LINWOOD — More than 340 Mainland Mustangs made their way into the corral together one final time Friday for graduation.

Led by Principal Kevin Burns on the bagpipes, families cheered, waved signs and demonstrated their pride in their graduate’s success. Burns explained bagpipes have been used for hundreds of years to warn the enemy to "look out, we are coming for you."

"So leading this group of students as they head out into the world on June 16, 2017, this is an announcement to the world, we are coming for you,” said Burns.

Superintendent Mark Marrone gave the students his advice: “Be something — be great, be kind, be on time, but be something.”

Acknowledging that we are at a rough point in our nation, “There are more than 300 students who have the ability to change things to bring hope, empathy, new ideas and new minds and new dreams into the world.”

Speaker Brooke Ridgway told her classmates it is important to embrace change rather than fear it as they head out of the Mustang Corral. She reminded them it was just four years ago they were all sitting in similar rows at their middle school graduations in different schools and different communities anticipating what was waiting for them at Mainland.

“Now four years later, here we sit again. The caps still don’t quite fit right, we still anticipate the future and in a few minutes that moment in the spotlight will come again. But as we sit here; we are not the same as we were four years ago. We have changed. We have grown. We have developed. Through our four years at Mainland we have been given the opportunity to discover a new sense of self, meet different people and leave our mark on the school that shaped us,” said Ridgway.

She spoke of the changes to the students as well as changes to Mainland over the past four years, saying this class caused the school to grow as well and made it a better place, citing Atlantic Cape championships in cross country, tennis and soccer, a swim team with national records and more.

“Change is daunting and frightening. In order to change, we need to leave our comfort zone,” said Ridgeway. “We should not fear change. We need to seek it. Our time at Mainland should have proven that. Our separated freshman class that entered four years ago has become a united senior body.”

Speaker Greer Egan told classmates to look forward to all the first impressions their future will hold. “I struggle with the idea of first impressions, but I am simultaneously optimistic about the lifetime of human exchanges that lay ahead of me,” said Egan.

She asked each graduate to take a moment to think about who they are, what they hold dear, what makes them special. She also asked them to recognize the best parts of themselves and what sets them apart from others. “When you begin to appreciate your own kinks and embrace your uncanny quirks, you may begin to see yourself anew,” said Egan.

She told the crowd her time at Mainland has been significant in figuring out who she is as a student, a friend and a human being. “I am the girl dancing along in the background to a song nobody hears, but inviting everyone to get up and join it,” said Egan. “I am grateful for the diverse personalities inside the walls of Mainland.”

Egan’s advise to her classmates; “Whatever comes next is yours to create, continue to resort back to the drawing board and return to your roots. Live the life of your choosing and never sit idly or quietly when you voice and ability can make a world of difference.”

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