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On June 4, in a hot Proviso East auditorium, where commencement programs served double duty – as a guide to the proceedings and as fans – the class of 2008 officially ended its stint at the Forest Park Middle School.

“This is a day I have been looking forward to since the first day I got into middle school,” graduate Terrance Sheppard said.

During a fairly brief ceremony, 122 eighth-graders donned their green caps and gowns and listened to a collection of speakers.

The five valedictorians – Holly Quirk, Olivia Mott, Emily Fitzgerald, Siddharth Kusuma, and Destiny Matthews – each of whom graduated with a 4.0 grade point average, addressed their classmates, offering their fondest memories and words of advice.

Mott asked her peers to “figure out what you stand for and to act of your values and beliefs.” On behalf of his classmates, Kusuma thanked all the teachers, parents, and friends.

The class then heard from their principal, Karen Bukowski. Bukowski told the graduates that they had completed one goal in life, and it was time for them to set new goals. She then asked the class to draw inspiration from the story of golfer Arnold Palmer. Palmer grew up as a man of modest means, but truly believed he could be one of the best golfers, and he was.

“You have to believe you can achieve,” Bukowski said. “All of you can succeed.”

Superintendent Lou Cavallo was the last to address the graduates.

“What you do in the future means more than what you’ve done in the past,” Cavallo said. “It is time for you to go out and change the world.”

Every student was then called to receive their diplomas, and proud parents cheered loudly as their sons and daughters walked across the stage. The loudest applause came after all of the students had been named and they performed the traditional moving of the tassel from right to left.

The scene on the lawn outside the Maywood high school was one of hugs, family pictures, balloons, oversized congratulatory cards, and occasional tears. Many of the students will scatter across the region to different high schools, some being the lone representative from the Forest Park Middle School.