When hundreds of Islip High School seniors made their way out onto the school's athletic field on June 25 to receive their diplomas, they entered as eager graduates, but little did they know that when they left as alumni, they would be even more eager to see where the world would take them after graduation.
For some, as Principal Jon LaRochester mentioned, that’s college, the workforce and even the armed forces. However, regardless of where their paths take them in the future, he advised each of the graduates to look back fondly on the past four years, but more specifically the last year and a half, as they were by far the most challenging yet brought with them the greatest reward. He spoke of the life lessons that each of the graduates learned over the course of the global pandemic, noting that because of that, it gave each of the graduates, as well as their teachers, a greater appreciation for the little things in life.
Little things like friendships that survived and flourished via live video chat, virtual ceremonies that were albeit different, but nonetheless heartwarming and fulfilling. Little things like “The Star-Spangled Banner,” sung by graduate Tyler Cirulnik to kick off the school's 96th annual commencement ceremony.
The applause that awaited Cirulnik’s performance, was only matched by that of the applause that greeted valedictorian Lauren Callaway and salutatorian Jessica Chan as they concluded their speeches. Both spoke of the unwavering strength shown not only by each of the graduates, but also by the entire district, including teachers, staff and administrators, during a less-than-traditional year.
“The pandemic forced us to take our education into our own hands," Callaway said. “Not only that, but we’ve learned a lot about ourselves in the past four years. We were forced to make decisions on how to stay true to ourselves during an unprecedented situation. For all of these reasons and more, I am very proud of our class for being able to be leaders during an uncertain time.”
Chan echoed those sentiments, but also offered a bit of wisdom. “I stopped letting the anticipation of what comes next define what happens now, and I urge you all to do the same because the anticipation of what comes next is not worth losing this very moment too,” she said.
Following Chan’s speech, Superintendent Ellen Semel addressed the Class of 2021 and offered words of advice for the future. Quoting Albert Einstein, she told each of the graduates that the most important thing is to “never stop questioning.”
“Curiosity opens you to possibilities,” Dr. Semel said. “Look at the world through the eyes of a young child, a scientist, an artist, and you will see different things. Change your perspective. Question everything.”
With that, each of the graduates made their way across the stage to receive their diplomas and officially graduate from Islip High School.