Huntington High School’s Class of 2017 received all the fanfare it deserved before a near capacity crowd at last Friday night’s commencement exercises.
Clad in blue and white caps and gowns, 325 exceptional teenagers marched into the auditorium to a standing ovation as strains of Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance No. 1” filled the air. The remarkable group captured nearly $19 million in scholarships and grants and gained admittance to some of the most select colleges and universities in the nation.
This marked the Huntington’s 156th annual commencement exercises, which date to July 18, 1862 when a class of six students earned diplomas as the Civil War raged to the south. Few schools in the country can match such traditions.
This year’s senior class earned countless academic, artistic, athletic, musical and humanitarian awards, garnering county, state and national recognition along the way. The top scholars and student leaders sat in chairs on the huge stage last Friday night with school officials and members of Huntington’s Board of Education.
Senior members of the chamber choir performed an exceptional sounding rendition of Francis Scott Key’s “Star Spangled Banner” under the direction of Veronica Mainville.
The 75 minute ceremony included a series of short addresses. Class of 2017 President Kelsey Miller, who will be attending Syracuse University to study communications and political science, implored her classmates to cherish every minute of every day.
“Our daily routines revolve around the concept of time,” Ms. Miller said. “What time we need to wake up in the morning; how much time we need to make it to school; and once the school is in sight— don’t forget about the carline that just about doubles the time you already took to get to school. A British statesman, Philip Stanhope once said, ‘Know the true value of time; snatch, seize and enjoy every moment of it. No idleness, no laziness, no procrastination; never put off until tomorrow what you can do today.’”
Class of 2017 presents gift
Class of 2017 Vice President Allyson Arleo, who will attend LaSalle University and study counseling and social work, announced the seniors would be giving a special gift to the school.
“We are very happy to present an outdoor classroom to the high school,” Ms. Arleo said. “It will be a learning space in the courtyard between the math and science wings and include seating for an entire class. There will be a weather-protected blackboard and ample space for learning.”
The tradition-laden ceremony evoked a variety of emotions in both the seniors and their family members as tears could be seen in more than a few eyes.
Salutatorian cites “happy start”
Huntington Class of 2017 salutatorian gave
an enthusiastic address. (Darin Reed photo.)
Class of 2017 salutatorian Miranda Nykolyn, who plans to study aerospace engineering at Stanford University and row on the Cardinal crew team, recounted some of her classmates’ most impressive accomplishments before turning whimsical during an upbeat address.
“As we graduate today, many of us see it as an ending, which can be upsetting, since we have all been through so many triumphs and tribulations together,” Ms. Nykolyn said. “Although I hate this cliché and told myself I would never say it at graduation, it really is just the beginning for all of us. As Shel Silverstein once said, ‘there are no happy endings, endings are the saddest part, just give me a happy middle and a very happy start.’ So even though this may be a sad ending to our journey in the wonderful home we call, Huntington, it is a happy start to our future as we all go off and conquer the world in new and exciting adventures. Keep looking at any new opportunities beyond the halls of Huntington High School as a happy start.”
Valedictorian’s message to classmates
Valedictorian Steve Yeh, who is headed to Cornell University in the fall to pursue an academic major in mathematics, physics and/or economics at Cornell, gave an impassioned address last Friday night.
Class of 2017 valedictorian Steve Yeh gave
a well received address. (Darin Reed photo.)
“Class of 2017: It is our duty to achieve the best we can achieve,” Mr. Yeh said. “We must acknowledge the fact that we can affect changes; that we can strive to improve our lives; that we can make the world a better place. We must let our parents, teachers and the entire globe know that they can entrust us with the future of this nation, this world and this humanity. I trust that we will all live life to its fullest. We will learn what our potential is; yet not exceed our own personal limits.”
Seniors urged to consider the importance of listening
Huntington School Board President Thomas DiGiacomo shared details of his own journey from Class of 1979 member to heading into the world, making decisions and carving out his own career niche.
“Today is truly a special day, a milestone moment in all of your lives, a day that I like to consider the beginning of ‘your time,’” Mr. DiGiacomo said. “I say your time because it is truly that. As high school graduates and young adults your time has come for you to venture out, explore, experience and grow and ultimately, following your journey, to discover who you are. And like any journey you will come upon times that require you to make important decisions. It is at these times that you should do one very important thing and that is to listen. Listening to yourself, listening to others and yes, listening to your parents. All will help to guide you in making the right decisions.”
Superintendent focuses on important attributes
Superintendent James. W. Polansky encouraged the seniors to “culture and use as guiding lights” some critical attributes, including:
• Humility – The poet Alfred Lord Tennyson once said that humility is “the highest virtue, the mother of them all.” Please remain humble and always consider the impact and influence of your actions on others.
• Patience – I am sure that there have been and will continue to be times when it is much easier to lose it than maintain it. Remember that the people you love and with whom you work need to learn and grow with you.
• Family and friends – Relationships matter! Your family, friends and even acquaintances will continue to add meaning to your lives.
• Humor – Laugh with others and laugh at yourselves. Don’t ever lose sight of the lighter side of life.
• An open mind – You will have your opinions, others will have theirs – and they may not align completely or at all. Regardless, never shut out the opinions and perspectives expressed by others. Some of the greatest ideas and outcomes have come about as a result of true listening, consideration and collaboration.
• Guts – Don’t be careless, but don’t be afraid to take well-calculated risks. Recall a motto that has withstood the test of time simply because it makes sense – “No guts, no glory.”
• Faith – This class understands like no other how important it is to bELIeve with a capital “ELI.” Believe in yourselves. Believe in your futures. Believe in each other. Believe in the strength of community. Believe in the good in society.
Principal urges seniors to stay grounded
Huntington Principal Brenden Cusack was smiling
at the commencement. (Darin Reed photo.)
Principal Brenden Cusack beamed with pride throughout the commencement. He has developed so many strong relationships with senior class members, but the veteran educator knows it’s time for them to move on to the next stage of their lives.
“There is no doubt that you will encounter stress and difficulties as you go forward,” Mr. Cusack said. “These things are inevitable. What matters most, however, is how you approach these challenges. In the haze that is created by the fast paced, frenetic demands of your daily lives, fueled by technology and the expectation to be instantly accessible at any moment of the day or night, I ask you to remember that inside you, when you need it most, you can find peace, calm and escape from the noise of life if you simply breathe and recognize the moment you are in. I try to remind myself of this as well. So my parting advice to you, our graduating class, is to make plans and have goals, but to always try to remain grounded in the present moment because if you are always looking forward to the next thing, you may miss what is right in front of you.”
Caps thrown high into the air
Serving as master of ceremonies of the commencement was Magenta Lopez, who will pursue business and possible law studies at Northeastern University. She introduced “honored teachers” Lauren Brunoni and Kenneth Donovan, who announced the name of each senior before diplomas were presented by members of the Huntington School Board. The two teachers served as the Class of 2017’s faculty advisors.
As Mr. Polansky signaled the seniors had met the requirements for a diploma and were now officially graduated, the new alums tossed their caps high into the air to the cheers of the crowd, before hugging one another and being congratulated by their families.
The teenagers and their loved ones lingered for more than an hour on the plaza in front of the building, posing for countless rounds of photos and saying goodbye to one another, Many of them sensed this could be the last time the entire Class of 2017 would be assembled together in one place and they appeared unwilling to let go of the moment even a minute too early.