Childhood’s end came on a warm summer afternoon for the Lawrence High School Class of 2019, when the seniors came together one last time as a class on June 20.
The 250-plus seniors gathered at the Cure Insurance Arena in Trenton to make up Lawrence High School’s 51st graduation ceremony.
The seniors’ spirits were high as they waited in the wings for their big day. One boy asked his friends to autograph his mortarboard cap, while two girls mugged for the camera as they each pointed to the red “Exit” sign in the hallway.
And then it was time for the event that they had worked toward for 13 years – graduation.
American Legion Post 414’s color guard led the way, followed closely by the Trenton Ancient Order of Hibernians Pipe Band, its members dressed in kilts. Lawrence Township Public Schools administrators, school board members, faculty and staff made their way onto the floor of the arena.
The Lawrence High School Concert Band played the familiar “Pomp and Circumstance” as the seniors, smiling and waving to family and friends in the stands, walked purposely onto the arena floor.
Once her classmates had settled into their seats, class President Alissondra Gutierrez welcomed her classmates, their families and friends. It doesn’t feel possible that senior year is coming to an end, she said.
Alissondra recounted some of the year’s highlights – from the tennis team capturing the state championship, to the school play and the cheerleaders competing in a national event in Florida.
“Being a Cardinal is more than winning games. It is about having a positive attitude and working hard for what you want to accomplish, and I think the Class of 2019 fully embodies what being a Cardinal is all about,” Alissondra said.
“We definitely left our mark. It’s time to spread our wings and go out into the world and show them what being a Cardinal is all about,” she said.
In his remarks, Class Salutatorian Gill Woody – the senior with the second highest rank in the graduating class – said he likes to read a book twice. The first time is to understand what is going on, and the second time to see all of the intricacies that the author has spent time putting together. It’s a balance between the big picture and the details, he explained.
“You may not be able to live your life twice, but you just have to remember there are two perspectives – looking back to the past and forward to the future, but also allowing yourself to see how to live right now. Life is all about fitting the everyday details around you into your big picture,” Gill said.
“Life isn’t worth living just once because you don’t learn from yourself and your past experiences. Always do your best to take the time to reflect and find all of the important details that you may have missed,” he said.
“If you don’t think something is important, wait 20 years and revisit it. You change so much in that time span, that everything is different,” Gill said, adding that their horizon of expectations “shifts to the amount of experience that you accumulate over a lifetime.”
“You might as well start thinking about it now,” Gill said.
Class Valedictorian Andrew Sam – the senior who ranked first in the class – said graduation day is a strange day. It is a day of the old and familiar, the new and mysterious, of inevitable endings and brave new beginnings. It is the day when the seniors open their arms to the goals and dreams that accompany adulthood, he said.
“The lesson that the Lawrence community is leaving us with is to enjoy every moment of what time we have left because life is ever-changing. High school is coming to an end now, so make the most of your time with each other and with your families,” Andrew said.
“You never know when a good thing will come to an end, so make the most of college or your job. Enjoy life as you strive to become the most successful person you can be,” Andrew said.
School board vice president Dana Drake, speaking on behalf of the Lawrence Township Public Schools Board of Education, said it was a special day for her because she is a “proud” member of the Lawrence High School Class of 1996.
“Whatever you choose to do after today, never stop learning. If you’re not sure what interests you or if your interests change, don’t worry. Most people I know who had their life mapped out at 18 are having a midlife crisis now,” Drake said.
For those seniors who have found their passion, “grab hold and don’t let go,” she said. Each senior has potential, so “make us proud and most importantly, make yourself proud,” she said.
Then, one by one, the seniors walked up to the podium to receive a hand shake and a diploma.
After the last senior received a diploma, it was time for the seniors to turn the tassel on their mortarboard caps and join the long line of Lawrence High School alumni.