West Caldwell sees school-record graduation rate

May. 25, 2013 @ 02:15 AM

Camera flashes and whistles grew as the 206 graduating seniors strode into the gymnasium at West Caldwell High on Friday evening, when diplomas were placed in their hands during a ceremony marking the highest graduation rate in the school's history.

But on this evening, principal Jeff Link said in a speech before the procession, the emphasis was on the future.

“There’s a good reason why these exercises are called commencements,” he said. “Graduation is the beginning, not the end.”

West Caldwell High saw a graduation rate of about 85 percent.

The amount of scholarships drawn by students has increased, too: West Caldwell seniors received more than $800,000 in educational scholarships, Link said. More than $100,000 of that amount was drawn by co-valedictorian Genesis Lopez Euceda, who plans to study business at UNC-Chapel Hill. A single mother, Lopez Euceda was recognized at the ceremony for earning the school’s first scholarship from the Gates Millenium Scholarship program, which issues scholarships to 1,000 high school students across the country each school year.

Salutatorian Sierra Kimberlin in her speech recalled her fleeting enthusiasm about transitioning from middle school to high school. “When I got there, I was ready to leave.”

She said her aspirations as a freshman ranged from one day emulating the lifestyles of characters played by movie star Reese Witherspoon to working as a pharmacist.

Now Kimberlin is considering a career in alternative medicine  But that, too, could change, she said.

“This is the time to live in the fast lane, … to make mistakes,” she said. “As much as we can.”