By MADDY VITALE
The Ocean City High School Class of 2022 graduated Thursday with distinction. Distinction not only in the academic and playing fields, but the students also showed strength and perseverance during two-plus years of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Class of 2022 rose to meet many challenges,” Acting High School Principal Dr. Wendy O’Neal said in her commencement remarks. “You demonstrated traits of resiliency to forge new paths.”
Families sat in the bleachers at Carey Stadium and applauded and cheered as they watched their loved ones achieved the major milestone.
The overwhelming theme of the graduation speakers was that the class not only prevailed during difficult times, but also thrived.
Graduating senior Jakob Pender told fellow graduates in his welcome address to be proud.
“We were tested by these unusual circumstances; but we made it. We played the hand that was dealt to us; we did not fold or concede or walk away,” he said. “We stayed, we worked hard, we did not surrender.”
And that, he said, proved the strength of the Class of 2022, “As we leave the security of Ocean City High School for the wider world, we do so with the knowledge that nothing is certain and that how you deal with adversity is a true test of character,” he noted.
Interim Superintendent of Schools Dr. Tom Baruffi, who will leave the post at the end of this month with the hiring of new Schools Superintendent Dr. Matthew Friedman, commended the class.
Baruffi emphasized that the students endured despite the pandemic. “COVID was restrictive, destructive and at times, oppressive,” he said.
The ceremony also included a longstanding tradition of honoring the classmates of decades before. Thursday, members of the Class of 1972 each stood up as their name was called to be recognized as 50-year alumni of OCHS.
For the Class of 2022, the commencement ceremony was just the beginning of exciting challenges, colleges, jobs – a future of success.
But in his farewell address, graduating senior Daniel Givens urged the students to take pleasure in all things.
“While ambition is admirable, take some time to broaden your vision. Realize the simple pleasures in life. For a moment, how about we reflect on the last four years on what has made each of us laugh and smile — what has brought us happiness,” Givens said.
“Perhaps it was a joke, the smile of a classmate: a relaxed day in class, maybe it was just a tiny achievement. Think about the people each of us will rush over to once our caps are thrown into the air,” he continued. “Think of all the time we have spent with them, the memories regardless of scale that have forged our relationships. These are all smaller moments that compose a larger story.”
When all of the students received their diplomas, it was time for celebration. Class President Fred Green led the turning of the tassels for the traditional toss of the cap.
With that, students ran to each other and hugged and guests waited to get onto the field to meet with their new graduates.
Madison Afanador, 18, of Ocean City, hugged her friend and fellow graduate, Katie Alejandrino, also 18 of Ocean City.
They both were overjoyed by their milestone.
Afanador and Alejandrino said they are looking forward to the next chapter.
“I’m great,” Alejandrino said, still hugging her friend. “I’m so excited about what the future holds.”
For a complete list of the graduates click the link: https://ocnjdaily.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/Class-of-2022.pdf