Tom Briglia

MAYS LANDING - The 130 graduates of the Class of 2013 at the Atlantic County Institute of Technology were a unique group that saw a unique valedictory speech - a dual speech given by dual valedictorians.

After the graduates marched into the auditorium to "Pomp and Circumstance" - and the top 10 graduates rose to the stage on a platform to the chords of "The Final Countdown" - Superintendent Phil Guenther spoke of their "amazing accomplishments as individuals and as a class."

"As you can see, they are an enthusiastic and energetic class," Guenther said, "and they've been that way since they entered ACIT."

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Guenther spoke of the certified EMTs, the six graduates entering the armed forces, work on projects such as desalination and fuel-efficient ambulances, internships at the FAA Tech Center, the operation of the Main Street Cafe, as well as the years of construction the class had to endure when the school was "literally torn apart and rebuilt." He also mentioned how graduates must complete 160 credits, 40 more than required by the state.

"They are not afraid of new challenges," Guenther said. "My advice for graduates tonight is to continue to develop and use the diverse set of skills developed at ACIT."

Co-valedictorians Christopher Frederickson, of Ventnor, a graduate of the Academy of Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management, and Michael James Paule, of Absecon, from the Academy of Information Technology - both attending Rowan University, as it happens - said they decided to share their speech, proclaiming in unison that "It is my honor to be your 2013 valedictorian."

"It turns out the Class of 2013 is too good to have just one," Paule said. "When I first came here, I didn't know what to expect. ... But I found out all of our fellow classmates were just like me."

"ACIT was a major challenge for me," Frederickson said. "We all made a decision to forego the traditional path. ... ACIT helped me discover what I wanted to be."

"Change is an idea that can often be frightening," Paule said. "With that uncertainly also comes limitless possibilities. We're solving problems, (finding) solutions and creating ideas we would have never thought possible four years ago."

"Graduation is the night where we reach for the handle and open the door to a bright new world," Frederickson said. "It's not necessary to control what happens to you. It's what you make of it that counts."

They also had a few bullet points.

"Get used to feeling stupid," Paule said. "It's a sign of growth."

"Life's not fair," Frederickson. "Get used to it."

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