The Class of 2018 convened in the auditorium of East Rockaway High School on the evening of June 22 to celebrate its transition from students to graduates, right before the eyes of its proud families, Board of Education members, administrators and teachers.
The seniors proceeded down the aisles to “Pomp and “Circumstance” and took their places before the stage. Everyone present stood for the Pledge of Allegiance and “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and the graduation chorus presented a moving performance of “I Lived.”
Superintendent of Schools Lisa Ruiz shared welcoming remarks, which were followed by greetings from Board of Education Trustee Kristin Ochtera.
Ms. Ruiz encouraged the seniors to go out and make the world a better place. “I challenge you to not only take the academic lessons, skills and content that you have learned within this great American high school but take with you the more essential lessons of the heart that you have experienced here at East Rockaway High School as you move forward,” she said. “The lessons of compassion, kindness, caring, support, outreach, understanding, acceptance, respect, civility and empathy, which are critical and fundamental for the academic and career successes you will undoubtedly achieve.”
“The steps that you took to get to this point tonight were difficult,” Ms. Ochtera said. “You were the ones who persisted.”
Salutatorian Gabriella Walsh also addressed her peers.
“I believe that working together as a community will ensure us a greater success in the future,” she said. “East Rockaway High School has taught us many things, not only about history and English but about building relationships as well.”
Valedictorian Marissela Gomez shared a poem that translates to, “The wind is rising, we must try to live,” and discussed the need to work hard to survive problematic conditions and aim to thrive. “I can honestly say I have never met a group of people as admirable and determined, diligent, open-minded, innovative, humanitarian and inspirational as you all,” she told her peers.
Class advisers Hugh Howard and Suzanne Volpe reflected on the senior class and offered advice for the future, and Assistant Principal James DeTommasso noted the students’ many accomplishments. He and Principal Neil Lederer, along with members of the Board of Education, then distributed diplomas to the graduates in the moments that all had been eagerly awaiting.
Mr. Lederer led the graduates in the traditional turning of the tassels, symbolizing the positive change that they were all experiencing.
“How you process these new adjustments in your personal and professional life will go a long way to determining your success,” he said. He shared the quote of a noted writer, “Don’t fear change – embrace it.”
He officially congratulated them on the completion of their high school careers, and they responded by excitedly tossing their caps upward.