Return to Headlines

West Orange High School Graduates 530

WEST ORANGE, NJ – 530 seniors graduated from West Orange High School in a ceremony held at Codey Arena on June 20.

Seniors, faculty, families, and friends gathered to celebrate beginning at 5:00 pm. The junior Honor Guard (students in the top five percent of the incoming senior class) flanked the entrance to the arena as the graduates entered. Following the Pomp and Circumstance processional, graduating seniors Justus Wheatley and Hannah Florendo sang a unique arrangement of the National Anthem. This was followed by a welcome from Principal Oscar Guerrero, who had just completed his first full year at West Orange High School.

Highlights from Principal Guerrero’s Address 

“Graduates, as I look out at you, I see a group of individuals who have not only excelled academically but have also demonstrated resilience, creativity, and a commitment to making a difference in our community. Each one of you has a unique story, a unique journey that has led you to this moment, and for that, you should be immensely proud. This year has been one of growth and transformation. We have faced challenges that tested our resolve and adaptability. Through it all, you have shown an unwavering spirit and an ability to rise above adversity. You have learned that success is not just about achieving your goals but also about the journey you take to get there.”

"To the Class of 2024, as you step into the next chapter of your lives, I urge you to carry with you the lessons you have learned here. Embrace change and uncertainty with courage and optimism. Be solutions oriented. Continue to be curious, to ask questions, seek knowledge and understanding, and approach the world with an open mind. And most importantly, be kind. In a 4 world that is often divided, kindness and empathy go a long way, and are powerful tools in reaching across dimensions of difference and creating positive change. Please remember that your dreams should not stop here. You have to be continuously prepared for these moments time and time again, where opportunity meets preparation. This is an expression that is often forgotten. In order to seize every opportunity that is afforded to you, there is no substitute for hard work. Success will not come easily. And when you are faced with challenges, remember your time at WOHS, remember that you are a mountaineer!"

The Honors Chamber Choir, under the direction of John Hellyer, performed “Make Our Garden Grow,” from “Candide,” and Salutatorian Kayla Mengden stepped to the podium to deliver her speech.

Highlights from Salutatorian Kayla Mengen’s Address 

“We spend all our lives in a countdown mentality. We remain impatiently fixed on what we deem “big life moments” like graduation or prom, when in reality it’s the small routines that we treasure in the end. As you look back on high school, I hope you can remember those little moments on random Thursday afternoons spent painstakingly stalking out people’s houses for senior assassin, embarking on the daily guessing game of whether we could make it to Chik-fil-a or Cava and back on our lunch break, or standing outside huddled for our third fire drill of the week.”

“Do one thing every day that you enjoy and make a point to savor every moment of the next chapter of your lives…but remember that no matter where you go or what you do, do not go along with the crowd when you know they are wrong. Be unapologetically and authentically yourself.”

Valedictorian Emily Lossman then delivered her address.

Highlights from Valedictorian Emily Lossman’s Address 

“As we leave West Orange High School and our teachers and friends behind, it’s the experiences we’ve shared and the lessons we’ve learned that will become our fondest memories and the most useful tools in our toolbox for the rest of our lives.”

“When you think of music, sports, arts, or any other human achievement, it’s always people who tried their hardest and achieved excellence that will usually come to mind. People who aimed to be just good enough have long since been forgotten. Everyone here is leaving with a fresh start on changing the world by being the best at whatever you choose to do.”

The graduation band, under the direction of Lew Kelly, performed “Cry of the Last Unicorn” by Rossano Galante. In May, Galante himself visited West Orange High School to rehearse the Ninth Grade Band, Concert Band, Symphonic Winds, and Wind Ensemble for their May 16 concert, where they performed several of his works during a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Board of Education President Brian Rock then addressed students.

Highlights from BOE President Brian Rock’s Address 

Each of you has traveled a unique road to get here. That road is the product of many individual choices that you have made over the years.

And yet you each reached the same goal. Your paths - once diverging - have come back together.

That’s what I want to take a minute to talk to you about tonight. Making choices and choosing which road to follow.

Because in the next few years, you will make many choices - what to study, where to work, where to live. At times, you will find yourself weighing the options, trying to decide which road to take.

Robert Frost wrote a famous poem on this topic - The Road Not Taken.

It starts with a man at a crossroads in the woods, and the first stanza goes like this:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

In that moment, at the crossroads, the choice seemed so important. Which road should he follow?

When I was your age, I faced one of those moments. I was a student at Rutgers, and I was studying computer science. And then, by happenstance, I ended up in a history class that I enjoyed.

I thought about switching majors, and I considered the two roads. Should I keep on with how I started and become a software engineer? Or should I take this other road that led to teaching?

I weighed the options, and I agonized over the decision. This choice would define my life. It was so important. The roads diverged into very different futures, didn’t they?

Ultimately, I chose history and I chose education. I went on to become a social studies teacher.

And if the story ended there, it might well end as Frost’s poem did in the final stanza:

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

Because that single choice seemingly took me down a different road and it made all the difference. Except it turned out that it didn’t.

Fast-forward a few years. I taught for a while, and then I transitioned into another job outside the classroom. And when I least expected it, an opportunity came along to transfer to a new position - one that utilized those computer science skills I’d put down two decades before.

And now I work in education, doing data analysis and data science. The two paths that had diverged so long ago came back together in the end.

When I look back now, I can see how much was out of my control and how diverging branches tend to come back together.

That single choice hadn’t made all the difference after all. It was just a moment in time that set me down a path. But that path would connect and intersect with many others, and I could have reached this moment in many different ways.

This is where the middle part of Frost’s poem comes in - the part that’s often skipped or misunderstood.

The traveler looked down the one path and:

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

It turns out the two roads were about the same.

Sure, each was probably unique in some way. But one was not better than the other.

What matters is not that he agonized over the choice and chose the right road - what matters is simply that he walked down it towards his destination.

And so, in the years to come, when you are faced with choices, don’t be paralyzed by the possibilities. There are few choices in life that are irrevocable, and there are many roads you can take to get to your future.”

Superintendent Hayden Moore certified the seniors as graduates as they moved their tassels from right to left.

“You are my first graduating class,” Moore began, “and I am so proud of you.”

“Thank you for setting the bar high for those that will follow you. I extend my best wishes to you. Follow your dreams, and remember the path leads to home. You will always be a Mountaineer.”

Diplomas were then distributed, and the recessional concluded the event. The graduates then got ready to enjoy a final evening together, thanks to Project Graduation.


Video clips of performances

 WOHS Graduation


WOHS Graduation


WOHS Graduation


Kayla Mengden

Salutatorian Kayla Mengden

Emily Lossman

Valedictorian Emily Lossman

WOHS Graduation

(L-R) BOE VP Maria Vera, WOHS Catherine Connors, Superintendent Hayden Moore, Mayor Susan McCartney, BOE President Brian Rock, BOE Robert Ivker, BOE Eric Stevenson, BOE Dia Bryant, Principal Oscar Guerrero

WOHS Graduation

Scan code to access graduation program

Cynthia Cumming
June 21, 2024