Success is ‘out there’ for 419 AC High School graduates (SLIDE SHOW)

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In waves of blue and white, 419 students graduate ACHS. In waves of blue and white, 419 students graduate ACHS. ATLANTIC CITY – Members of Atlantic City High School’s Class of 2014 were encouraged Tuesday, June 24 to get out of their own way to achieve success, whether it be in college, military or the workforce.

Families and friends attended the commencement ceremony held at Boardwalk Hall to support the 419 graduates, some of whom will be attending prestigious Princeton and Harvard universities.

Atlantic City High School Navy ROTC provided escort for faculty and graduates.

Salutatorian Steve Thai told his classmates that the last four years was “not all flowers and chocolate,” but hard. However, being part of the Atlantic City melting pot is an experience that will stay with him throughout life.

“It has truly been a rollercoaster ride mixed with highs and lows. I have met driven teachers who have pushed me to my limit, tested my patience, and ultimately looked out for my best interest. I have befriended classmates who left their imprints on me,” Thai said.

“My classmates have exposed me to different religions and cultures of the world. Just congregating with them was a learning experience in itself,” he said.

Offering advice, he quoted author Suzan-Lori Parks, who said, “You can spend your life tripping on yourself. You can also spend your spend your life tripping yourself up. Get out of your own way.”

He encouraged graduates. “Success is out there for anyone who reaches for it.”

Valedictorian Erin Gallagher said she wanted to stand out with her speech, so she Googled “awesome valedictorian speeches.” But when she read the template that had lots of “insert name here” blanks, she realized they were filled with clichés and platitudes. To stand out, she would have to do it on her own.

She offered thanks to parents who offered support, the “brave, patient teaching staff” for their encouragement, and Principal John DeStefano “whose first year on the job was a resounding success.”

She offered classmates some words of encouragement for whatever path they take.

“Let’s face it, we can’t all win the Nobel Peace Prize. If you want, you can strive to be a leader, you can try to change the world, win awards, get your name in the history books. But success isn’t measured by how many people know your name. Success is measured by how happy you are with your life and what you’ve accomplished.

“When you leave this building, do what makes you happy. Because no matter what you’re doing, as long as you’re living every day with a smile on your face, you’re doing it right.”

To garner a laugh from the audience, she mentioned a long list of people who gave her $1 to mention their names in her speech, including, “the guy at the next table at Applebee’s” and “Rachel Kessler,” who was mentioned five times.

Principal DeStefano highlighted the students’ collective achievements this year, including receiving more than $1 million in scholarships to continue their education, winning state and Cape Atlantic League athletic championships, showcasing their talents in the spring musical and arts festival, participating in numerous academic challenges, building a solar-powered physics house and escorting Miss America contestants in the Show Us Your Shoes parade.

He told the graduates they obtained everything they need to build a well-rounded life.

“Be true to your belief systems. It takes discipline to make good choices. Choose to be happy; choose to serve others and choose to have a high level of self-esteem,” DeStefano said.

Click here to see the Class of 2014 Graduate List

Enjoy a slide show by Chuck Eberson: 


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