The last day in May marked the first day of life without mandatory education for the North Allegheny Senior High School Class of 2024.

Newman Stadium began to fill up early in the afternoon. Traffic and parking were a nightmare, but everything else was nearly perfect, including the weather.

Families were tailgating in the parking lot, like a scene from a football game. One group of families had a food display that looked as if it came out of a gourmet cooking magazine.

Sean Currie, Jackie Cavanaugh, Brian Curren, Patrick Curren, Jennie Griffin, Erin Curren, Maya Curren, and Alden Griffen all gathered for a photo in front of their spread. Everyone was there to celebrate Conor Griffin, Max Currie and Isabel Curren, the graduates.

A sunny and bright evening became the backdrop for this year’s commencement. Members of the North Allegheny band performed the prelude, processional and alma mater to kick off the event.

“Today is so special because we get to celebrate the Class of 2024. Each of them has had so many accomplishments and we just get to enjoy being North Allegheny Tigers,” said Mathew Buchak, high school principal.

Buchak has been at North Allegheny for 15 years, and he feels like there is something unique about the school district.

Each year North Allegheny ranks as one of the top high schools in Pennsylvania and sometimes the United States. Buchak thinks those rankings can be attributed to the community and parents, the students and the staff.

“The relationships that we build with our students is so important, and it starts with our staff and our employees making this a safe and comfortable environment for the students to achieve success,” he said.

Nicole Mendt, Class of 2024 president, gave a welcome and introduction to continue the excitement. Student commencement speakers Colin Wang, Sameeksha Arutla and Sam Lopuszynski also provided observations.

The senior song “Home/I Lived,” was arranged by Amrita Balajee and performed by Amrita, Nyla Brown, Amanda Campos, Jeffery Kern, Jack Miara, Avery Neely and Even Wilson on vocals. Guitarists Adam Smith and Evan Wilson were accompanied by bass player Sam Lopuszynski.

Superintendent Brendan Hyland handled the presentation of diplomas.

After the caps were thrown, many of the students went out to celebrate with their families, including Joseph Edward Wilson IV, who is excited for his future after high school. He is attending the Commonwealth Technical Institute in Johnstown, where he will study culinary arts.

“I finally did it,” he said. “After 12 long years it’s over.”

Joseph doesn’t just want to become a gourmet chef. His goal is to open the first Michelin-starred restaurant in Pittsburgh.

“We have too many chain restaurants here, especially on McKnight Road,” said Joseph.

Aside from his passion for food, Joseph had some advice for younger students:

“If you go to North Allegheny and you join the Air Force JROTC, you will get to fly a plane.”

Even though Joseph doesn’t plan on joining the military, he enjoyed his time in JROTC and as part of the program he was given the opportunity to co-pilot a Cessna airplane.

“Well, I didn’t do a whole lot of the flying. I did get to take over a little bit, but it was always under the control of the pilot,” Joseph explained while laughing.