As part of a week honoring the Class of 2023, Montclair State University held its “Senior Send-off” on May 16 – an evening that included live music, a barbecue, recognition, toasts and fireworks.
Hosted by the Student Government Association (SGA) and the Center for Student Involvement, the event provided the perfect opportunity for graduating seniors to reflect on their achievements, celebrate their accomplishments and create a few more memories before embarking on the next chapter of their lives.
“The purpose of the event is to give one last really nice farewell to our seniors. We really wanted to host one big event in the Yogi Berra Stadium since it’s the heart of MSU and our seniors. So we wanted to celebrate their achievements and just provide a little bit of everything today,” says Camryn Wade, the executive treasurer of the SGA.
Seniors were not the only ones to celebrate the occasion. Families, friends, faculty and staff also gathered to commemorate their achievements.
The highlight of the event was a champagne toast to the Class of 2023, led by University President Jonathan Koppell, who praised the seniors for their hard work and dedication throughout their college years. Koppell also reminded the seniors of the bright future ahead of them and encouraged them to make a positive impact on the world.
“Let’s toast the Class of 2023 who reached this day after a long and winding journey, learning in ways you didn’t imagine five or six years ago,” Koppell told the graduates. “Whatever your path, you overcame challenges, you achieved things that you didn’t know you were capable of, you embraced the new and the unknown, made friendships, learned things about yourself and most importantly, you set an object in front of you. If you have big goals and you believe firmly in your heart that you can achieve them, you will succeed. You have done great things at Montclair State University, and we know you will do great things in the future.”
As the night drew to a close, the seniors were “sent-off” with a bang – a spectacular fireworks display. The colorful explosions lit up the sky in harmony with the DJ’s hits, providing a fitting finale to an unforgettable event.
The evening – filled with joy, laughter and nostalgia – gave students and their families another opportunity to absorb the campus ambiance one last time and bid farewell on a positive note.
Members of the Class of 2023 were freshmen when the COVID-19 pandemic changed what college looked like – first with online instruction, then a return to in-person classes with masks on and then finally to a more typical classroom experience.
“Considering that we lost our freshman year with COVID, being able to come out and really enjoy an event as a senior was what attracted me here today,” said Katelyn Rivera, who majored in Psychology. “I hope to take memories from this event and just end my chapter on a positive note.”
For Katherin Lopez, who majored in Sociology, the event presented an opportunity to embrace one last moment as a college student while also engaging and networking with fellow students.
“I’m just really excited to hang out with my friends one last time before starting to look for a job and graduating so I’m glad MSU had this because it’s kind of like something different than what they’ve had in the past. Plus, there’s a lot of people here that, maybe you can network with and find jobs since we are all moving forward,” Lopez said.
For Bri Sleight, a Psychology major, the event marked an end of her four-year “transformative journey” through college.
“I just wanted to hang out with my friends and get some free food and drinks,” Sleight said.
“I appreciate that they’re creating a place that everyone could get together for a sense of accomplishment and celebrating the last four years of college.”
Commencement exercises take place on Tuesday, May 23, at Prudential Center in Newark. To learn more or to watch live streams in English or Spanish visit the Commencement website.
Selfies with the President
Story by Rosaria Lo Presti. Photos by John J. LaRosa.