John P. Stevens Hawks fly during 54th commencement ceremony

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John P. Stevens High School Class of 2018 held its 54th annual commencement ceremony at the Louis Brown Athletic Center at Rutgers University in Piscataway on June 20. Superintendent Richard O’Malley hands her diploma to salutatorian Grace Wang. KATHY CHANG/STAFF
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John P. Stevens High School Class of 2018 held its 54th annual commencement ceremony at the Louis Brown Athletic Center at Rutgers University in Piscataway on June 20. KATHY CHANG/STAFF
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John P. Stevens High School Class of 2018 held its 54th annual commencement ceremony at the Louis Brown Athletic Center at Rutgers University in Piscataway on June 20. KATHY CHANG/STAFF
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John P. Stevens High School Class of 2018 held its 54th annual commencement ceremony at the Louis Brown Athletic Center at Rutgers University in Piscataway on June 20. Superintendent Richard O’Malley hands her diploma to valedictorian Elisha Rose Zhao. KATHY CHANG/STAFF
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John P. Stevens High School Class of 2018 held its 54th annual commencement ceremony at the Louis Brown Athletic Center at Rutgers University in Piscataway on June 20. Superintendent Richard O’Malley hands her diploma to salutatorian Grace Wang. KATHY CHANG/STAFF
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John P. Stevens High School Class of 2018 held its 54th annual commencement ceremony at the Louis Brown Athletic Center at Rutgers University in Piscataway on June 20. KATHY CHANG/STAFF
  3 / 4 
John P. Stevens High School Class of 2018 held its 54th annual commencement ceremony at the Louis Brown Athletic Center at Rutgers University in Piscataway on June 20. KATHY CHANG/STAFF
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John P. Stevens High School Class of 2018 held its 54th annual commencement ceremony at the Louis Brown Athletic Center at Rutgers University in Piscataway on June 20. Superintendent Richard O’Malley hands her diploma to valedictorian Elisha Rose Zhao. KATHY CHANG/STAFF

EDISON — John P. Stevens High School Principal Gail Pawlikowski said the lyrics to country singer Luke Bryan’s “Most People Are Good” stood out to her when planning her remarks for the school’s 54th annual commencement ceremony.

“I believe if you just go by the nightly news, Your faith in all mankind would be the first thing you lose,” she said as she read the lyrics. “I believe you love who you love, Ain’t nothing you should be ashamed of, I believe this world ain’t half as bad as it looks, I believe most people are good.”

Pawlikowski, who welcomed family and friends of the 631 students of the J.P. Stevens Class of 2018 on June 20 at the Louis Brown Athletic Center in Piscataway, said she “couldn’t agree more.”

She said the Class of 2018 proved time and time again they are good people from their compassion for the students and staff after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where a 19-year-old gunman shot and killed 17 people and injured 17 other people on Feb. 14, to seeing those in need and realizing they can make a difference.

The J.P. Stevens High School Wind Ensemble, led by Andrew DeNicola and John Zazzali, played as the students made their way to their seats. Student Council 1st Vice President Panthi C. Patel led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance and Jared Borja sang “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Grace Wang delivered the salutatorian address and Elisha Rose Zhao delivered the valedictorian address.

Before her speech, Wang held up her cell phone and took a selfie with her class. She said as the former classmates enter a new chapter in their lives, it is important to recognize opportunities – just like the opportunities J.P. Stevens has afforded them – and seize them.

Wang likened obstacles and experiences in life to raw ingredients of yeast, flour and a raw egg. She said although unappetizing separately, there is a beautiful outcome of a delicious cake.

“When given raw ingredients, make a cake … it’s the right mindset to be the best person you can be,” she said.

Zhao said she cannot wait to see how she and her classmates fulfill everything they want to as they move on to the next chapter in their lives.

Schools Superintendent Richard O’Malley and Board of Education members handed out diplomas to the students, who moved their tassels from right to left and threw their graduation caps up in the air as family and friends cheered.

Senior Class President Anish Anand Chouthai reflected on class memories to close the commencement.