By Noriko Kudo, U.S. Army Garrison Japan Public AffairsJune 12, 2019
CAMP ZAMA, Japan (June 12, 2019) -- Fifty-three members of Zama American High School's graduating class of 2019 crossed the stage and received their diplomas during a commencement ceremony June 6 at the Camp Zama Community Club here.
The pivotal moment for the 54 seniors--one student graduated early--marked the culmination of 13 years of primary education. At the direction of their principal, Wayne Carter, the graduates moved their tassels from the right side of their caps to the left, turned around to face their family and friends, and did a traditional toss of their caps into the air as the auditorium erupted in applause.
"We are all finally graduating," said Matrika Franklin. "It's really a big moment for our whole class."
Matrika said she and her classmates spent many days and experienced many events together, and as a result, the class was very tight-knight, she said.
Matrika, the class salutatorian, gave a speech in which she spoke about how easy it is, while working toward the goal of graduation, to fall into the trap of relaxing one's efforts and not striving to do one's best. She said she combated this by focusing on her academic goals and striving to work through any obstacles she encountered.
"My speech was about pushing beyond being [just] 'OK,' … and living our lives to the fullest," said Matrika.
Matrika said she will participate in a scholarship program this summer and will go on to attend college in the fall. She said she hopes her fellow classmates find something they love to do, focus and work their hardest.
"Success is defined differently for everyone," said Matrika.
Riki Fameli, the class valedictorian, said he was happy to graduate but also feels sad to leave the people who supported him along the way, including his parents, friends, teachers and counselors. In his valedictory speech, Riki offered his thanks to that support system for making his high school career successful and memorable.
Carter, presiding over his first graduation since becoming principal last year, said earning their diplomas was just one of the many successes the Class of 2019 will have. From here, he said, it is time for those 54 students to "spread their wings and go out into the real world."