Class of 2023

Members of the Ward Melville High School Class of 2023 proudly walked through balloon arches and out onto the front lawn of the school on June 25 to celebrate their graduation. Family and friends cheered the soon-to-be graduates on, as the Ward Melville Symphonic Band played “Pomp and Circumstance.”

Commencement exercises began with the Pledge of Allegiance led by student government president Mikaeel Zohair, followed by a performance of the Star-Spangled Banner by senior Adam Bear. Principal William Bernhard welcomed the crowd and touted the school’s recent Blue Ribbon School designation, crediting in part, the accomplishments of the graduating class. Additionally, Mr. Bernhard recognized graduating senior Jesse Guise for having perfect attendance since kindergarten — an achievement only recorded one other time in Ward Melville history.

Board of Education President Susan E. Megroz Rosenzweig gave opening remarks and offered advice to the Class of 2023. Bernhard then welcomed this year’s keynote speaker, Edward Bonahue, president of Suffolk County Community College and graduate of Ward Melville High School. Bonahue praised students for their resiliency during the pandemic and encouraged them to continue to persevere through challenges.

Zohair returned to the podium to reflect on his time at Ward Melville High School. On behalf of the student government, Zohair presented the class gift — banners to hang on the campus light poles with messages of Patriot pride.

Bernhard introduced the top academic leaders of the Class of 2023, valedictorian Ava Della Pietra and salutatorian Serene Stoller. Both students delivered speeches that reflected on their journeys. Stoller first touched on the concept of invisibility and encouraged her peers to be leaders, even when it doesn’t require being in the spotlight.

“We live in a world that appreciates the strength of vibrant voices and celebrates visible accomplishments,” Stoller said. “But we must remember that behind every ground-breaking innovation, every transformative idea and every societal change, there are countless invisible heroes who toiled away, uncelebrated but essential. So, I urge you to seek out the problems that society overlooks and find innovative solutions.”

Della Pietra spoke about the importance of being connected and noted how the class will always be connected through their experiences in Three Village.

“As we reflect on this chapter in our lives, let’s not forget the value of human connection,” she said. “If you retrace your path through high school, you’ll probably find your most cherished moments brimming with shared experience, because life is so much sweeter when you have someone to share your triumphs and failures with.”

Following the remarks, the seniors walked across the stage and received their diplomas from members of the board of education. Bernhard presented the graduating class, and Class of 2023 representative Anna Calise led the turning of the tassels. Students threw their caps into the air, signifying the end of their time at Ward Melville High School.

Hauppauge High School seniors filed onto the field one last time as students on June 23.

The skies may have been cloudy but the Hauppauge Eagles were ready to soar and celebrate their graduation day.

Among the speakers at the ceremony were this year’s valedictorian, Connor Leddy, and salutatorian, Kaitlin Stephens.

While inclement weather led to an indoor ceremony in the school’s Performing Arts Center, pride and excitement were in ample supply as Elwood-John H. Glenn High School held its 61st commencement on June 23.

The students of Glenn’s Class of 2023 processed in until a sea of blue and white filled the front rows. 

Principal Corey McNamara posed a thought-provoking question in his welcome address, asking “What is the purpose of high school? I don’t know if there’s one answer that universally applies. For each and every one of you, the purpose of high school likely varies. For some, your purpose was to get good grades to get into a good college on your path to a good career. Some have aspirations for a different pathway, such as a trade or military service. Some wanted to be a part of something bigger than themselves by joining our clubs. For some, maybe the purpose was just to have a place where they can go to challenge themselves, find advice or simply talk to someone. For others, the purpose was to socialize and make strong, meaningful friendships that will last forever and help them get through the toughest of times. I’m sure there are many other ideas out there, but I believe there is one thing that high school has done for everyone — it teaches us to be resilient.”

Next was Kenneth Bossert, giving his final graduation address as superintendent of schools and earning a well-deserved honorary diploma.

“The last seven years has afforded me the opportunity to interact with many members of this senior class,” Bossert said. “They arrived at Elwood Middle School as anxious sixth graders at the same time as I arrived as an anxious superintendent. I’ve had the pleasure of observing them in classrooms and hallways, in the cafeteria, on the fields, on the courts and on this stage. They’ve shared their talents in academics, athletics, the arts, music and drama with their families and the community. Seniors, you have brought positive attention to our school district, as Elwood-John H. Glenn has been identified as one of the top high schools in both the state and the nation. You have a lot to be proud of in the Class of 2023.”

“As a pediatrician in the community and a parent of one of the seniors in the Class of 2023,” board of education member Dr. Sara Siddiqui said, “I have seen your display of strength and resilience as you matured into young adults and am proud to see all that you have accomplished. It gives me great joy to be able to celebrate with you. I have seen your class rise to the challenges and support each other, one of the benefits of a tight-knit community like Elwood. What truly sets this class apart is the adaptability you have exhibited. Early in your high school years, the pandemic tested your resolve, forcing you to change your learning environment and change your high school experience. You navigated these challenges with determination and steadfastness. You gave your time and energy to help your friends and family and community, and because of that, you were able to be resilient and move forward. The skills that you have obtained by learning to adapt and face your challenges will provide a foundation that can be used in any path you choose for the
future. The community will always be here for you when you need us.”

