The music was blasting, the limelight was spinning in the night sky, the red carpet was laid out, security was tight, the throngs of paparazzi were flashing away, the cameras were filming, and the stars were out for last night’s Operation Graduation in Roselle Park.
Okay, so maybe the limelight was really a spotlights being spun around, and maybe the red carpet were three Casano Center mats put together, and maybe the mob of photographers were really a scene of photographers on a screen playing on a loop, and maybe the film crews was really Joe DeIorio, but the last part was absolutely true; the stars – which happened to be the Roselle Park graduates of 2015 – were out last night.
And they were made to feel special, because they were.
Masterfully hosted by Thos Shipley, the just-graduated crowd of 80 teenagers were all individually asked for their names, then introduced and interviewed in front of a red satin stage curtain with a podium.
“Welcome to Operation Graduation!” Thos would boisterously announce through the microphone system to every group of graduates when they approached the velvet rope. A Roselle Park Police officer would unlatch it and Thos would lead them to the interview podium, rightfully adding that the event was open exclusively to those with an RSVP invite. That invitation just happened to be a high school diploma and a permission slip.
One by one, the stars answered red carpet questions like what they were wearing and how pumped they were about the party, had their photographs taken, gave shout outs, waved to the camera, and were given the VIP treatment.
As they entered the Casano Center to start the night-long party of Operation Graduation, all the grads had beaming smiles.
And to think, all this was put together in about a month. Led by high school senior parents Jodi Bellomo, Michelle Arnold, Sharon Curia as well as former mayor Joe DeIorio, the group worked on creating Operation Graduation after the official Project Graduation had been canceled due to certain deadlines for down payments on a location having passed. Mr. DeIorio coordinated with various members of the community including parents, Mayor & Council, the Board Of Education (BOE), volunteer organizations, and local businesses, to find a way to have something for seniors, even if it was in town at the Casano Community Center. To be certain the Casano Center is not thought of as the ‘hot ticket’ to have for a graduation party but DeIorio knew that things are what you make of them. So along with parents and volunteers, they made the Community Center ‘the place to be’ last night.
“I can’t believe this! This is incredible!” said Joe DeIorio as he paused from preparing for the next phase of the party, “I would have been glad if 20 had showed up but this is great. This was all really for them and I’m glad it worked out! This couldn’t have been possible with the whole community helping out; everyone from Mayor & council, the to Board Of Ed, to parents and past graduates and local businesses. This was truly a community event!”
Thos Shipley, never short for words, actually remarked, “I’m speechless! This is more than everyone could have hoped for.”
With no disrespect or disparagement to all the important hard work that the PTSA does, last night not only set the standard but also set the bar pretty high and made it a class act to follow. Maybe this one-time event can bring renewed life into Project Graduation to continue to make all future graduates rightfully feel like stars.