SOMERS POINT – There were 57 graduating seniors turning their tassel Monday evening at the CharterTech High School for the Performing Arts graduation. They leave the school as not simply graduating students but artists who have majored in vocal or instrumental music, dance, musical theater, film, or animation.

Valedictorian, Valentino Torres said the four years at CharterTech have taught them to be strong and independent thinkers. He told his fellow members of the Class of 2017 to make their own path and let no one make it for them. “You must strive to achieve what your heart wants. Do not let anyone tell you what you have to do in life. You only get to live once, why should someone else take that from you,” said Torres. “We have transformed ourselves from naïve teenagers into smart, capable and strong adults,” said the valedictorian. “Through our majors as we artists have grown to become creative and powerful.”

He spoke of the learning that occurred confidence he gained over the past four years. “I came into this school thinking I wasn’t going to be able to do music after high school. I had always looked at it as a hobby that was fun for right now but I would probably let go of to do other things in my life. Turns out I was completely wrong.” Torres credits his teachers for igniting a passion in him to become the musician his is today, going to college to study music with dreams of playing on world stages.

Torres told the graduates to appreciate the past and look toward the future; eliminate racism, rise above bigots and sexist. “Tear down walls and in their place build communities with each other and the rest of the world,” he concluded.

Salutatorian Bryan Woolbert reminded his classmates that Monday evening marks the opening of a new chapter in each artist’s story. “I find it critical to encourage every artist to strive for his or her maximum potential and beyond,” said Woolbert. “High school graduation is not the end of hard work; rather it is the beginning. The end of hard work comes when dreams become reality.”

He told each artist who walks across the stage to fulfill his or her dream and positively transform the world and concluded; “If I am remembered for anything, let it be this; encourage someone, change a life, illuminate the future.”

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