“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.”
This quote by Harriet Tubman filled out a page of the program for the commencement of the Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School Class of 2019 at the Tilles Center last week.
The commencement began with the processional “Pomp and Circumstance” as graduates and faculty were played on by the Symphonic Band directed by Brian Carter. A beautiful rendition of the “Star-Spangled Banner” was sung by the senior choir and interpreted by graduating students of American Sign Language.
President of the Board of Education Ginger Lieberman opened up the ceremony by asking the students who they are and encouraging them to take a step back from technology and social media in order to talk to the person next to them, communicate verbally with a friend and avoid making a mistake for everyone online to see. She encouraged the students to be themselves and not let their phone define them.
State Senator Jim Gaughran, who represents the Plainview community, was also present at the ceremony and got the chance to thank the district faculty for all their work in getting these students to this point. He also told the students that there’s no direct path in life that everyone follows and that regardless of what they do, he believes that society is in good hands with this upcoming generation.
Salutatorian Avery Girsky and Valedictorian Audrey Shine also had strong speeches for the graduating class. Girsky urged his peers to find their identity, acknowledge their negative qualities and cherish who they are. Shine wanted her classmates to know that, even if at times you may feel unfulfilled, that finding happiness in what you are doing is what will help in that fulfillment.
“I contend that it is the person we aspire to be that truly defines us,” said Shine. “So I urge you to build your reputation as someone who is happy above all else and someone who embraces the day ahead of them. If you can change the way you look at your to-do list, then I can promise you the rest will follow.”
Principal James Murray has a personal connection to the Class of 2019, as his two nephews were part of the graduating class in different school districts. He read the Robert Frost poem “A Road Not Taken” and said that even if choices in life may seem similar right now, they will become more clear over time.
“You have a lot of the world to see,” said Murray. “It’s time for you to depart from what is comfortable and start venturing out on your own. Your hopes, dreams and aspirations will be the driving forces to where you will go next.”
Class President Brad Kammerman talked about many of the great accomplishments the Class of 2019 had throughout the year and their entire high school careers, while Student Government President Jack Rothman said that the past experiences have gotten them to the doorstep of adulthood and that they must continue to capture every moment they can.
There were a few musical moments of the ceremony, including the Senior Choir’s rendition of “A Parting Blessing” and a musical interlude by Stanley Kim, Christopher Shin and the Chamber Ensemble. Following the ensemble’s performance, Superintendent Dr. Lorna Lewis gave the students some great praise for all they have achieved and gave them one last bit of advice before they got their diplomas.
“You have gone through rigorous years of study here and have mastered this mountain,” said Lewis. “Take a moment to enjoy the view from this mountain you’ve just climbed and reminisce about the challenges you’ve overcome in making the climb. Those skills you’ve learned will prepare you for your next climb, which will be steeper than what you have been accustomed to. But no climb is too difficult for you if you have the right attitude and determination to reach your goals. Never be afraid to call upon your friends and family when you need a hand onto the next ridge. The love in this arena today goes with you up that mountain.”
Congratulations to the Class of 2019 and best of luck on all your future endeavors!