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An Emotional Commencement for Northwest’s Class of 2017

Graduation Day is a day which is rich in emotional content. Filled with the excitement of the end of high school, the uncertainty of the future, the sadness of moving away from friends, the expectations of family and friends, and the unbridled joy of achievement were all on display on the faces of the Class of 2017 from Northwest High School on Tuesday afternoon.

When you add the shocking news of the death of two classmates on the eve of graduation, it can make for a difficult ceremony for graduates and parents, as well as administrators and teachers.

As the graduates processed into Constitution Hall in Washington DC, there was both a sense of sorrow and excitement. Northwest High School’s principal and staff showed great courage and sensitivity as they provided students and parents a memorial commencement while honoring the memory of those classmates that were missing.

The shocking double homicide of Artem Ziberov and Shadi Najjar weighed heavy on the members of the Class of 2017, but Principal Jimmy D’Andrea and his staff should be proud of their efforts and the young men and women of the Class of 2017 for the way this year’s graduation was handled.

After a moment of silence, the ceremonies continued with a Commencement Speech from former Northwest High School Assistant Principal John Robertson. Robertson had been the class administrator for the graduating class until he left Northwest to pursue a master’s degree in social work, his second advanced degree.

He spoke to the graduates of his childhood, growing up in Los Angeles and his mantra “One to Grow On” and way a youth sports coach changed his life.

“If you encountered me as a child growing up in South-Central Los Angeles, I don’t think you would have thought much of me,” said Robertson. “On any given day I was a young man whose pants were too short, shoes had holes in them, and I often had a hungry belly. I doubt you would have said; there goes a future Ivy League graduate.”