Having a Reputation Paid Off for Students Who Matched Hard Work and Play
It was another beautiful graduation in Oyster Bay on Sunday, June 28, 2009. The sun came out last weekend after hiding for most of the month. Friends and families had moved chairs under the shade of the tall trees on the lawn in what can be called an Oyster Bay tradition. When the strains of Pomp and Circumstance began, the students in their purple and gold robes began their march out of the school, down to East Main Street and up the walkway to the terrace in front of the school. Proud parents and friends took photos of their graduates as they marched up the aisle.
Oyster Bay High School Principal Dennis O’Hara welcomed the Class of 2009. He said he and the class came to the building together, but now, “You are taller and I am grayer, six years later. I was virtually unknown in the district and you arrived, with quite a reputation.” That reputation worked well for them since it kept the staff and teachers focused on the hard work the class needed, he said. The result is they exceeded the Long Island, NYS and national benchmarks in all their testing and now 95 percent of them are going on to college. The only class that bettered that was the class of 1999, with one percent higher.
He went through the class’ accomplishments which include: 18 athletic teams with academic averages over 90 percent. In various sports: 15 members are All-Conference; 12 are All-County; one is All-Long Island; three are All-State honors; and several teams made it to the Final Four competition for the state title. “You have achieved academically, athletically —- and mastered the social scene,” he added.
Principal O’Hara said he will remember Emily Abbate’s impersonation of Mr. Imperiale; Matthew Capozzo at baseball; Billy Clark’s home runs; the strength and resilience of Bryan Van Cott; the intellect of Keith Garvey; Dana Farley’s Transcendental Meditation; Chris Oliver’s bravery in joining the U.S. Air Force; the always-positive Justin Nakrin; the kindness to teachers of Caroline Quaid; Shawn Meehan, the come-back kid; journalists Dan Horowitz and Heather Loughlin.
And Mr. O’Hara added, “My sense of bewilderment after Rob Smith said, ‘When I walk and talk to you in the hallway – how cool do you feel?’”
He gave two quotes in closing, saying, they have left a magnificent legacy: “Do not be constrained or concerned by what others think of us,” and “Don’t tell me the sky’s the limit when there are footprints on the moon.”
Salutatorian Sarah Kenn talked about her school career and thanked elementary school teacher Richard Siegelman who taught her lessons to learn outside the classroom. He offered prizes to those who took his extra assignments. “I got all the toys,” she said. He gave her a positive image and self-esteem. “If you were here I’d thank you,” she said. She saw him in the crowd and acknowledged him.
Ms. Kenn also thanked her Sifu from Karate who showed the effects of practice and responsibility. She thanked Marsha for being the best sandwich maker in the world.
She said in seventh grade the group had the reputation for being “the class from hell.” In ninth grade they were in high school but lost the Lip Synch Contest. Then it was Sweet 16 where here in Oyster Bay it is scheduled with as much care as weddings, she said. Senior year was good as they won the Lip Synch Contest and won the homecoming game and that’s when acceptances to colleges began rolling in. She offered some parting advice: take the good with the bad. Work hard and harder; it makes you stronger, and never use excuses. And as parting advice to the freshmen, she admonished them: “Do something crazy!”
Dr. Harrington credited the class of 2009 as being what President Barack Obama was talking about when he said they came of age at a great time for the world: that we must remake our world to complete its promise. She said, “It’s a privilege offered your generation. I am confident you will do it.”
Valedictorian Ginnie Lee welcomed the staff and guests. She thanked her mother for kicking her out of bed and getting her off to school even when she only wanted to put her pajamas back on and curl up in bed. Once, after her mother left for work, she cut school – but only once. Then she turned around and gaily nodded to a classmate, saying, “I found my ‘Asian’ brother in the class – Evin Celauro.”
Ms. Lee quoted from a book written by the character of Dr. Gregory House from the television series House M.D. To him the meaning of life has nothing to do with God or soul or the afterlife, she said. It is how one feels about their own life. House is satisfied in saving people. His is a life with reason.
She said, ‘Today is our birthday, Class of 2009. Take it; the world’s yours.”
Ms. Lee had an afterthought: “I stand here because of my grade point average, but everyone belongs here by the impact you make on people. It’s not just grades.” It’s the little things like listening to someone or giving a shoulder to lean on to a friend – everyone has a different life lesson to teach, she said.
OB-EN Board of Education President James Robinson said he enjoyed his position of speaking to graduates 28 years after his own graduation. He said he was proud of where he grew up, in Oyster Bay; he thanked the voters for supporting the work of the board of education. He thanked board member Judy Wasilchuk for serving 17 years on the board of education and board member Dolores Grieco for serving for eight years. He thanked them for their perseverance and judgment.
Mr. Robinson took a sober turn in his speech, reflective of the problem the district will have in the future because of the decisions of Albany – that the MTA payroll tax will affect future budgets. He said the current problems in Albany over the fight as to who runs the Senate have cost NYS taxpayers $1,240,350 since the “amateur” politicians began their fight for control.
As for advice to the seniors he said his dad always said the important thing was not the final grade but more important was the work to get there. He said, “Please don’t cut corners to get to a goal, love the journey and enjoy it.”
He said, “Life is like a roller coaster ride, of ups and downs, and when the dizziness stops you want to get back on.” He ended by welcoming them into the Oyster Bay High School Alumni Club.
OBHS Athletic Director Dawn Cerrone presented the Tom Robinson Athletic Awards given by Dr. and Mrs. Silver in thanks for the work of tennis coach Tom Robinson in helping their daughter Julie Silver. Caitlin Collins received her $2,500 scholarship for her cross country achievements. She will attend the University of Miami.
Bryan Van Cott received his scholarship for basketball. He achieved his 1,000th point this year. He will attend Mercy College.
Ed Demaria, president of the National Honor Society, thanked their advisors Scott Knapp, math teacher; and Dave Pontillo, a social studies teacher; for sticking with them. He said this year the society re-invented itself by being more visible, fundraising and having a good time. They dressed up as their teachers to take an exam and argued about who could beat whom in fights among the staff.
Mr. Demaria announced that calculus teacher Andrea Lorusso was chosen to become an honorary inductee of the National Honor Society for going the extra mile. She welcomed them into “the magical world of calculus” and was willing and able to give extra help anytime, including on Saturdays.
Dr. O’Hara presented Judy Wasilchuk and Dolores Grieco with special diplomas as members of the class of 2009 for their combined 25 years of serving the community and making decisions with students’ best interests in mind.
“They have met or exceeded all local requirements for high school graduation,” he said.
Then it was time for the parade of graduates and finally the tassels being turned to indicate they had completed high school – and then with caps flying in the air the graduates went into the cafeteria to receive their graduation certificates.
The sun was shining. There were parties to look forward to, and lives unspooling ahead as the sun shone on them.