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What Convocation Means to SBHS

By Priyanka Sarkhel (‘20)

The 25th Annual Convocation Ceremony was held on September 13. The event took place in the main gym with the freshmen sitting up in the bleachers, the seniors sitting on folding chairs on the floor, and the teachers sitting right down the aisle. At the end of the aisle was a makeshift stage with a podium.

2019’s ceremony was no different from previous years. Traditions such as senior peer leaders guiding the freshmen down from their orientation rooms, teachers walking in wearing graduation gowns, the choir singing, the band performing, and of course, honorary speeches and recognition were upheld.

Spanish teacher Ms. Arianne Dowd won Educator of the Year and delivered a speech on the significance of vulnerability.

Board of Education member Mr. Harry J. Delgado was also recognized alongside Superintendent Scott Feder for their contributions to the South Brunswick school community.

It was an event that marked the beginning of the end of high school for the seniors (2020) and the start of the high school journey for the freshmen (2023).

While the seniors were laughing at old school pictures of their classmates and listening with nostalgia as senior Olivia Sanders gave her speech, the freshmen observed from their place on the bleachers, a more passive and nervous audience.

However, it seemed to some in the Class of 2023 that Convocation did its job.

Freshman Nidhi Ummettala said “I thought it was a creative way of uniting the seniors and the freshmen. Because I felt that by being more informed about clubs and my options for the next four years, it’s going to be easier as time goes by.”

The sheer size and mass population of South Brunswick High School became much less intimidating as well.

“I liked how we were with only seniors rather than the entire school because it felt welcoming,” Ummettala said.

Others felt reassured about high school in general.

Freshman Anisha Tahbildar said that the one thing she took away from Convocation was that “high school will be a fun and interesting experience.”

As for the seniors themselves, many were reminded of the time they too were freshmen and sat in the bleachers waiting to begin the journey of the next four years.

Senior Emily Hizny said “It was cool to be on the other side and sit in the chairs as seniors this year. It really makes me think about how far we’ve come, and how close we are to the end of high school. Looking at past pictures of my classmates was also very entertaining.”

Others do not mind the ceremony, but feel it could be improved.

English teacher Ms. Anna Lehre said, “I believe Convocation is a solid tradition, but the ceremony itself could use revamping to help engage this generation.”

On the other hand, some teachers and students expressed the opinion that they disliked Convocation.

In response to this, Principal Mr. Peter Varela said, “Some people love it and some people do not love it. There’s always that push and pull when it comes to putting together an event like this. It’s an event that runs a special schedule. It forces the bus runs to go twice… for the tenth and eleventh graders. But I would say the freshmen embrace it. We’re doing something special for [the students].”

What Mr. Varela emphasized more, however, is that Convocation is put together especially for the seniors.

“I want the seniors to know and understand that we value them, that they are the leaders of the school community and the student body. People do look up to seniors.”

Mr. Varela also noted that Convocation is planned with a lot of effort and work from the summer so that it is able to run smoothly in September.

“It’s easier to not do [all this work]. It’s easier to just have a regular school day. But do you really want to be a school -- remember we are a School of Character -- without ever talking about and demonstrating character?”

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