Salutatorian Emily LaMena, a gifted track athlete, drew inspiration from the spirit of running for her address.

“Life is much like running in that it is a testament to endurance, perseverance and determination,” LaMena said. “It is a journey that requires both physical and mental strength. Each step we take builds our character, shapes our resilience and propels us forward toward our goals. In life as in running, success is not always measured by winning, but by the time and effort we invest, the barriers we break and the obstacles we overcome. Throughout our high school years, we have faced our own unique hurdles. We’ve encountered rigorous exams and demanding coursework. We’ve tackled complex concepts and sought knowledge beyond the boundaries of textbooks. Of course, we’ve stumbled and made mistakes along the way. We’ve also risen to the occasion, embracing the challenges as opportunities to learn and grow. We’ve learned to rise above setbacks, harness our inner strength and strive for greatness despite the odds. Our journey in high school has not been a sprint, but a marathon, and here we are crossing the finish line.”

Valedictorian James Rourke invoked the seniors’ shared history.

“These past four years have been a whirlwind of growth, challenges and unforgettable moments,” Rourke said. “We pushed ourselves in the classroom with new and more difficult courses, taking online and hybrid forms of schooling in stride, while juggling extracurricular activities and jobs. As we bid farewell to the halls that have shaped us into the remarkable individuals we are today, let us remember the memories that have
woven themselves into the fabric of our lives. May we continue to find joy, embrace laughter and approach life’s ups and downs with the same spirit and openness to change that brought us here today. I’m confident that each and every one of us is more than equipped to handle whatever comes next. The future is ours to shape.”

Shah then extolled the virtues of Elwood’s small, tight-knit school community before introducing Class of 2023 graduation speaker Kevin Golden, chosen by his peers as a student who exemplifies John Glenn’s spirit. His humorous speech focused on happiness and change.

“We live our lives to try and achieve goals, but if the ultimate goal is happiness, why wait?” Golden asked. “I urge every single one of you to enjoy the journey as much as the milestones. Everyone will encounter some roadblocks along the way that make the journey even more interesting. One major roadblock that we encounter is change. Change is meeting new people, living in different places, attracting new things, so embrace it. Goals are great, but look for the good in each day. Maintain a positive mindset and always
remember to keep smiling, keep laughing and live that happy life we all aspire to live.”

“This milestone is no easy feat,” board of education President James Tomeo said. “Many of you had to work extremely hard, take multiple pathways to achieve your successes, and had many ups and many downs in order to get to this point. The board of education extends our admiration, congratulations and well wishes for all your future endeavors. As you go out into this world, it sometimes may be divided and at times seem uncertain, but nothing is uncertain. You know your journey, you know your purpose, you know who you are and you know what you believe in. Stay true to yourself. Remember your roots and where you come from. Elwood will always and forever be home.

”Once the diplomas were  handed out, tassels turned and caps flung to the rafters, the new Knights alumni walked out into the night, ready to begin the next phase of their lives.

Even the threat of rain couldn’t damper the spirits of 337 Smithtown High School East students as they celebrated their graduation ceremony on June 22.

Early morning, the plan was to move the graduation ceremony indoors, but as the weather improved, crews at Smithtown High School East and Smithtown High School West worked feverishly to return the celebration outdoors.

Once the ceremony began, Smithtown High School East Principal Robert Rose addressed his graduating class. “I am truly humbled of your powers in the classroom, on the stage in the arts and on the athletic fields,” Rose said. “I’ve always said Smithtown East is a special place and that is primarily because of you.”

Assistant Superintendent Kevin Simmons, who was the principal at East for a little over three years before moving to the district office, was the keynote speaker.

Sophia Augier, Smithtown High School East honor speaker, spoke to her class about overcoming the pandemic, sticking together and to “remember the significance of treating each other with kindness and respect.”

Senior Class President Caileigh Harrigan also praised her class for their hard work while keeping an eye toward the future.

After the congratulatory speeches, students were awarded their diplomas by the board of education and school counselors. The seniors then participated in the traditional moving of the tassels to indicate their becoming alumni of the Smithtown Central School District.

Smithtown High School West celebrated 334 seniors as its graduating class of 2023 on June 22.

“You have left a legacy for future students,” said Smithtown Central School District Superintendent Mark Secaur as he addressed the class with the threat of rain giving way to the bright futures of the new graduates.

Smithtown High School West Principal John Coady told the class, “The best days are ahead of you, not behind you” and encouraged the students to be a positive influence and “always respect the values of others.”

Stephen Jung, Smithtown High School West Honor Speaker, spoke to the class about overcoming the pandemic, while saying, “Each of you earned a right to be here and that deserves its own applause.”

Senior Class President Stephen Hunt IV reminded the class to find their passion and “always remember you are your own person.”