Stormy ceremony; bright future for Class of 2012

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Members of the Oakcrest High School Class of 2012 are hopeful for a bright future as they watch dark storm clouds forming in the distance. The same system dropped a funnel cloud near the Absegami High School graduation ceremony in nearby Galloway. R.J. Liberatore, Jr. photo HAMILTON TOWNSHIP – While lightning flashed in the distance and torrential rain sent family members sprinting for the safety of their cars, Oakcrest High School held graduation ceremonies for its Class of 2012.

The school handed out diplomas to more than 380 students on Thursday, June 7 in a ceremony that began under sunny, but threatening skies.

However, a cloudburst drenched everyone without an umbrella during the middle of ceremony.

Several thousand friends and family members attended the graduation, parking their cars in nearly every available space at the high school and along the school’s access roads.

The same storm captured national attention for Greater Egg Harbor Regional High School District sister school Absegami where onlookers recorded a large funnel cloud that formed near that school’s graduation ceremony.

Oakcrest Class Valedictorian Michael Warrener praised the Class of 2012 for its outstanding successes on the athletic field and in the classroom.

He also challenged his classmates to excel in the world beyond high school.

“In fact, at this moment, I challenge you, each and every one of you, to do something even greater and more amazing than whatever you’ve done in the past four years,” Warrener said. “This class is talented in many ways, and, even though you have already accomplished much, I know that each and every one of you has more to offer.”

Warrener also praised the staff at Oakcrest.

“Thank you to everyone else in Oakcrest, faculty and administration, especially our esteemed principal Mr. Mongelluzzo, on behalf of the entire student body for creating such a fostering and supportive environment in which to learn and grow during our years at Oakcrest,” he said.

He finished his speech with a quote from Mark Twain, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do.”

“So throw off the bowlines,” Warrener said in ending his speech. “Sail away from safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sail. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Class Salutatorian Jason Palermo, 18, of the Laureldale section of Hamilton Township challenged his classmates to visualize success and then to go for it.

“Visualize it, and it will become a reality,” he said.  “I learned that it doesn’t matter how skilled or talented you are; success comes solely from your determination. Be filled with the will to win, take what belongs to you; do not be denied.”

Palermo, who was a member of the school’s crew team, challenged his classmate to never stop striving to be the best.

“The moment we grow complacent is the moment we fail ourselves and it’s the moment we fail those who depend on us,” he said.

Palermo also took a step back to realize how quickly the future he dreamt of had become a reality before him.

“As we daydreamed during a math test, sweate in the hallways, or waited at our bus stop in darkness, our minds have wandered to the day when it would all be over,” he said. “Well, we're here.”

He thanked his teachers and classmates before concluding, “It's been a fantastic four years. I wish the best of luck to all of you.”

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