James Caldwell High School's Class of 2012 entered Caldwell-West Caldwell Schools the same year Daniel Gerardi stepped up to the role of superintendent 18 years ago.
On Thursday evening,, presided over his final commencement ceremony, with 209 seniors receiving their high school diplomas on Bonnel Field in West Caldwell.
"There is no prouder moment for our school community ... than the commencement ceremony," Gerardi said in his remarks to the Class of 2012.
"It has been said that pubic education is not important because it serves the public," Gerardi said. "It is important because it creates the public."
With temperatures hovering around 100 degrees, students dressed in blue and white caps and gowns filed in line to receive their diplomas. By completing high school, Gerardi said, the district helped to create "new members of the adult public."
JCHS Class of 2012 Salutatorian Claudio Ko made brief remarks, congratulating her classmates and talking about the fear of the unknown.
"Life can be scary," Ko said, "But with this fear comes new exciting things."
's address introduced a term familiar to today's teenagers to at least some adults in the packed stands at Bonnel Field: YOLO, which stands for "You Only Live Once."
Salter relayed a story about a flightless Kiwi bird.
"All her life the Kiwi has wanted to fly," Salter said. He said the bird got its wish when it jumped off a cliff to her death. Throughout her life, he said, the bird worked to line branches along the side of the cliff so that when she fell she felt like she was flying among the trees.
Salter also quoted Mae West, who said, "You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough."
"Let's do it right," Salter challenged his classmates.
JCHS Principal Kevin Barnes took a few minutes in his remarks to thank Gerardi, as well as retiring Business Administrator Ronald Skopak for their combined 69 years of service.
Of Gerardi, he said, "Most of our best days were possible because of his leadership."
Barnes left students with some words of wisdom: "You make a living by what you get," he said. "But you make a life by what you give."
View a in the fall and a list of they received on Senior Awards night.