Egg Harbor Township High School’s class of 2012 was so large that the procession needed three songs to make its way across the football field.
As the chorus of the first song kicked in — “I will be here, don’t you cry, ’cause you’ll be in my heart” — a pair of black-and-silver, star-shaped balloons drifted up into the blue and the audience erupted into a wave of whistles and applause.
Superintendent Scott McCartney said the Class of 2012 is the largest on record, with 665 students marching to Phil Collins’ plaintive melody, and later to Satchmo’s “What a Wonderful World,” and later still to 10,000 Maniacs’ “These Are Days.” And 2012 will likely hold that record for another decade, he said, since economic recession stunted the district’s tremendous population growth.
“This has been a great class that will go on and do great things,” he said, beaming in his teal-and-black gown minutes before leading the procession.
The shadow of the poor economy still lingers over the township’s graduating class as it has for the past four years. All of the student speakers referenced the hardships that await, but said they will face all the obstacles in solidarity.
“Let us redefine prosperity as happiness, not simply financial success; with our currency measured in smiles, not dollars,” said valedictorian Ceili Burdhimo, who will go on to Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the fall.
The challenge, Burdhimo said, is not living up to the expectations set by previous generations, but in striking out in new directions.
“We will successfully redefine prosperity and we shall prosper more than any other generation before,” she said.
Taking his cues from William Ernest Henley’s poem “Invictus,” a graduation-speech mainstay, salutatorian Robert Kertz said the Class of 2012 must control its own destiny.
“We should not let ourselves be mere puppets to be controlled by external forces,” he said. “Each one of us has the ability to accomplish anything to which we set our minds.”
McCartney said the Class of 2012 should have no problem fulfilling its ambitions, with 90 percent of the class pursuing college degrees with the help of an accumulated $16 million in scholarships.
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