A last-minute lightning storm may have forced the Nutley High School commencement into the gym, but it didn't seem to dampen the mood of the overflow crowd, some of whom had to watch the ceremony televised on screens.
Co-Valedictorians Jared Lin and Vahid Hoshmand had the same message for their 291 classmates at the 2012 Commencement Ceremony for the senior class Friday night.
Valli Hoshmand smiled with pride as his son, Vahid, delivered a Valedictorian's speech challenging his fellow graduates that "YOLO, you only live once, so make it meaningful and exciting."
Lin similarly told his classmates, "Let your life mean something. Live to learn, only then will learn to live, YOLO!"
Ashish Aman, the class Salutatorian, spoke about arriving in the United States unable to speak English, and how his family's support got him through at first.
"But now, if we get lost, like that small boy, our family is of all of us, and we have each other," Aman said.
Brianna Patrizio, the senior class president, said choked up with emotions talking about her eight best friends, and told her classmates they have fulfilled the 2012 yearbook's theme, "Leaving a Legacy."
"That legacy will remain there forever," Patrizio said. "It's not the end, it's just the beginning."
The young men, dressed in maroon, and the young women, dressed in white, marched up and received their diplomas from school officials, including Superintendent of Schools Russell Lazovick and interim Principal Ed Barry.
At one point, beach ball was knocked around the gym, and the crowd booed when it was confiscated.
All of the speeches, including those by Lazovick and Barry, were greeted with loud ovations.
Lazovick talked about three myths of those who look back on their high school days, that they had no responsibilities, that they were always surrounded by their friends, and that they didn't have to work as hard.
Instead, he said, the opposite was true, about responsibility and hard work, and that the friends they make going forward will be just as important.
"It's about the pursuit of happiness - and the pursuit is the happiness," Lazovick told the crowd. "Enjoy the climb and the journey."
Barry said, "This is the finest class it has ever been my privilege to present," and said the class has been offered more than $3.5 million in scholarships and grants.
Following the ceremony, the class was off to Project Graduation which was from 10 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. at Power House Studios, 49 E Midland Ave in Paramus.