VINELAND - The wait for their diplomas stretched for two additional days, but the members of Vineland High School's Class of 2013 finally got their sheepskins on Friday.

Graduation ceremonies were originally scheduled for Wednesday, but the district had to make up the two days for which the high school was closed because of issues related to Hurricane Sandy.

That did not lessen the enthusiasm of the 548 Vineland High School students who wore their red and gray gowns Friday on the field of Gittone Stadium.

"It's been a long journey, but also feels like it happened so fast," said Valedictorian Rahi Ketan Patel. "All the while I think we all looked forward to this moment as our prize for the hard work of the last four years.

"Today, Class of 2013, we will be getting our prizes," he continued. "We will be getting our diplomas. The work we did, the things we learned, the friends we've made and the adults we've become are the real prizes. And as we go our separate ways and move on to do new things, we'll keep getting rewarded."

Patel said he and his classmates will meet during future summers and at reunions and retell stories and the memories of their four years at Vineland High School.

"Honestly, that's the real prize," he said. "The journey we've been on. The journey we're still on."

Salutatorian Isabella Taormina said she has learned significant lessons about two important things.

"As young adults we have learned how to be responsible and accountable for our actions, as well as the meaning of cause and effect," she said. "We have learned what it means to be accountable for what we say about ourselves and others during the unique nature of our generation.

"From this, we have learned to be respectful of ourselves and others," Taormina continued "It is inevitable that you will continue to encounter those that will think, act or dress differently than you, but you must give them the same respect and kindness that you would your own friend. Respect is the key to uncovering the 'we' generation and leaving behind the 'me.'"

Any concerns about the future of the graduates were put aside by class President Toure Douglas, who read from a fortune that was supposedly inside the fortune cookie he opened during his speech.

"The graduating Class of 2013 is the best Vineland High School has seen to date, and will achieve the unbelievable," Douglas said.

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