Southern Regional Graduates Leave Behind Legacy as ‘One of a Kind’ Group

Jun 20, 2018
Photo by: David Biggy The Southern Regional Class of 2018 sends the caps flying at the end of the 61st graduation ceremony on June 15.

During the past few years, it’s become widely known throughout Stafford Township, Waretown and Long Beach Island that the crew known as the Class of 2018 was full of talented, hard-working and passionate individuals. Senior class president Christine “Teeny” Chirichillo on June 15 reminded anybody who could hear her voice that she and her classmates indeed are “an outstanding, unprecedented and interesting group of students” and “one of a kind.”

“High school is a melting pot of personalities, and there is no denying the profound impact our particular personalities left on Southern Regional,” said Chirichillo, addressing the thousands in attendance for Southern’s 61st graduation ceremony. “Within the Class of 2018 are gifted scholars, dedicated athletes, powerhouse performers, driven leaders, unique artists and overall remarkable people. It’s been nothing short of a thrill to be part of this class.”

In addition to Chirichillo, both valedictorian Dana Haig and salutatorian Manav Vakil chimed in about the outstanding characteristics that define the graduating group – thoughtful, resilient, relentless, among others.

“Throughout these past four years, my classmates have pushed themselves beyond what is expected,” Haig said. “It’s this drive that sets Southern Regional and its students apart. Each person in our graduating class has strengths that are the result of varying personal experiences, aspirations and compassion. These differences and perspectives have taught me my most valuable lessons.

“As we move on to the next chapters of our lives, we will bring with us the lessons we’ve learned from our fellow classmates, teachers and family members. Our job now is to share these lessons with those who need them.”

Taking a more humorous approach to his address, Vakil made certain to emphasize the lessons learned at Southern – not only within the classroom but through a variety of clubs and extracurricular activities – as the foundation for what still is ahead.

“We’ve all had our highs and lows right here, where we literally stressed about everything in the book, from Of Mice and Men to, you know, that thing in algebra with the numbers,” he said, prompting laughter from most in attendance. “This is where we made friends, joined teams and cults ... I mean clubs. This is where we began to define who we are as individuals.

“We may have encountered hurdles along the way, but we’d always bounce back. And why? Because that’s what we do best – wake up every morning, learn from the past and carry on.”

As the best part of the ceremony – the graduates receiving their diplomas – was set to unfold, class adviser Mike Strada, alongside co-adviser Rebecca Posch, challenged Southern’s newest grads to rely on what they’ve learned at Southern when facing their choices in life.

“You’re coming to a time in your life where you will have to make a great many decisions that will have much more lasting impact on your life than any decision you’ve made before,” Strada said as he addressed the class of nearly 475 students. “The results of some of these choices may lead you down an unexpected path. But don’t be afraid to make a choice. The person sitting at the fork in the road never reaches his or her destination.”

Before delivering the Class of 2018 to Superintendent Craig Henry for acceptance, Principal Eric Wilhelm said he had been “honored to be a part of your lives.”

“You have, most assuredly, added life and excitement to our school and community,” he said. “When you leave here tonight as graduates of Southern, appreciate what you’ve done, thank the people who deserve your thanks, and chase your dreams no matter how far the journey.”

Upon acceptance of the graduates, Henry, too, focused on the journey ahead for them, noting that there will be plenty of “opportunities for reflection, resilience and growth that, in the end, regardless of where you land, will become what defines you,” but also reminded them to remember where they come from.

“To all of you seated behind me, I posit the following: Although having a goal, plan or destination in life is important, enjoying the journey to its fullest is equally important,” he said. “Class of 2018, wherever your journey takes you, you will now and forever be a Ram.”

— David Biggy

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