Three-hundred ninety students graduated from Linden High School at the school’s 109th Commencement on Friday, June 21, in the LHS gym.

Eighty-three percent of the graduates plan to continue their education at two- or four-year colleges and universities.

The Class of 2019 heard speeches from district, community, and student leaders. Particularly emotional and inspirational was a speech by salutatorian Piotr Zelazny, who spoke of overcoming difficulties, including his family’s emigration from Poland and his father’s ongoing fight against cancer.

“To achieve greatness, you must face challenges,” said Zelazny, who will attend Steven Institute of Technology and major in electrical engineering. “I’ve faced many problems in my life. … However, I always thought that the magnitude of my problems never came close to my dad’s. I learned to never give up and to always work toward your goals, even when they may seem unachievable.”

SEE MORE PHOTOS FROM LHS COMMENCEMENT

Valedictorian Muhsin Khan, who will attend Rutgers University to pursue a degree in biochemistry, told his fellow graduates that reward comes from effort and hard work.

“Think big, set your goals, then make them happen,” he said. “If you aim for nothing, you’ll hit it every time.

“Today we are Linden High School graduates. The home of the Tigers is now also the home of tomorrow’s business leaders, doctors, politicians, scientists and stars. Go forward, work hard, and attain excellence.”

Acting Superintendent Denise Cleary said she hopes the graduates will remember the four years’ worth of advice they’ve gotten from their teachers, coaches and counselors as they make their way in the world.

“I would like to guarantee a good life for each of you, but that is way beyond me,” she said. “You are now in charge of your own destiny, and it is our hope that the lessons we have given you will lead you in the right direction.”

sea of decorated caps as salutatorian speaks

Salutatorian Piotr Zelazny speaking as graduates listen, many wearing decorated caps.

The LHS Concert Choir – including emotional members of the graduating class – performed the class song, “Just a Single Voice,” and joined with the LHS band in performing the school’s alma mater, which was written by Alexander Luba of the Class of 1936.

Before reading off all the graduates’ names and handing out diplomas, Vice Principal Kevin Thurston awarded top-five honors in each course of study. The honorees were:

College Preparatory: Muhsin Khan, Piotr Zelazny, Love Desrosiers, Jeremiah Acosta, Daniel Lopez

Business Education and Computer Science: Austin Urban, Erik Hernandez, Angelo McNeill, Anthony Rodriguez, Justin Diana

Career Technical Education: Biankah Osborne, Nina Miller, Raphael Ramirez, Kevin Granillo, Kyle Lipscomb Jr.

Ariana Eastwood was honored twice, first with the Union County Secondary Schools Principals Exemplary Student Award, then with the A.R. Taranto Award for Best All-Around Student. That award is named for the superintendent from 1971 to 1985, and given out by his niece, Business Administrator Kathleen A. Gaylord.

Two students – Stephanie  Araujo and Nicholas Tome – were  honored for having achieved perfect attendance through all four years of high school. Those awards were handed out by William McMahon, an LHS English teacher who is retiring this year after 33 years of perfect attendance.

Principal Yelana Horré announced that the award would be known from now on as the William McMahon Award for Perfect Attendance, an announcement that was greeted with a loud ovation by the graduates.

In her speech, Horré told the graduates that they will always take a piece of the school with them.

“You are going to do amazing things,” she said. “But no matter where life leads you, Linden High School will always be your home.”