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MAYS LANDING - Atlantic County high school graduates who are enlisting in the U.S. Armed forces, military academies and military colleges were recognized by the Atlantic County Board of Chosen Freeholders at the beginning of the freeholder meeting June 21.

The meeting was held in the Performing Arts Center at the Atlantic County Institute of Technology. About 30 graduates lined the stage as they were given certificates honoring their decision to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, said Freeholder Chairman Frank Formica.

“There are a lot of veterans here today, as I am one; I can say that you have made a great choice,” said Formica.

“It feels pretty good to be recognized for doing this,” said Michael Kennedy, 18, of Somers Point. “I’ve always wanted to be a part of the military since I was a little kid. Now that I finally get to do it, it’s exciting.” Kennedy graduated from Mainland Regional High School and will attend Norwich University in the fall.

Janet Duran, 17, of Galloway graduated from ACIT and has enlisted in the U.S. Army. She was in a car accident days before her school’s graduation ceremony and was unable to attend. She was surprised during the freeholder meeting when Dr. Philip Guenther, superintendent of ACIT, presented her with her diploma on stage along with the certificate of appreciation from the freeholder board.

“It was really nice. It gave me a graduation experience even though I didn’t get to go to graduation,” said Duran.

Three ACIT graduates who are the winners of the New Jersey Association of Counties Foundation Scholarship Awards were also recognized. Scholarship recipients include Elvin Aguiriano, 18, of Egg Harbor Township, Jeshua Perez, 18, of Galloway, and Starr Falcone, 17, of Absecon.

“Academically, he has been very successful at ACIT … He ranked 48 out of a class of 312,” said Guenther about Aguiriano, noting that the student challenged himself with a rigorous schedule of academic studies and extra-curricular activities.

Guenther acknowledged the various projects that Perez participated in during his high school career. “He is a leader among his peers … He is innovative, enthusiastic, creative in class and participated in a number of extra-curricular activities,” said Guenther.

Falcone spent her years at ACIT preparing for a career in nursing. “This young lady is a brilliant student, a great addition to our school ... She has done a great job with academics throughout her career here at ACIT.”

Perez said the scholarship was quite a surprise. “I was just enjoying the beginning of summer, and I got a letter about the scholarship. I was shocked,” he said. “I will probably use it to cover the cost of some of my books.”

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