In 2009, the Atlantic County Institute of Technology promised the future Class of 2012 that they would graduate from a then-unbuilt new performing arts center.

On Monday, the promise was fulfilled.

The school in Mays Landing saw 107 students graduate Monday night, filing into the darkened auditorium in their red caps and gowns. When most of them were in place, a small student band began playing “Also sprach Zarathustra,” popularized in Stanley Kubrick’s movie “2001.”

Soon, the audience began cheering as the class’ top 10 graduates appeared, standing on the rising orchestra platform.

Superintendent Philip J. Guenther encouraged the students to venture forth into the world, quoting Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

The vocational school offers hands-on training through four academies. One graduate from each academy spoke.

Christopher Hawryluk, graduating from the Academy of Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management, recounted the four years he spent at the school, while looking to the future.

“I would like to thank Google and Wikipedia for helping me on countless papers,” he joked.

Erin Hanna, of the Academy of Math, Engineering and Science, said students learned more at ACIT than most high school students.

“We leave here with our future ahead of us,” she said.

Representing the William J. Flynn Academy of Health Sciences and Medicine, Chelsea Lugo urged students to experiment with what they like, making plenty of early mistakes.

“Change your mind, then change again, because nothing is permanent,” she said.

Justin Hare, of the Academy of Information Technology, called ACIT his “home away from home,” saying the teachers inspired him.

Contact Derek Harper:

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