East Rockaway Junior-Senior High School’s Class of 2017 members were filled with mixed emotions as they entered the Harry Bunting Auditorium for the last time as high school students to celebrate their graduation.
The momentous ceremony began with a beautiful rendition of “We Won’t Stop Dreaming” performed by students in the group “PinkZebra,” under the direction of teacher Seanna Silver. It continued with remarks from Superintendent of Schools Lisa Ruiz, who encouraged the students to be “originals.”
“Being an original is being your authentic, genuine self; acknowledge and embrace it,” Ruiz said. “Be mindful not to give into peer pressure when the influences are there. Feel comfortable with forming and expressing your own opinions and opposing views to others when necessary. Try to be uniquely yourself and when in doubt and you will have doubts, listen to your gut that will help you keep your head on straight and your feet on the ground.”
Board of Education vice president Keith Gamache, class advisers Jennifer Melecio and Sara Perrone, Assistant Principal James DeTommaso and Principal Joseph Spero also addressed students, offering well wishes and future success.
“Life is about to get much more complicated,” Spero said. “You will be asked to study rigorously, deeply and contemplate life’s most challenging questions. You may even make complicated choices and decisions, choose a partner to start a family or decide not to. You’ll take on responsibilities, ethical, financial or otherwise and as life becomes more complicated true wisdom to me lies in keeping things simple. If you simply watch what you say, put your ego aside, investigate before drawing conclusions and always, always do the best you possibly can, especially when no one else is looking, you’ll be on your way to success, fulfillment and happiness.”
Salutatorian Katharine Calabrese reminisced on her favorite memories with her classmates at East Rockaway Junior-Senior High School, while valedictorian Natalia Cuttitta encouraged them to follow their dreams.
“Now is the time to find yourself, to find what you really love to do and are passionate about,” Cuttitta said. “Do not settle for less. Do not let anyone convince you that your dreams are ridiculous or unrealistic. The sky is no longer the limit, for we have reached higher than the stars and the universe expands indefinitely. This means there is no limit to what we can do and accomplish.”
The beautiful ceremony concluded with the presentation of diplomas and the traditional move of the tassel before students tossed their caps in celebration.