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LAKE HUNTINGTON, NY — On Saturday morning, June 29, Sullivan West Central School held its annual rite of passage as the local high school honored the graduating Class of 2019.
Before the administrators and soon-to-be grads made their grand entrance, folks entered the gymnasium beneath the five banners above. With a quick look, you’d get an idea of what education combined with sports is all about; the pennants proclaimed “sportsmanship, dedication, character, hustle, believe.”
The ceremony started with the traditional processional “Pomp and Circumstance,” by Edward Elgar, as performed by the Sullivan West High School Band.
Class of 2019 Vice President Sydney Hermann lead the assemblage in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to this great nation, which was followed in short order by the band’s rendition of Francis Scott Key’s rousingly patriotic National Anthem. The high school senior choir performed the traditional song “No Time,” arranged by Susan Brumfield.
In his welcoming address, superintendent Stephen Walker struck a light tone by asking the Class of 2019 to “indulge me one final time for a picture for Twitter.” And then he talked about getting a few words of advice from two seniors poised on the brink of graduation.
Isabel “Izzy” Nearing said Walker should “make your speech short, and try to be funny,” while Karlee Spath advised him to take a few hints from her favorite television show “Keeping up with the Kardashians,” in which the clan’s matriarch Kris Jenner offered a bit of wisdom: “If someone tells you no, you’re talking to the wrong person.”
“My advice is to seek out people who will tell you ‘yes,’” he said. “Surround yourself with people who encourage you to follow your dreams, to grow, to achieve, to find your passion and to never stop until you make your life what you want from it… Always remember where you came from.”
Next up to the podium was Sullivan West High School Principal Mark Plescia, who had a front row seat to watch his daughter Katerina Plescia receive her hard-won diploma, wearing a gold stole in recognition of her graduating with cum laude honors.
“This class is special—an academic powerhouse,” he said, noting that 41% of the Class of 2019 graduated with an average GPA of 85% or better, and picked up in excess of a million bucks in scholarships in the process.
Principal Plescia continued, “Not only did these graduates excel in the class, they excelled on the stage, on the fields, courts, wrestling mat and track, leading the Bulldogs to multiple sectional championships. You were born at the turn of the century, you are babies of the new millennium… The only guarantee that can be made is that if you follow your heart—that voice inside you—you cannot be wrong, and you will achieve your dreams,” he said in conclusion.
Class of 2019 Valedictorian Camille Sensiba covered a lot of ground as she talked about the mercurial fluctuations of life, “remembrance, impermanence, memories and legacies.”
“Impermanence is a part of almost every aspect of our lives. Things will end and people will leave, whether you feel excited or saddened by these chapters closing,” she said. “Maybe we create meaning in that empty space that these things leave behind. But to end does not mean to erase. These times in our lives are kept alive by two things: memory and legacy. Remembrance and impermanence go together perfectly, and sometimes memories can be just as beautiful as the event itself….
“And then there’s legacy. That’s how everyone else will remember us after we’re gone. The true beauty of life lies in how these moments will end. It is what we take from them and who we become because of them, will stay with us forever,” Sensiba said in culmination.
Class of 2019 Salutatorian Cadence Mannino took a strong political stance when addressing her fellow grads, and, in a broader sense, the entire audience largely comprised of an older generation.
“We all have the ability to do something great for this world… Currently so full of issues of hate and ignorance, as well as the destruction of our planet through climate change and unsustainable consumption….
“We have the power to spread messages of love and acceptance, and to be the mind behind earth-saving invention. We need to be the generation who takes a stand against intolerance and hatred. We need to be the ones who recognize how serious of an issue the destruction of our planet is, and to do something about it.”
In closing, Mannino quoted a few words penned by J.K. Rowling, author of the acclaimed Harry Potter fantasy series: “We do not need magic to change the world, we all carry the power we need inside ourselves already; we have the power to imagine better.”
After the presentation of diplomas, recitations of scholarships awarded and the announcement of the student gift by class president Joseph Joyce-Turner, the ceremony ended with the high school band playing the traditional recessional.