The 52nd Annual MTHS Commencement Exercises were held in the Montville Township High School’s Mustang Stadium on Thursday, June 22, 2023. During the event, Student Activities Council President Joleen Amer led the Pledge of Allegiance, sang a moving a cappella rendition of THE STAR SPANGLED BANNER, and addressed the more than 275 members of the MTHS Class of 2023.
“It is important,” Amer said, “That we recognize that we live among many people who are different from us, and that we not only accept them for who they are, but also show them that they are appreciated and cared for. Just because people are different from you, does not mean they do not deserve to be treated equally, and fairly. Everyone deserves to be treated equally and fairly.”
The MTHS Class of 2023 SAC President encouraged her class mates to remember that the people around you can change your life for the better.
Amer concluded with a nod to her favorite Broadway song – FOR GOOD from the musical WICKED. “‘Who can say if I've been changed for the better, but, because I knew you, because I knew you, because I knew you, I have been changed for good.’ Class of 2023,” Amer said, “we have changed each other. FOR GOOD. Thank you.”
The full transcript of Joleen Amer’s MTHS graduation speech to the Class of 2023 is below:
“Good evening class of 2023, and good evening to all the people without whom we wouldn’t be here – our friends, families, and other loved ones. As I was thinking about the message I wanted to share with all of you tonight, my thoughts went -- not surprisingly -- to Broadway. The musical Wicked was always a huge part of my family when I was growing up. My older sisters knew every single word to every single song and definitely still do. I'm pretty sure my brother knows more than a few words as well, even if he won’t admit it. It’s a story of an ever growing friendship In the Land of Oz between Elphaba, Wicked Witch of the West and Galinda the good witch, two women who change each other’s lives for the better, even if the ending isn't the happiest.
Now I won't spoil it for all of you who are going to want to see it after this speech, but in this wonderful story of friendship there are songs that talk about what it is like to grow alongside someone different than you. To learn things from someone you're close to, and to grow together. The final duet that the two women sing together called, ‘For Good'’, has always spoken to me. It is about meeting an individual or an even group of people who have completely changed your life for the better.
It’s hard to believe that a teenager in Montville, New Jersey could really have that complicated of a life, but I think I am the exception. Anxiety and depression have been with me for as long as I can remember. Sometimes it was hard for me to fit in here, because I have some white privilege and that was noticed by some students, and at the same time, I was sometimes too brown as a student of color for the white students or others who were different from me. It is important that we recognize that we live among many people who are different from us, and that we not only accept them for who they are, but also show them that they are appreciated and cared for. Just because people are different from you, does not mean they do not deserve to be treated equally, and fairly. Everyone deserves to be treated equally and fairly.
But through every hard night there was always a friend like Morgan, Sammy, Julia, Jess or Joe or a cousin like Maisa to find or say something funny and make me laugh. Or my resilient family to hold my hand and wait till the hard part was over. Growing up, I was raised to understand that family was always most important because family will always be there for you even when others aren’t. Those lifting me up by lending hands, offices, or weight rooms at 6 am for me to vent in, have brought me here today. Hard work and dedication got me to where I am today. The faith that each and every single teacher had in me got me here today. The countless hours of sisterly advice got me here today. The amazing counseling at this school brought me here today. My Mama and My Baba carried me here today, blessing me with every opportunity for a better life and future then theirs.
There was always an army supporting me, encouraging me that I could do it, that I could do anything. Even when I didn’t think I could. To all the parents that have children who suffer from any kind of mental health challenges. Thank you for being supportive and staying supportive.
Now before Mrs. Lomauro chastises me for not giving myself any credit, I know I was the one who did the work, but the best part is that I didn’t need to do it alone.
There are so many people that have brought us to where we are. Siblings, parents, friends, partners, friend groups, teachers, and whoever else you may look toward for advice and love. These people in our lives have helped us grow and learn and find our own path. Without them, not only would life be hard but it’d be pretty lame to just sit around and look in a mirror all day for advice …for some of us at least.
