The Hilldale gymnasium vibrated with resounding cheers as elementary teacher and high school football coach Ian Schwindel shouted into the microphone, “Here they are! I see them coming! They’re coming through the door: the Montville Township High School Class of 2023!”
As more than 30 seniors from MTHS entered the elementary school gym, Hilldale’s 326 kindergarten to grade 5 students leapt to their feet. Cheering, shouting, jumping, clapping, and waving erupted from the young crowd. Each held a banner or poster displaying words of encouragement as the MTHS Class of 2023 entered the room and took their places on the stage.
“The kids have been so excited for today,” said Stacey Hogan. The 4th grade Hilldale teacher planned the unique graduation celebration for the former Hilldale students. “I sent a letter to each of our former Hilldale students who would be graduating from MTHS this spring. Nearly all of them said they would be here, and they were.”
Hogan noted that she had heard that the excitement at MTHS on the part of the seniors was almost as great as that of the elementary students.
Once each of the seniors found a seat, a microphone was passed from senior to senior. Each said their name, their college choice and plans for their major, and their favorite memory of Hilldale. With each memory the elementary students cheered.
Faculty and staff cheered too, and many shed a tear of pride as they heard the seniors’ plans and memories.
“This is a great event,” said David Gelber, Assistant Principal at MTHS. “Truly wonderful! What a sense of community.”
MTHS Class of 2023 Valedictorian Eshani Patel was among the seniors who attended. While she did not mention her status as the top academic student of her class, one of her classmates did. With the news, another enthusiastic roar erupted from the elementary audience.
Next the elementary students lined the halls and walkways outside the building. The seniors were clapped out as they had been when they completed fifth grade.
“Each year we clap out the 5th grade students,” Hogan explained. “We thought it would be meaningful for the MTHS seniors to return to the halls where it all began. We knew it would be great, but this has been amazing.”
Faculty, Staff and seniors then posed for a group photo.
“Hilldale!” they shouted in unison!
The Hilldale / MTHS Class of 2023 Reunion was held one week before the MTHS graduation, on Thursday, June 15, 2023. The video “Class of 2023 MTHS Seniors from Hilldale Elementary Return for a Look-Back and a Clap-Out” can be viewed on the Montville Township Public Schools YouTube Channel.
On Thursday, June 22, 2023, at 7:00 p.m. the 276 members of the MTHS Class of 2023 will graduate from high school.
The ceremony will be held on the field in Mustang Stadium. In the event of inclement weather the ceremony will be moved indoors.