Class of 2016 Begins a New Chapter

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East Rockaway Junior-Senior High School’s Class of 2016, bid farewell to their alma mater on June 23, crossing the stage of the Harry Bunting Auditorium for the last time as high school graduates.

The students proceeded into the ceremony filled with mixed emotion, reflecting on their years as East Rockaway students and the future that lies before them. Superintendent Lisa Ruiz welcomed the graduates and their families and spoke about empathy during her remarks.

“I challenge you to not only take the academic lessons, skills and content you have learned within the walls of this great American high school, but take with you the more essential lessons of the heart that you have experienced as you move forward, the lessons of compassion, kindness, caring, support, outreach, understanding, acceptance, respect, civility and empathy, which are as critical and fundamental for the academic and career success you will undoubtedly achieve,” Ruiz said.  

Salutatorian Bianca Fulgencio spoke about being persistent when it comes to achieving goals, while valedictorian Sarina Gonzalez encouraged her fellow graduates to enjoy life.  

“Every once in a while allow yourself a second to look around at how lucky you are to be alive in this moment, right where you’re meant to be and soak in the beautiful gift called life,” Gonzalez said. “Look up from your phone, unplug your headphones, and appreciate the beauty of the world and the people around you. You never know what you’re missing until you give your full self and attention to the world.”

Graduates also listened to special send offs from Board of Education Vice President Patricia Nicoletti, class advisers Randi Kilcommons and Diane Rafferty, and Principal Joseph Spero. Spero told graduates that most of life’s disappointments come from faulty expectations, misplaced priorities or an over inflated sense of entitlement and reminded them of their strength.

“You, my friends, are rocks for a reason,” Spero said. “Rocks lay the foundation for building and provide strength and structure. Each one of you had the strength to come this far. As members of this school and community you are strong, determined, resolute and unyielding. It’s in your DNA,” Spero said.

The ceremony concluded with the conferral of diplomas.