Graduations

File photo by Rachel Shapiro

By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli

It’s hard to believe that another school year has ended and the high school class of 2016 is in the midst of moving on. This class, like all classes before them, has made a powerful impact upon all of our communities. There are a record number of seniors going off to Ivy League colleges on scholarships. There are an exceptional number of young people going off to the service academies and enlisting in the military.

This year’s high school seniors have made their mark scholastically as well as athletically. An impressive number of sports teams have made it to the states with significant numbers bringing state titles home to their high schools in our local communities.

However, what is most impressive about the Class of 2016 is how many seniors, in addition to all their school activities, are involved in community service. Yes, many school districts have a mandatory requirement, but many don’t. More significant is the number of students who complete their obligatory number of hours and continue to give of themselves without expecting anything in return and the countless number of seniors who give of themselves with no compelling obligation.

This past year there have been so many different campaigns to help the sick, the poor and the terrorized, not to mention the various specialized needs of people who have suffered terrible tragedies due to hate, violence and terror.  So many of our seniors from the Class of 2016 gave from their hearts.

It is a commitment to community service in the spirit of inclusiveness that is refreshing, especially since we live in a world that seems more grounded in narcissism and self-centeredness, rather than thinking about others first, especially those in need.

Seniors, as you continue your journey, do not let the social filters of our time enable bigotry, exclusivity and social injustice. Showing compassion and understanding rooted in justice is more significant than a science formula. These are difficult lessons to learn because they demand that you risk all that you are now for what you could become tomorrow.

Teach love to those who know hate and let that love embrace you as you continue in the world.

Look around you! We are living in a very challenging world. A new revolution is afoot. Your generation is moving away from the indifference and complacency of yesterday and moving toward a new idealism of freedom and responsibility. Despite the recent act of terrorism and hate in Orlando, Florida, where 50 innocent young people were gunned down because of hate, it still gives me hope that tomorrow can and will be better.

As you graduate from high school, keep these simple thoughts in mind: May you discover enough goodness in others to believe in a world of peace and to work for peace grounded in justice.

May a kind word, a reassuring touch and a warm smile be yours every day of your life. Remember the sunshine when the storm seems unending. Teach love to those who know hate and let that love embrace you as you continue in the world.

May the teachings of those you admire become a part of you so that you may call upon them. It is the content and quality of who you are that is important, not merely the actions you take.

Don’t judge a book by its cover, or stop at the introduction. Read it through, seek the meaning and messages it offers for life, for everyone’s life is sacred, and even those who are different from you or whom you do not like.

Be more inclusive than exclusive. Don’t be blinded by those who tend to use shame, blame and guilt to shackle people down and divide them. Set people free with your respect and nonjudgmental way.

May your moral compass be grounded in respect for all human beings, no matter what their color, their race, their creed or their sexual orientation. May this compass guide you on a path that is committed to working for peace and social justice. As Gandhi once said, “Be the change you hope for in the world.”

Congratulations graduates of the Class of 2016. Thanks for making the world a little richer, a little brighter and a better place to be!

Fr. Pizzarelli, SMM, LCSW-R, ACSW, DCSW, is the director of Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson.

Comsewogue High School held its graduation ceremony on the football field on June 23. Nearly 300 seniors that made up the class of 2016 were recognized on a perfect summer evening. Speakers included District Superintendent Joe Rella, School Board President John Swenning, New York State Sen. Chuck Schumer (D), senior class President Julia Diaz, Valedictorian Casey Nevins and Salutatorian Eric Ranaldi.

Huntington High School marked its 155th annual commencement on Saturday, June 25.

The Blue Devils celebrated in style, marking the occasion with a processional, speeches by a number of students and school officials, words of wisdom from valedictorian Rachel Carpenter and salutatorian Olivia Stamatatos, and much cheer from excited parents. Principal Brendan Cusack also delivered some warm words to the graduates.

