‘Understanding our part’
Liberty High School had its 97th commencement exercise at a nearly packed Stabler Arena June 5, as a festive, sometimes raucous crowd cheered and blared an occasion noise horn. According to officials, 631 students earned their high school diplomas.
“The students did a good job,” said Dr. Jack Silva, assistant superintendent for education and chief academic officer. “They are a strong group of kids.”
The commencement ceremony was unique in that the administration and students paid honor to their classmates who had been killed in action during the Vietnam War which 50 years ago was still raging. Portraits of these men with their names were projected on screens in the front of the arena. Where a portrait wasn’t available, the school seal represented the man.
The women wore maroon robes and mortar boards and the men were in black. Many of the graduates sported academic honors sashes and festooned with medals and awards attesting to their achievements.
Bethlehem Area School District officials, school officials and teachers were in academic robes, the various colors of their collars and accouterments telling of their academic pedigree.
The orchestra, under director Kevin Long, entertained the near capacity crowd. The 92-member orchestra included a several students wearing their graduation robes. A high balcony supported trumpeters who provided musical flourishes, adding to the pageantry of the event.
Bethlehem Area School District Superintendent Dr. Joseph Roy, Assistant Superintendent Dr. Jack Silva, and Board of Directors President Michael Faccinetto were among the leaders of the procession opening the graduation ceremonies.
The Liberty Scholar, Raj Kundo, the graduate with the highest grade point average (GPA), also was in a place of honor in the processional. Kundu had been selected a semi-finalist in the PSAT/National Merit Program which means that he was in the top 16,000 or the 1.5 million students. Kundu said he plans to attend Duke University and study biology. His grade point average was 5.09.
In an interview, Kundu mentioned one his teachers, Mr. Dusty Little, his advanced placement and honors chemistry teacher, as particularly meaningful to him.
“He put a lot of effort into his class,” said Kundu. “It showed.”
Ricardo Gonzalez and Giovanna La Spisa sang “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Jenna Kozul offered a bagpipe solo or “Amazing Grace” in memory of those students who passed away last year.
Liberty HS Principal Harrison Bailey III introduced Joseph J. Evert and Trevor Harris, both of whom have been accepted as midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy.
“This is an incredible class,” said Principal Bailey. “They are intelligent, hard-working seniors.”
Salutatorian Julia Zheng (GPA 5.02) was a featured speaker with a message for her class. The former violinist in the LHS orchestra offered an answer to the question posed by the theme of the commencement ceremony, provided by Civil War poet Walt Whitman where he asks what is the meaning of life?
“That life goes on; and we may contribute a verse…”—Walt Whitman.
“Contributing to story of the world is about understanding the world, understanding our part in the world…,” said Zheng. “If we help one person understand what they are capable of, understand how much people care about them, understand how powerful an agent for change they can be, we’ll have realized that we’ve changed the world, and we have contributed a verse!”
Associate Director of Admissions, Alyson Remsing announce the “Moravian Scholar” scholarship award recipient, Dennis Rosado.
Alicia Cruz recognized the students with the highest number of hours of community service: Elizbeth Lee (652.5), Richard Oliver (527.5), and Matteo Guadalupe Montero (465.75).
Assistant Principal Antonio Traca recognized the students with perfect attendance: Isaac Beaton, Keenaan Elias, Erica Hummel, Miranda Nguyen, and Amarilis Rodriquez.
Continuing the evening’s theme introduced by Salutatorian Zheng, Board of Education President Michael Faccinetto offered, “Your verse, your contribution and legacy will only be meaningful if you are passionate about what you are doing.”
But, Faccinetto went on to remind the Class of 2019 that they have already been making contributions and leaving legacies.
“You raised $140,000 in the MiniTHON and completed 5,000 hours of community service.” He said the class had raised over $7,000 for the American Cancer Society in the Relay for Life.
After the presentation of the diplomas and farewell comments by Class President Mitchell Murtha Jr and the traditional turning of mortarboard tassels from the right to left side signaling status as a graduate, the rebels in the throng of exuberant students—ignoring the rules not to throw caps in the air—tossed their caps!