The field at Passaic County Technical Institute was a sea of white and blue at the school’s 47th annual graduation ceremony Monday night.
About 750 graduates were honored for their accomplishments in fields like finance, medical arts, automotive technology, cosmetology and the performing arts. The school has 200 different programs servicing more than 3,200 students.
Despite the school’s diversity, some faculty members said that the class of 2011 is one of the most unified in the school's history.
“They’re really jelled together and are a strong family,” teacher Nick Consoli said. “There’s a lot of camaraderie in this class.”
Family and friends gathered to watch the graduates receive their diplomas.
“My son promised my mother before she died that he would be a music producer,” said Mary Diggs, Lamar Diggs's mother, “And here he is, 26 years later, graduating with the rest of the high school.”
Parents like Douglas and Tonya McDuffie were proud to see their daughter, Ahjahta, move on to bigger and better things.
“My daughter is ecstatic to be attending the University of New Haven in the fall,” Douglas McDuffie said. “She’s graduating with honors and has eight scholarships.”
“There have been tremendous changes since I went here,” Jerry Castaneda, a faculty member, said. “We have grown leaps and bounds in our course offerings and technical programs, and there are opportunities here that I never had as a student 20 years ago.”
In 2010, 38 percent of PCTI students went on to a four-year college, 25 percent went into the workforce, 22 percent went on to a two-year college, 12 percent went to a technical school and 3 percent joined the military.
Some parents, like Maria Boyd, said that the school’s focus on technical programs will help the graduates succeed and stand out from their counterparts in the difficult job market.
“My son feels very prepared after getting a diploma from here,” Boyd said. “He is focusing on computer science, and what better place to get a degree in computer science than at a technical school? This is a good jumpstart.”
Valedictorian Kathleen Penaflorid and salutatorian Anaika Singh discussed their first days at PCTI and wished their classmates the best. Penaflorida, who had a 4.3 grade point average, will attend Rutgers University. She will major in nursing. Singh, who had a 4.2 grade point average, will study biology at Seton Hall University. Both were graduates of the Academy of Medical Arts at PCTI.
Singh made her speech about how she has changed for the better.
“I have become a new person in the last four years,” she said. “I’ve learned to express myself and find enjoyment in what I do.”
Penaflorida wiped away tears during her speech.
“When I was a freshman, I wasn’t sure of who I was or who I wanted to be,” she said. “I never thought I’d be in this position, as valedictorian.”