Pinelands Regional High School graduated a very special class Friday, according to its student leaders.

Valedictorian John Van Orden, according to a copy of his speech provided to The Press of Atlantic City, told the audience at the high school on Nugentown Road in Little Egg Harbor Township during the graduation ceremony that he "never before experienced such a powerful and eclectic force as this class."

"It's an honor to stand before them now," he said of his 262 classmates dressed in white and dark green robes.

Salutatorian Matthew Johnson, said he knew from the time his fellow classmates were freshman four years ago that he was a part of a special class.

"It is often said that people are the product of their environments, and it is no exaggeration to say that the wonderful people with which we have been fortunate enough to interact with at Pinelands have created an environment that has produced a superior graduating class," he said in his speech. "The lasting impression left behind by this class, however, will be one displaying the students' ability to band together in times of need. In the aftermath of disasters, in times of emotional dismay, and in the stressful crunch time before an exam, the members of the Class of 2013 never shied away from helping others in need."

The Little Egg Harbor resident said his classmates also had a great deal of school spirit and often supported their school and classmates at sporting events, donating at blood drives and participating in many clubs and activities.

"Looking back at these memories it is evident the Class of 2013 is more than just something special, it is a family," he said.

Van Orden, also of Little Egg Harbor, urged his classmates to make the best use of their talents in the future.

"I cannot pretend to have yet acquired the experience and knowledge that life inevitably brings to all," he said. "However, I do have one suggestion: Always be willing to explore and discover. Ask questions and seek answers. Always keep an open mind and contemplate new ideas and thoughts. If you do this, each day will bring new and unique perspectives to the world."

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