They’ve only just begun

Secaucus High School graduates the class of 2010

As is the case at every graduation, last week’s Secaucus High School (SHS) commencement ceremony was marked with speeches, pomp, circumstance, and, naturally, tears.
“I’m thrilled to tears. You’re going to make me cry,” Patricia Balleto said when asked how it felt to see her eldest child, John Anthony Balleto Jr., graduate. “It’s a good feeling. But it’s also a bad feeling in a way. He’s moving on and he’s growing up. But I’m a proud mom.”
John Balleto will attend Bergen Community College in the fall and later plans to enroll in the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) to study engineering, his mom said.


“I’ve been waiting for this since the first day of high school.” – Takeru Nagayoshi

Rita Torres expressed similar feeling before her son Gabriel Torres, her eldest, took his place onstage among the graduates.
“I’m so excited. I can’t describe how excited I feel about my son,” she said, before watching Gabriel march into the Arthur F. Couch Performing Arts Center (PAC) in his blue cap and gown. Torres will attend Pace University in the fall and plans to be a business major.
A total of 174 seniors graduated from the high school on Monday, June 28.

Proud parents, excited seniors

In discussing their children’s futures, many parents praised the Secaucus School District for giving students an excellent foundation for higher education later.
Rita Torres said, “I hope [Gabriel] does well in the future. He learned from everything and everybody here at Secaucus High School. So I think he’s off to a good start. I wish him lots of luck – and all of them, all the students today. God bless all of them.”
Parent Mary Anne Schlemm said of son Zachary, “He’s had a great education. They have a great teaching system, great teachers. I graduated from here, and a lot of the same teachers I had are the same teachers he had. It’s a small community, so a lot of the children grew up together and have known each other their whole lives. A lot of my son’s friends are all graduating today. So, it’s an emotional, happy day.”
Perhaps inspired by the teachers he had at SHS, Zachary plans to become a teacher himself, said his beaming mother.

Young at heart

In her address to the graduates, Class President Laura Mondadori praised the education at SHS, and also emphasized the bond she had seen grow among her classmates.
“I am reminded of the moments spent on the beach after prom [when] many of us watched the sunrise together, holding on to our last moments, the sun slowly peeping from an effervescent shore,” she said. “I hope that regardless of our separation, we are still one. Good luck in everything that you do and always remember to dream big. Think back to our last moments of prom, our last song. And remember, if you believe that you are, you’ll always be forever young.”
Class valedictorian Jordan Lienhard dedicated his address to the many families who contributed to his success at SHS. This list of “families” included not only his nuclear family, but his classmates, his fellow students in the SHS Science and Mathematics Academy, his friends.

Oh, what a feeling

Following the ceremony, euphoric grads spilled out of the PAC to hug proud family members and fellow graduates. A few took a moment to reflect on their classmates, their futures, and their years at SHS.
“It feels amazing,” said graduate Takeru Nagayoshi, who will attend the prestigious Brown University in Rhode Island to study political science. “I’ve been waiting for this since the first day of high school. It’s really surreal now that it’s finally here. I can’t be happier for my class and my friends.”
Steps away from Nagayoshi, fellow classmate Chirag Patel hugged his proud dad.
“This is really exciting to see my friends going away to college, pursuing plans I know they’ve had for a while,” said Patel, who will attend NJIT to study information technology in the fall. “I’m looking forward to that.”
“This is pretty awesome,” agreed another graduate, Joseph Galeon after hugging fellow classmate Alexandra Heaney. Galeon will attend Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in the fall. “Secaucus High School was great. We got the best education I could have asked for.”
Nodding, Heaney, who will study psychology at Kean University, added, “I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”
E-mail E. Assata Wright at

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