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A Guide to the 2011 RHS Graduation

My advice for what to expect on your child's big day

As a Ridgewood High School alumnus, I remember how exciting it was to finally graduate. All those long hours doing homework, sitting in class, and taking diligent notes were culminating in that final moment when I received that diploma. I could’ve sung! But instead, I hugged my walking partner (we decided against a jumping high-five at the last minute) and went back to my seat.

For those who are about to graduate tomorrow, I wish you luck. For parents who’ve never attended graduation before, here is my summary of what to expect (note: there may be some slight changes and we'll update if there are).

First of all, get there early. Parking and seating fill up quickly, and you don’t want to be stuck watching the 85-minute ceremony in high heels.

Given that weather reports are projecting thunderstorms with a 60 percent chance of rain, there's a chance it could move to the RHS Campus Center. Still, for now, the plan is to hold the ceremony outside, District Public Information Officer Debra Anderson told Patch Wednesday afternoon.

If it remains outside, please don’t unfurl your umbrella. It will obstruct the view of the person behind you, and send streams of water running onto people’s shoulders.

As for the actual program, each year, the ceremony opens with a unique trumpet fanfare written as a gift to the class by Band Director Jeffrey Haas.

Then, students will march onto the field in two long, winding lines while the Combined Band plays “Pomp and Circumstance.” The school actually measures each student so that they may arrange them in height order, pairing boys and girls.

To add to the aesthetic, boys dress in white tuxedos with red roses pinned on their lapels, and girls wear white gowns and carry a dozen roses. In the event of rain, girls should watch out that the red roses do not bleed onto their dresses.

This year, senior class president Chandler Park will give a speech, as well as President of Student Congress Tom Cox. Graduating choir members will sing “You Are the New Day” by the King Singers, and graduating senior Allie Marra (voted Most Likely to Be on Broadway in senior superlatives) will perform “Astonishing” from the musical Little Women.

The prestigious Somerville award will be given to one girl and one boy, and the school will bid farewell to retiring teachers Henry Heyzer, Barbara Glotzer, Mary Anne Willenborg, Jeff Yearing, and Alice Tepfenhardt. 

Of course, that big moment will arrive when students will be called, one by one to the podium to receive their diplomas and shake the hand of school officials, likely school board president Michele Lenhard and Superintendent Dr. Daniel Fishbein.

Boys approach from the left and girls from the right, and it is customary for them to hug in the center (for students who want to liven things up, I encourage them to arrange some kind of chest-bump disco dance move. Why not go out with kick-twirl?). 

Once all the names are announced, students will be given time to find their friends and embrace. Since we don’t have caps, girls will break off a bud from their bouquets and toss throw them in the air.

And then, just like that, it’s over. After all the residual speeches that none of the kids are listening to because they just GRADUATED, they will file off the field to the “Recessional March” and back into the school to receive their more official-looking leather-bound diplomas.

Family and friends will wait on the lawn to take pictures (you probably want to arrange some kind of meeting place beforehand, there’s no room in that gown for a cell phone). After you’ve drank all your HSA-provided lemonade and your kids are begging you to put down the camera, they’ll pile onto charter buses and drive to a country club.

This celebration far exceeds prom, partially because it is free from all that “prama” and everyone is riding a graduation high. There’s great food, good dancing, and somewhere along the way it starts to dawn on students that they may never see some of their classmates again. Mr. Pizzuto usually gets up and sings Pink Floyd, so kids should bring their cameras.

Once everyone is bused back to the high school, they have exactly 30 minutes to go home, change, and get to Benjamin Franklin Middle School before the doors close. The philosophy behind Project Graduation is that it is a healthier alternative to heavy drinking, but some kids unfortunately find a way to consume 15 shots in that half hour and face the possibility of being sent to the hospital. Once a student leaves, they will not be allowed back in.

Once inside, students will admire the elaborate, movie-set-like decorations their parents have been creating all year. The theme is always a secret, and parents a given strict instructions not to spoil the surprise for their kids.

There will be a hall line with baby photos of each student, dancing, games, and a hypnotist (who doesn’t go on until 5:00 a.m., think you’d be delirious enough to be hypnotized?). By then end, exhausted parents pick up even more exhausted kids, and everyone goes home happy.

So there you have it! I encourage students to soak up this final night and enjoy it. Parents, no need to get too upset, there'll be plenty more photo opportunites on parent-visitation days in college!

mom June 23, 2011 at 11:27 AM
One of the best traditions in Ridgewood! Even in the rain!
Kiko Arase June 23, 2011 at 01:20 PM
Best of luck to all of our graduates; I know that you will make us proud.
Laurie Goodman June 23, 2011 at 03:29 PM
Congratulations, Class of 2011! Enjoy your day!

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