The members of Novi High School’s Class of 2023 celebrate graduation by throwing their caps in the air during the school’s commencement ceremony at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti.

The members of Novi High School’s Class of 2023 celebrate graduation by throwing their caps in the air during the school’s commencement ceremony at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti.

Photo by Charity Meier

Novi High Class of 2023 takes final roar

By: Charity Meier | Novi Note | Published June 6, 2023


NOVI — Approximately 515 Wildcats converged upon the George Gervin GameAbove Center at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti June 1 for the final roar of the Class of 2023 at the Novi High School commencement ceremony.

“Today’s commencement ceremony is a culminating celebration of the diligence and dedication you have put forth over the past 13 years,” said NHS Principal Nicole Carter as she gave the opening remarks. “You’re a bright, compassionate and empathetic group of young adults who are destined for greatness.”

Carter said she was “beaming with pride” for this graduating class, which has been offered $15.2 million in scholarships. The Class of 2023 includes 29 National Merit Scholarship finalists and 46 students who won regional awards in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, plus one national medal winner.

“All I can say is, ‘Way to roar, Class of 2023,’” said Carter.

Carter offered up one final life lesson to the graduates and told them to focus on the idea of progress over perfection, which she said is the “key” to unlocking one’s full potential.   

According to Carter, perfection is an illusion that sets an unattainable standard that creates self-doubt and stifles growth. Progress, she said, allows people to learn from their mistakes, adapt and evolve. She stated that the greatest achievements in human history were not born from instant perfection, but rather from “a series of trial and error,” perseverance and dedication. She stressed that to embrace progress, the graduates must embrace their vulnerability and step out of their comfort zones, take risks, and be willing to make mistakes. Carter said that mistakes are not failures but steppingstones toward success.

“We live in a world that often places an immense pressure on us to achieve perfection in everything that we do, from the pursuit of academic success to the demands of our professional lives. The expectation can be overwhelming,” said Carter. “But today I urge you to embrace progress instead, for it is through progress that we truly find our purpose and fulfillment. Class of 2023, always remember progress over perfection.”

Senior class Vice President Farheen Hirji gave the reflection address. Hirji congratulated the students on everything they have accomplished, including making it through COVID-19, the “endless” atrium construction, the “Bermuda triangle” of the parking lot every day after school, and four “memorable” years at NHS.

Hirji spoke of the sentiment she found in a fortune cookie soon after she had made the decision to go to university five hours away in Toronto, Canada. The cookie read, “Your independence shall lead you to rewarding adventures.”

“As we begin this new chapter of our lives, it is not only about the exciting opportunities and experiences that await us, but also growing up and finding independence, resilience and who we are. … I sincerely wish this fortune becomes a reality for each and every one of us in our future endeavors,” said Hirji.

The graduation of the Class of 2023 marked the first commencement celebration since Ben Mainka became district superintendent. Mainka told the students that the guiding principle of their lives and true purpose should be to become the best version of themselves. He instructed them to understand that everything in life is a choice.

“In this vast realm of choice, perhaps the most profound decision that you’ll make is the choice to be happy. Some might say, ‘Can you really choose to be happy?’ but the truth is that happiness isn’t a byproduct of our circumstances; it’s a result of our perception,” Mainka said. “Your life is the most beautiful masterpiece that you will ever create. Let it be a masterpiece of joy and resilience and positivity.”

He stressed to the students that the universe does not revolve around them. He said that each life is intertwined with countless others, including friends, family, the community and even those they have never met.

“Our actions extend far beyond our individual selves. A kind word can uplift someone’s spirit. A shared idea can ignite a spark of inspiration. A helping hand can ease a burden,” Mainka said.

During the ceremony, the class gift of bathroom upgrades to the high school was presented by Makayla Stewart, executive board secretary, and Isabelle Jiang, secretary of the Class of 2023.

Stewart said that the class decided on the upgrades, as they wanted to provide something practical and useful to be used in the years to come. As the class gift, six bathrooms will be renovated throughout the high school. She said they want the bathrooms to be brighter. Renovations will include fresh paint along with new fixtures.

The Novi High School wind ensemble and Novi Singers performed during the ceremony, giving senior members one last opportunity to entertain the audience as members of the groups. The Novi Singers performed a version of Kelly Clarkson’s hit “Breakaway” with lead solos by seniors Ria Bramhane and Sydnee Gary.

The ceremony was especially memorable for Novi Community School District Board of Education President Danielle Ruskin, who joined Mainka and Carter, who were presenting the diplomas, to joyfully embrace two special graduates — her twin daughters — as they walked across the stage. She said this was her fourth commencement ceremony as board president, but this class was particularly memorable for her, not only because her daughters are members of it, but because she has known many of the other graduates since they were in elementary school.

“It’s just that extra bit of excitement that you can be right there in person to congratulate them,” said Ruskin. “I wasn’t sure how they would react, whether they would be embarrassed about their mom onstage, but both of them were very engaged and just really thrilled, I think, to have me in that role. So it was really great. It’s kind of surreal.”

After the students received their diplomas, they were able to turn their tassels from the right to the left to symbolize their graduation. The ceremony concluded with a traditional cap toss.

“It’s a really special event, and it’s one of my favorites because it is the culmination of everything that we do. Our staff has worked so hard with them for 13 years and to see each and every one of them have a unique story. Each and every one of them has something that they’ve overcome to walk across that stage. So even though you don’t know each person’s story, it is just such a powerful celebration for all of us. So it was a real special night,” Mainka told the Novi Note after the ceremony.