NEWTOWN >> Due to the forecast of wet weather, graduation ceremonies were forced to relocate inside for the first time in recent memory at Council Rock High School North.
But that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm as family members and friends cheered from the bleachers as the more than 400 members of the Class of 2019 filed to the front of the gym to receive their diplomas from members of the school board.
The scene was much the same at Council Rock South in Northampton Township where close to 500 seniors received their high school diplomas before a gymnasium packed with family and friends.
Collectively, the more than 900 members of the Class of 2019 from North and South have been awarded more than $30 million in college scholarship money with many choosing to continue their education at some of the best colleges and universities in the nation.
“This school year has been full of milestones and accomplishments,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Robert Fraser in his end of the school year message to the district. “Yesterday, our Class of 2019 graduated, and we couldn’t be more proud of them ... They are certainly equipped to accomplish great feats as they begin this next chapter in their lives.”
At Council Rock North, the Class heard parting words and advice from classmates Tara McGuigan, Josee Li and Class President Josefina Echeverria.
In her speech entitled “Connections,” McGuigan said in a world that has the capacity to be so connected, she has often felt disconnected.
“It is so easy to get lost in my cellphone and in the alternate universe that is technology,” she said. “The challenge ahead is that social fragmentation is growing. Everywhere people are plugged in. People in public settings decide to be alone staring at their laptop. Families at restaurants are on their phones instead of enjoying each other’s company. We text rather than talk.
“We are supposed to be the most connected generation, but are we actually connecting to each other?” she asked.
“As we move on in the next step of our lives, I challenge all of us to think about how to become more connected, for in this life we are nothing without the connections we make with those around us.”
McGuigan said she has grown and thrived as a result of the connections she has made at North.
“These past four years have been filled with the highs of friendship, love and self-discovery and the lows of loss, political divide and disappointment. But most importantly these past four years have taught us the importance of connections.
“I want you all to go through the next phase of your life looking through a new lens,” McGuigan told her classmates. “Reject the isolationism that technology creates. Prioritize connections with people. Reach out and learn the stories about the people in your life. Create meaning and connection through actual conversation. And use the time with people, especially your friends and your family, to the fullest.”
In her remarks, “All I ever really needed to know I learned in kindergarten (and CRN),” Li shared four lessons from their kindergarten days that continue to apply today.
First, she told her classmates, when entering the world watch for traffic and stick together.
“In kindergarten we learned to hold hands and stick together,” said Li. “While we don’t link up physically anymore, we still take our first steps together. We have learned that life is easier with a little help from one another.”
Next, Li told her classmates, wash your hands before you eat.
“We, as a class, are resilient,” said Li. “We have survived the most frigid winters and uncontrollable floods blocking our way to the skatepark. But nothing can compare to our resilience to the North plague and the norovirus. We learned to wash our hands,” she said.
The third lesson, said Li, is to live a balanced life.
“We never stopped working hard and through this we figured out what made us happy and fulfilled,” said Li. “We found friendship and school spirit. We have lived by the motto, ‘Work Hard. Play Hard.’”
And finally, Li recalled the little seed in the plastic cup and the lesson they learned that the roots go down and the plant goes up.
“We are like a little seed in a plastic cup,” said Li. “When we grow, our roots branch out to multiple places. CRN is our home. And remembering where we came from - our roots - can help us figure out who we will be in the future.
“Now here we sit, a testament to our perseverance, Council Rock pride and commitment to academic excellence,” said Li. “As we part ways, the many paths that we take will be diverse. But I only ask you to do this. Take what you’ve learned from CRN and in kindergarten and apply it to your future as you do what makes you happy.”
Senior Josefina Echeverria had the last word, speaking about the “Distant Dream Fulfilled.”
After recognizing the support of family and friends and thanking the staff for listening to their complaints over the years, the class president took the Class of 2019 on a journey from elementary school to senior year as they pursued their distant dream.
“Class of 2019, we’ve made it to the moment that’s been our priority since elementary school and no matter where you will be next year or what you will be studying, I want to wish each and everyone of you success in whatever endeavors you choose to pursue.”
Following the presentation of the class by Superintendent Fraser, Council Rock School Board member Andy Block conferred on the Class their high school diplomas.
As the seniors moved their tassels from one side of their caps to another signifying their graduation from high school, a roar of applause erupted inside of the gym.
After tossing their hats in the air, it was time to celebrate as the new graduates embraced each other, took photographs and then sought out their family members as they slowly filtered out of the gym and into the world ahead, equipped with a Council Rock education and the support of family and friends.