For Islip High School’s Class of 2020, the disappointments of the truncated end of their senior year were sweetened by a stirring in-person graduation ceremony in which every speaker gave testament to the class’s character, strength and perseverance. The school’s 95th commencement was divided into four sessions held at Bucs Stadium on the evening of June 26 and the morning of June 27.
After greetings from Principal Jon LaRochester, and Student Union President Emily DeAngelis and Vice President Sydney Camenzuli, who served as emcees for each session, senior Nicholas D’Auria sang a stunning rendition of the national anthem.
Board of Education trustees Danielle Flora and Kelly Vallette eschewed traditional graduation speeches, instead sharing a series of inspiring and humorous stories, quotes and anecdotes.
“It may not be the same as in previous years, we may not all be together, but even though the seniors are behind Islip face coverings, eight feet apart from their fellow graduates, nothing can mask the fact that they are 262 amazing, special individuals,” Vallette said.
“2020 had other plans and lessons for your class and for all of us to learn, a completely unique and unanticipated turn in the road,” Flora told the seniors. “You are part of a graduating class that will be forever marked in history.”
“What a journey you have all undertaken, what a set of experiences you have amassed, what a collection of life lessons you have gathered,” said LaRochester in his first commencement speech as principal. “We are gathered here today not just to celebrate your academic accomplishments, but more importantly, to celebrate the strong men and women you have become. Though my time as your principal has been short, and our experiences have been impacted by COVID-19, your passion, love and commitment to your school and community are undeniable, and that is a testament to the quality of your character.”
“Losing the last few months of our senior year does not define us,” said salutatorian Madelyn Germano. “The one thing we will never lose is the support of one another. We experienced a traumatic time in history, but we experienced it together. If we can overcome the challenges we recently faced, we can overcome just about anything. The Class of 2020 is special and there is no doubt in my mind that everyone here will discover their true passion and excel in the future.”
“This is the day we turn away from the familiarity of our hometown and toward the vast unknowns of our futures,” said valedictorian Darienne Rogers. “Despite what’s going on around us, we’ve earned this day and the special community we call home has been so supportive to still recognize the greatness of our class. Since March 13, our senior year has been different than anything that anyone has ever seen before. The recent misfortunes we faced as a group could never overshadow everything that we’ve accomplished for the last 13 years. The whole world suffered this year, but we’re still standing, because no one can take away our strength as a class.”
Each student then walked up to receive their diploma, followed by the traditional turning of the tassels, and even a few caps were happily tossed into the warm skies before the new alumni left to celebrate with their families.