the school having transferred from California. He recalled "hiding in the bathroom to avoid sitting alone at lunch." But he would soon not only make plenty of friends but become an honor student and member of the Fitch Falcons robotics team. He reminded his class that if they "want to change the world, we first need to change our attitudes."
Principal Joseph A. Arcarese, who received a thunderous, rousing applause and ovation from the Class of 2012 talked about the class’s stellar achievements, from the more than $100,000 handed out in scholarships to the more than 500 ‘honor cords’ for academic achievement to the myriad accomplishments of clubs, associations and sports teams – baseball and robotics champs to name a few – and name dropped colleges and universities the class will be attending from the Princeton to Yale. But perhaps the biggest hand of the evening, besides the conferring of diplomas was for the young men and women of the Class of 2012 entering the military.
Arcarese asked the class to make four agreements in their lives: make their word their bond, not to take anything personally, not to make assumptions ands to always do your best.” And on the latter, the class cheered.
And then the class lined up to receive their diplomas with families cheering and shooting video, throwing flowers and taking photograph, culminating with the playing of the school alma mater and the Pomp and Circumstance recessional.
“I can’t believe it’s over,” a teary-eyed mother named Tammy said.