Northport students attend the 2016 commencement ceremony. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

The Northport High School Class of 2016 graduated from the high school on Saturday, June 25. The bleachers were filled to capacity as U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) congratulated the students and offered some advice.

Principal Daniel Danbusky, as well as other Northport High School staff members and members of the Northport-East Northport school board handed out diplomas and cheered on the students. ValedictorianIan Buitenkant and SalutatorianEmily Labruna gave poignant speeches, and the Northport High School Choir sang “Fields of Gold.”

Friday marked the 122nd graduation ceremony at Earl L. Vandermeulen High School in Port Jefferson School District. The commencement ceremony for the roughly 80 members of the class of 2016 was held on June 24, at the fields in front of the school on a sunny summer evening.

Friends, family and members of the community, like Port Jefferson Mayor Margot Garant were at the ceremony. Senior Class President William Witrock presented the class gift; two televisions to be installed in the school’s fitness center for future students to enjoy while using cardio equipment.

Valedictorian Shannon Christ, salutatorian Marianna Spentzos and Student Organization President Jessica Gray from the class of 2016 also made speeches during the graduation ceremony.

Soon-to-be graduate proudly displays high school diploma at Ward Melville High School’s commencement on June 26, 2016. Photo by Andrea Moore Paldy

They came with cameras, air horns and even a graduate’s photo held high on sticks. These were the proud families and friends who came to celebrate the 618 students who graduated from Ward Melville High School on Sunday.

Before receiving their diplomas, graduating seniors listened to final pieces of advice from their peers, their principal Dr. Alan Baum and school board president William Connors.

Class salutatorian Ariel Long urged her classmates to take their experiences at Ward Melville and “look on new beginnings with excitement and not fear.” Jeffrey Michel, the class valedictorian, reminded them to not limit themselves to one talent or interest.

“Change starts with you,” said Dr. Baum, who quoted a number of artists, including Shakira, to remind students that failure is a part of life and a way to learn. He told the graduates to “challenge obstacles,” try again and move forward.

Mount Sinai held its Class of 2016 commencement ceremony on Saturday evening, June 25.

The bleachers were filled to capacity as Superintendent Gordon Brosdal congratulated the students and offered some advice.

Mount Sinai staff members and members of the school board handed out diplomas and cheered on the students, while valedictorian Patrick Hanaj and salutatorian Justine Quan gave poignant speeches. The band and choir performed to add to the festivities, and students were all smiles as they walked up on stage to receive their diplomas. The now former Mustangs then tossed their caps toward the sky in celebration.

 

Shoreham-Wading River high school held its Class of 2016 commencement ceremony Saturday morning, June 25.

After listening to speeches from valedictorian Kelvin Ma and salutatorian Nicholas Maritato, students were all smiles as they walked up onto the stage and received their diplomas.

Doves were released in honor of Thomas Cutinella after all the graduates’ names were called, and as the ceremony commenced, students turned their tassels before tossing their caps into the air.

Rocky Point High School held it’s Class of 2016 commencement ceremony on the grounds of the football field on Friday, June 24.

After speeches by students and local officials, including Rocky Point Superintendent Michael Ring, class speaker Daniel Infranco and salutatorian Matthew Brewer, students were awarded various scholastic and athletic awards, as well as scholarships, before listening to valedictorian James Gohn’s speech and lining up to be handed their diplomas.

Once each student had a diploma in hand, they turned their tassels to the side before tossing them into the air in celebration of their hard work and achievements throughout their high school journeys.

 

Miller Place students from the Class of 2016 celebrated their high school careers during the commencement ceremony on Friday, June 24.

Seniors walked under the Panthers blow-up as they made their way onto the field, and listened to speeches from local officials as well as the class valedictorian, Elizabeth Whitlow, and salutatorian, Clara Tucker, before being handed their diplomas.

Panthers pride was on full display with both on-field decoration from the school and music from the band, and by students, who personalized their caps and sang songs of their now alma mater, before tossing their caps in the air in celebration of their hard work that led them to this point.