Central High School’s “270”

If you’re the second oldest public school in the United States you’re entitled to a few privileges. And a few secrets. 

On June 15 Central High School and its 528 seniors practiced both at the school’s 270th commencement, held at the Kimell Center.

The commencement began with a ceremonial ringing of the bell by 270’s class president Nikita Shah—the same bell that was rung 175 years ago at the first Central High School commencement. The students then walked in as their names were called by class sponsor, Mr. Michael Horwits and senior class financial sponsor Steven Innamoroto. 

One and three-quarters century ago, nearly to the day – on June 13, 1836 – an Act of the Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania created Central High with the ability to award any degree offered by the University of Pennsylvania. So on Wednesday seniors earned either a Central High School diploma or a Bachelor of Arts degree if they did not fail any subject and maintained an average of over 90. 

Four student speakers highlighted the commencement: Class President Nikita Shah, Speaker-at-Large Katherine Mateo, Student Association President Alvin Varghese, and class Valedictorian Jordan Konell. Words were also given by Central President Dr. Sheldon S. Pavel and alumnus Dr. William H. Cosby. Cosby is one of the school’s recurring ‘secrets,’ he attends every commencement on the hush-hush and speaks to the students about their next steps in life.

To loud cheers, Pavel announced that Central seniors netted $22.7 million in scholarships, awards and prizes this school year. To that total, another $200,000 was distributed during the commencement.

Among its many unique traditions, Central refers to each graduating class not by it’s year of graduation, but by the number assigned to its commencement. While schools everywhere have a “Class of 2011” there will be precious few “270s,” as this class will always be known.

At the end of commencement, Pavel called Nikita Shah to the microphone. She directed the class to stand for another old school tradition. Pavel awarded Nikita her ceremonial diploma and pronounced the ritual words that transform seniors into graduates. The students moved their tassels from left to the right and the ceremony culminated in the singing of the school song, including the second verse, which is restricted to alumni.

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