LOWER TOWNSHIP — Always wear sunscreen, bring quarters when visiting Cape May, and pre-wrap your ankles before competing in a track meet.
That was some of the practical advice Lower Cape May Regional High School valedictorian Shannah Rose gave to her classmates at commencement exercises Thursday afternoon here at Steven Steger Field.
Rose injured her ankle by not wrapping it, got sunburned at a beach cleanup in Cape May and then realized she had a parking ticket because she didn’t feed the meter.
The message Rose was delivering is to learn lessons in life. She said one day she will look back on her high school years and realize it all happened for a reason and she grew as a person.
She warned classmates that the future will have its challenges. She noted comedian Stephen Colbert once told a graduating class that “the world will be waiting for them with a club.” She told her classmates to not be afraid of Stephen Colbert’s proverbial club.
“We will continually be challenged and beaten with this club. What matters is what we learned here,” said Rose.
It was a windswept day, with alternating sunny skies followed by low cloud cover, as the school that educates children from Lower Township, Cape May and West Cape May sent 224 students off with high school diplomas. Parents and friends screamed out the names of the students as they were called to the podium. Many were shaking cowbells, blowing horns and whistling.
Senior Class President Haley Matsinger greeted the class.
“Today we are being told we have to go out and make something of ourselves,” said Matsinger. “I see future business owners, doctors, engineers and Wawa executives. We are now eternally bonded by our memories at LCMR.”
Salutatorian Cody Bryan read a Walt Whitman poem about living for the moment.
“We never know our future for certain. Let us be in the moment, rejoice with all the success we have accomplished,” said Bryan.
He also urged his classmates to be happy and never stop dreaming.
“Walt Whitman said each individual must be happy with our lives for society to work as a whole,” Bryan said.
School officials also gave speeches. Superintendent Jack Pfizenmayer recalled the late Gene Sole, a principal here and U.S. Marine Corps Iraq War veteran, who in spite of being sick was smiling with pride at last year’s graduation.
“He never let a day go by without getting the most out of that day. He was an example of a life well-lived,” said Pfizenmayer.
Principal Joe Castellucci, who handed the diploma to his daughter Kimberly, the senior class treasurer, told the students they were breaking the shackles of a barrage of adults telling them what to do.
“Today is your day. Along with your diploma, we hand you the world. I hope each of you, in your own way, will contribute to make it a better place,” Castellucci said.
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