N.J. high school grads get 50-state tribute in unique video

Posted May 29, 2020

John Bertollo saw the tribute videos circulating for seniors robbed of traditional graduations during the coronavirus pandemic, so the vice principal at James Caldwell High School wanted to do something unique for his graduating class.

The coronavirus impacted not only New Jersey, but the United States as a whole, and Bertollo wanted to show James Caldwell’s seniors they weren’t alone in making sacrifices during the pandemic.

So he enlisted the help of media members from all 50 states to compile a video with uplifting messages for the Class of 2020.

The video featured news anchors, meteorologists, sports anchors, reporters, and radio news anchors, including some with New Jersey ties.

The 43-minute tribute started with a message from John Elliott of CBS 2 in New York, who resides in the Caldwells. It then went through all 50 states, including another stop in New Jersey, to give messages to the graduates.

“You will never forget your senior year. Unfortunately, the reason this year has been so memorable is because it’s been so difficult,” Elliott said. “So much loss. The loss of family members, loved ones, friends. Even your beloved middle school principal, James Brown. So in addition to that, you’ve lost time, you’ve lost experiences, prom, spring musical.”

Brown, 48, died from complications due to the coronavirus on April 2. Brown was principal at Grover Cleveland Middle School for seven years, and many of James Caldwell High School’s students went through the school under Brown.

Annalisa Klebers, an anchor for News 12, was New Jersey’s media representative featured in the tribute.

“James Caldwell, we are so proud of you,” Klebers said. “Go forth, be amazing, be positive, be kind, and keep going.”

Bree Sison, a journalist at CBS 6 in Virginia, wrapped up the montage with a message about how important the Class of 2020 will be going forward.

“In times like this, our country has always and will always turn to our young adults to lift us out of a crisis,” Sison said. “We need your talents, your ideas, your energy, your compassion. Each of you has unique gifts to contribute to the world, and the 50 journalists you just heard from will be rooting for all 184 of you.”


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