The Mainland Class of 2014 is in the books (SLIDESHOW)

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Green and white rule the evening at the Mustang Corral Green and white rule the evening at the Mustang Corral

LINWOOD—Draped in green and white, 374 members of the Mainland Class of 2014 walked together one final time Tuesday evening as they headed onto the field, following Mainland teachers onto the field.  Well wishers lined their path; educators from all three sending districts who long ago said their good-byes to the students came together to wish them good luck in their future.

In just an hours time their four years together came to a head and the classmates seemed happy to hold on to Mustang pride just a little longer. More than 200 butterflies were released as a memorial to Spanish teacher, Peggy Ramirez just as the commencement began. The butterflies flitted about the crowd before heading across on a breeze.

The first speaker was selected from among the senior class to speak; Alexis Leeds of Northfield reminded her classmates that whether the past four years were the best or they could not wait to run off the field the one thing they could agree on is that each of them is a different person than the one who came through the door four years ago. “We have become the people we are today by answering life’s many questions. Questions we are asked and questions we ask ourselves are the catalysts to our growth,” said Leeds.

She said those questions and all of the whys in life contribute to the chiseling of each person’s character.
Quoting Bill Nye, Leeds said; “Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t,” adding, that over the last four years she has learned how true that statement really is. “When I was younger I thought that growing up meant finally knowing all the answers, but the truth is, you never will. The only answer you need to know is not a why but a who.” And Leeds, headed to Fordham in September thanked her classmates for being her “who’s” that helped her through all her “why’s.”

Salutatorian Jennifer Rha of Linwood began her speech thanking her grandfather and her parents for their words of encouragement and unconditional love and dedicated her speech to them. Rha carried that theme through her speech saying; “Though we may be going off in different directions, we shouldn’t forget how our unique high school experiences have shaped and will continue to shape the path that we will pave upon graduating. Most of all, we should and must recognize the reality that we didn't get here on our own. Our parents, guardians, friends, teachers, counselors, and coaches have provided the advice, guidance, and encouragement that revealed opportunities that ultimately led into our future. Like they tell us to walk and not run at graduation, we must take their word not to rush through the important moments in life, because time already does that for us.”

Quoting Ralph Waldo Emerson, Rha said; “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” Inspire yourself, inspire others, and make yourself proud.”

She concluded by predicting the best is yet to come for this class of graduates.

Rha is headed to the University of California at Berkley in the fall.

Valedictorian Jim Mullin of Linwood said he looks at his classmates and sees a group that has been met with many challenges and some doubting they could handle.

“These challenges never lessened, never became any easier, but rather we rose to meet them head on. The hallways didn’t become any less tangled and confusing; we simply realized that A-Hall, B-Hall, and C-Hall were ordered the way they were for a good reason. Our classes didn’t become easier; we began studying and working harder. Our alarms didn’t get any louder; we learned how to manage our snooze buttons.  Other schools didn’t become deniable; we learned how to distinguish ourselves nationwide. The senior parking lot, well, that will always be a mess, no matter how you look at it.  The loss of our family members didn’t simply become any easier on us; we all banded together into one family capable of bearing the worst and hoping for the best. Schools all over the country didn’t become any worse in any extracurricular activities; we rose to the challenge to become champions in music, performing arts, and sports. We as individuals did not lower our expectations of who we wanted to be today; we met our goals and became those people,” Mullin said to his classmates.

The graduation was a kind of swan song to retiring superintendent Tom Baruffi. He talked about the senior class and how they set the tone for the entire school and their successes in the classroom, on the stage, and on the field and called the recent state championship in baseball “icing on the cake and what a sweet icing it was,” said Baruffi.

The onset of evening contributed to the moment and when all the diplomas were handed out, the sun began to dip below the horizon, the members of the Class of 2014 turned their tassels and with a flip of their caps headed into their future. 


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