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Montclair Celebrates Class of 2017 at 150th Commencement

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Watch the ceremony online.

Graduation class of 2017

It was a perfect night on Thurs., June 22 as Montclair High School celebrated its 150th Commencement Ceremony for the Class of 2017.

Following the Pledge of Allegiance led by Jeremy Stepansky, Samantha Rego and Jadyn Trayvik and welcome remarks from Student Coalition President Julianna Wittman, Principal James Earle addressed the graduates, families and friends in the amphitheater.

Earle began the ceremony addressing his students. “This is simply a perfect evening as we recognize and celebrate our Class of 2017. Your high school journey is almost complete and I can't wait to see what you do with the next phase of your lives. "

Giving the Commencement Address was Benilde Little, Montclair resident and bestselling author of the novels Good Hair (selected as one of the ten best books of 1996 by the Los Angeles Times), The Itch, Acting Out, and Who Does She Think She Is? Little is also a former reporter for People and senior editor at Essence.

Little opened her remarks sharing about being bullied during her school years and how it affected her. "Being bullied made me more compassionate and insightful. My mother wanted me to go to private school but I decided to stay in my public school. My gut told me not to run, but to face the bullies and to prove that I was not whom they decided I was. What I learned was how to navigate life," she said.

"Humans are not always what they appear to be," she continued, quoting author James Baldwin: "I am what time, circumstance, history, have made of me, certainly, but I am also, much more than that. So are we all."

At left, the traditionally decorated High School window. At right: Superintendent Barbara Pinsak, Commencement Speaker Benilde Little, and Board President Laura Hertzog. 

She instructed graduates to "be vulnerable, transparent and authentic" and to "take Montclair with you. This diversity, this crazy quilt is what's best about Montclair and what's best about America. Your experience, good and bad, has given you a gift. You probably don't see it yet but you will shine if you take this gift into the world."

 Cristi Kennedy, President of the Class of 2017 addressed her classmates as they graduate with "bittersweet pride and uneasiness about our futures." Kennedy noted "As the 150th graduating class, we are a small part of history. It will serve us well to remember how we were treated here at Montclair High School and how we fortunate we were to have spent time in this special place with a big heart." Like Little, Kennedy reminded her fellow classmates to "take a piece of Montclair out into the world. Do good. Be kind."

Interim Superintendent Barbara Pinsak led the presentation of the class for graduation along with Earle. Following the awarding of diplomas by Montclair Board of Education President Laura Hertzog, the alma mater was performed by the MHS Band and Orchestra.

Below left: students leave the High School to take their places of honor. Center: A beaming Principal James Earle and Benilde Little. Right: Speaker Little gives her address. At bottom: the annual message glows in front of the school for the 150th Montclair High School graduation.

Updated: 6/26/2017