MHS Class of 2021 Graduates with Tradition

MHS Class of 2021 Graduates with Tradition
Posted on 06/25/2021
It was a spectacular, sunny day for the graduates of Montclair High School’s Class of 2021. In three sessions, the High School celebrated its 154th Commencement with the return of all the pomp and circumstance, including the traditional crossing of the bridge into the amphitheater by the graduates.

graduates cross bridge graduates cross bridge


graduates seated

Following is a recap of the day's events:

singing of anthem
The Pledge of Allegiance, led by MHS Assistant Principal Reginald Clark was followed by the singing of the Star Spangled Banner by Collette Lauture (pictured above) to begin the ceremony.

graduates at podium
Welcome remarks were provided by Student Coalition Officers Niamh Cahill, Olivia Pepe and Rafid Quayum (pictured above) who collectively told their classmates that it had been a challenging year in which together the class navigated with resilience and emerged stronger.

principal at podium
Principal Jeffrey Freeman (pictured above), who took the helm in January, then offered his remarks. “This ceremony marks the end of your time together at Montclair but it also marks the beginning of the next chapter in your lives. Starting now, each of you will move forward into the individual journeys of your lives. Regardless of where your journeys take you, I am confident you will always be able to trace back to this special moment that you share together,” he said.

“These past four years you have been faced with numerous challenges and transitions during these unprecedented times and you persevered. Now this is an opportunity to reflect on all of your accomplishments and to prepare for the future opportunities that lie ahead. Whatever your future plans may be I know that MHS has prepared you to meet the challenges and to achieve great success.”

brothers give graduation address
The Commencement Address was given by MHS Alumni Avery Lipman ’82 and Monte Lipman ’84 (pictured above) co-founders of Republic Records. They recalled their childhood living in a single parent home, walking to school every day, and more importantly the teachers and coaches who believed in them and taught them about discipline, focus, competitive spirit. “What you’ve endured and experienced is truly one for the history books. With the events of the past 15 months, you’ve been challenged in ways that have unimaginable. In addition to being students, I can only imagine man of you have become were caregivers, social activists and may have suffered great loss. This moment will set you apart from generations to come and prepare you for the unpredictability of life,” said Monte. “The road to success has not been an easy one. It has been the failures and disappointments that have served as our greatest and constructive lessons. Those situations that didn’t’ work out, where we’ve made mistakes, where we’ve gotten fired; each of these were all leaning experiences where we took the negative and flipped that into the inspiration to keep moving forward,” said Avery.

“You will come across resistance experience rejection and people who say no. That’s real life. In real life, you’ve got to become resourceful, resilient and never take your eyes off the prize.”

people at podium

They then introduced a surprise special guest, Republic recording artist Coi Leray (pictured above) who came bounding into the amphitheater with excitement and energy. “I had to make it a priority to be here to say congratulations!” she exclaimed. “I dropped out of high school and wanted to feel this moment. Nothing comes easy or overnight. Not everything is always going to be perfect and we’re always going to make mistakes. Don’t let anyone tell you who you are. Stay true to yourselves even if people bully your or judge you. Think smart, not fast and always surround yourself with good people.”

student president speaks at graduation
Lastly, Elias Benchekroun, Class President, took the podium t to give passionate remarks. He reflected on what it has been like growing up in Montclair. “I was always the only Muslim kid in my class with few people around me who looked like me. Like many students of Montclair, I was treated differently and never truly felt accepted. While our city and schools are diverse, they are not as inclusive as we make them out to be or would like them to be. As we celebrate our time at Montclair, I want to reflect on what we can do to address the issues we grew up with from acts of blatant racism, to access to busing, to subtle things like class placement. Our experiences at MHS have different greatly depending on our race socio-economic status and how we fit into the school as a whole. Modern day racism takes form in the rejection to recognize racism. Our responsibility is to shift that at MHS, our future educational institutions and places of work.”

He continued, “As we recognize the issues we face and have faced it is also important to recognize the work that we, the students have put in. We have taken great action to address the issues surrounding us. However, as you move forward in your education and career, remember to be active in the fight against all injustice and oppression, not just the forms that affect you. We are a generation characterized by taking action. Let us take the lessons we’ve learned and apply them to the challenges we are sure to encounter.”

He closed with some inspiration thoughts. “Your path may be filled with many ups and downs and while the road ahead may not be easy, you and only you can are in control of it. When writing the story of your life, don’t let anyone else hold the pen. In most instances, things will not go your way the first time or the second or the third. What’s important is to not see failure and rejection as a reflection on your ability but rather an opportunity for growth. Embrace change, focus on bettering yourself, do what makes you happy, never let success get to your head and never let failure get to your heart.”

superintendent at graduation graduates receive their degrees
Superintendent Jonathan Ponds and Freeman led the presentation of the class for graduation. Following the awarding of diplomas by Montclair Board of Education President Latifah Jannah, the alma mater was performed by the MHS Choir.
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