Ventnor Middle School sent 78 of its finest off to area high schools Friday, June 16.

Commencement took place in the J. Benjamin Brick Auditorium, which was packed with parents, grandparents, siblings and friends, all there to see their graduate move on to the next phase of their lives.

Graduate Diya Patel's speech, "These are the Moments," recalled the highlights of each grade from kindergarten to eighth grade, but she said all the graduates are looking forward to the future.

Sarah Devenny's "Right Here, Right Now" talked about experiences of eighth grade, which she said her peers would "hold in their hearts forever."

"We gained friends, knowledge and memories, and it was work, work and more work," she said.

Devenny said eighth-graders were required to read 40 books, and students became one family.

"We laughed and challenged each other, and made friendships I will never forget," she said. "I wish we had a little more time together."

In her "Climb to the Future" speech, Winnie Wong said the next chapter of their lives lies right ahead.

"I am confident we are prepared to face obstacles thanks to the help and support from our teachers," she said. "The next four years will define us even more. We made our mark on the VECC, now we are ready to make our mark in the future."

She offered thanks to the teachers, parents and guardians who help to prepare them for their journey into the future.

Greater Absecon Island VFW Quartermaster Roger Emmick presented the VFW awards and provided the school with six new flags, four American flags and two POW flags.

Principal Robert Baker, who has been working at the VECC for 17 years, said there is one word that adequately describes the Class of 2017: perseverance. He advised the students to listen to their parents, who will always give them the right advice.

"Sometimes you may not want to take it, but if you get in a jam, they will give you the best advice," he said.

Retiring teacher Pat Simon called out the names of the graduates while Board of Education President James Pacanowski presented the diplomas.

A reception with cake and refreshments took place in the cafeteria, where parents and graduates posed for pictures with their families.

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