Thinking about the people you love and those who support you is pretty much a no brainer, but when I was writing this speech, I didn't know where to start, until I saw something from everyone’s friendly neighbor, Mr. Fred Rogers himself. He helped me find the words to tell you all, class of 2023, ‘Lets all take ten seconds, I'll watch the time, to think of the people who have helped you become who you are, the ones who have cared about you and wanted what was best for you in life.’
Thank you to the faculty, the ones who reached out, offered a helping hand and treated me like a human being not just some kid that deserved less attention than an adult, the love and support each of you has given the class of 2023 is unbelievably commendable. Thank you to THE coaches of the century, or my second pair of mom and dad Slezak and KB. You both put your heart and soul into your job and your students and it does not go under appreciated or unnoticed. You’ve taught me what it truly means to be a Mustang.
Thank you to my friends, the ones that have left and the ones that have stayed; thank you for helping me find myself and grow. Thank you to my family. Tasneem, along with leadership, taught me the importance of standing up for what I believe in. Thank you for talking things through, for never taking no for an answer. EVER. And for loving me unconditionally, no matter how many times I don’t take the hair out of the shower drain. Bayann, surprisingly you have taught me patience. Patience in believing that good not only comes to good people but to those who wait. You have taught me how to be passionate about every little thing, like how important it is to turn the big light off in the living room. Malik, thank you for teaching me the importance of love and showing it to others. Whether it be good news or bad I can always count on you for a hug or a harsh pat on the head. Jennah, among the long list of things you have taught me, the ones that stick out are your compassion for others, your passion in things you believe in whether it be not finishing your dinner. Ever. Or a soccer game where you definitely shouldn’t have gotten a yellow card. You taught me how much fun it is to have a younger sister and a built-in best friend. I can't wait to see how you will grow and flourish into an amazing young woman. Maisa, you have taught me the importance of resilience and strength, to never give up even when all the odds are stacked against me. I want to take a moment out of my time and give it to her. Congratulations to Maisa on beating childhood cancer, this month and for proving you are my hero. The most important ones of all, of course, my Mama and Baba. You have given me the most amazing life I could possibly ask for. Baba, thanks for being the fixer and ‘The Baba’” the one who can do it all and will always protect me. In the holy Quran, it's written: ‘First your mother, then your mother, then your mother, then your father.’ So all my gratitude to my mama for always being there for me; for giving me endless, perfect advice and love, always; and for being my best friend.
And last but not least, Thank you to my classmates for not only some of the most amazing memories of high school or banning pajama day, but for being there, for our school and for your friends around you. Here we all are, in our caps and gowns, all together for the very last time. I encourage you to do what I have done and recognize the individual people in your lives and thank them for all they have done for you, find them in the crowd and give them a wave or a wink to show them you care. Do not take them or what they do for you for granted. We all got and made it here together, with the help of all those around us, Just like Elphaba and Galinda together in the Land of Oz Their words carry so much meaning, especially on a night like tonight. I wanna leave you with a quote I learned the meaning of last year from one of my favorite musicals, Wicked, of course: ‘Who can say if I've been changed for the better, but, Because I knew you , Because I knew you, Because I knew you, I have been changed for good.’
For those who understand the importance of what I'm about to say, I can finally say confidently that I am a theater kid, for good. It is not a graduation speech without a cliché ending. Class of 2023, we have changed each other. FOR GOOD. Thank you.”
The speech made by Class of 2023 Student Activities Council President Joleen Amer can be viewed on the Montville Township Public Schools YouTube Channel.
Amer attended the following Montville Township Public Schools: William Mason Elementary, Robert R. Lazar Middle, and Montville Township High School.
The 52nd Annual MTHS Commencement Exercises were held outdoors on the field in the Mustang Stadium on Thursday, June 22, 2023, at 7:00 p.m. Over 275 members of the Class of 2023 were honored that evening.
The MTHS Commencement Exercises were broadcast LIVE on the Montville Township Public Schools YouTube Channel and can be viewed at www.montville.net/mthsgraduation .