Hot may have described the weather on the Saturday morning of June 28th, but the Class of 2008 seemed hot to trot through the final moments of their High School careers with the traditional Commencement Exercises. While spectators withstood the toasting sun or held umbrellas as shields in the aptly named bleachers, the stream of graduates, glimmering in their purple and gold robes, proceeded to their seats on the football field. They were guided by both the marching rhythms of the Sayville High School Band, conducted by Mr. Pete DeSalvo, and the cheers of the crowd. Following them were fifty flag-bearing alumni, representing classes from the years 1936 to 2007, who participated in the Alumni Walk.


    The band accompanied the harmonious vocal talents of the High School Jazz Choir members (Seniors Sarah Bartlett, Jenna Hanshe, Kristie Lankowicz, Sarah Marcellus, Dayna Montalto, and Adam Rizzo) for the Star-Spangled Banner, which officially opened the ceremonies.



    First to offer words of encouragement to the assembly was U.S. Senator for New York Charles Schumer who made a special appearance. Acknowledging Sayville High School’s excellent reputation for being one of the best high schools on Long Island, as well as (according to a recent Newsweek poll) among the best in the nation, Mr. Schumer thanked everyone from the principal, faculty, staff, superintendent, and board members to “those who work at night to keep the school clean” for the great job done here. After reminding parents and graduates to take advantage of his “class gift”—the law he had written several years ago which gives Middle Class parents, who earn less than $200,000 a year, a $4,000 tax deduction for college tuition—Mr. Schumer compared his experiences as a student at the crossroads of education and career choices with the opportunities of the Class of 2008. “You are the first generation to grow up with all this technology. You have a lot of choices for college in terms of majors, jobs, and military service—Thank you for your service, those who are going into the military—because of who you are and your education. With your education, you’ll have a whole lot of choices.”   


    “My advice is simple. Try to find a major—job—profession that you love.  It’s hard, but if you keep searching, you can do it.”  Mr. Schumer concluded by wishing the graduates success in the two most important tests of life: The Monday Morning Test—wanting to go to work, and the Friday Afternoon Test—wanting to go home to your family. “If you can say yes to both of those tests, then God has been good to you; don’t complain… Good luck! Godspeed! You are the greatest!”



    Class of 2008 Salutatorian Meredith Gudesblatt, introduced by Principal Joseph Buderman as a “gifted student incredibly bright, talented musician, respectful, and outstanding person,” greeted her classmates with humility. In her address entitled Vox Populi (“voice of the people”) Meredith admitted her latest anxiety in writing “my graduation speech” was wanting to avoid “spouting out meaningless clichés, destined to be forgotten.” She sought input during a family dinner conversation with her brother and his friend and came away with the realization that wisdom exists everywhere in family, friends, and classmates. “Each and every one of you has a reason for living, something that makes you tick, and most importantly like my brother and his friend, a message.”  Inspired to give her class a voice, Meredith solicited, under the pretext of English class assignments, “Advice to Fellow Graduates,” and credited her classmates with the collective lessons of inspirational messages that enabled her to present her speech.


    Since classmate John DeBonis felt that friends are “one of the most undervalued things in our society,” Meredith gave a “heartfelt and resounding thank-you” to all friends. With the advice of both Dan Calise about thanking families and Megan Fuschius to “keep your friends close, but your family closer,” Meredith graciously stated; “So, to Mom, Dad, Brother, Sister, Grandpa, Grandma: we are here today because of you.”


    Recognizing that teachers (“like my BFF, Mrs. Bernstein”) change lives by challenging us, Meredith quoted Annie Gruttadoria who learned “not to argue with Mr. Shaw or Mr. Bennett, because they KNOW EVERYTHING!”


    Meredith noted that disparate personalities among her classmates shared similar views on life, love, and laughter. She also accepted the advice that through “our mistakes” we will grow, change, and evolve. Noting that time passes, “to quote Mr. Schmieder, as channeled through Eddie Mac: ‘Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like bananas,’” Meredith looked at today as the beginning of a new adventure—today is “our day, we own it,” she quoted Sean Nolan, but then added that the Class of 2008 should own every day.


    “We all have wisdom, so we need to raise our voices, share our messages, and speak out for our beliefs. Live every moment as you believe it should be lived. Love your friends and your family. Learn from every teacher and every experience. Laugh not only at your triumphs, but also at your mistakes. But most importantly,” Meredith concluded, “listen to yourself. Thank you and congratulations to the Sayville High School Class of 2008!”


    The vocal selection You Raise Me Up was performed by the Winner of the Patricia Ann Kubelle Memorial Vocal Music Award, an outstanding Sayville High School All-State vocalist, the dynamic and incomparable Adam Rizzo.




    After Class of 2008 Valedictorian Stephen Tuozzolo, who achieved the highest honors in each academic discipline, was described by Mr. Buderman as a “remarkable musician, an excellent athlete, an outstanding scholar, and a true gentleman,” Stephen formally greeted those assembled. In a louder voice, Stephen offered a special salutation to his classmate already beginning service in the U.S. Air Force Academy, “and John DeBonis, if you can hear me from here, then I guess I am projecting well! Have fun in Colorado!


    In his “A Treatise on the Importance of Solidarity and Other Commendable Characteristics of the Ewoks,” Stephen entertained his classmates by succinctly retelling a well-known and beloved classic—Star Wars: Episode VI: The Return of the Jedi. “The Ewoks were smaller than you or I, and had stone-age technology. Nevertheless, they were able to fight off Storm Troopers,…and defeat the Galactic Empire.”


    Stephen’s lighthearted tone had depths of significance as he compared the past thirteen years together to a seeming “eternity,” trying to reach goals as “insurmountable as destroying the Death Star….We watched the millennium turn at the stroke of the midnight clock; we survived the Pokemon craze and three disappointing prequels to the original Star Wars; we celebrated the inclusion of the word ‘D’oh’ into the Oxford English dictionary; we saw our country be attacked and go to war; witnessed the growth of the military-industrial complex; and acknowledged the largest environmental threat the world has ever known.”


    The purpose of these reflections, Stephen explained, was “to remind you of what we are: As much as we are here to celebrate our individual successes—and volleyball throwing skills—I am speaking NOT to 290 students, but to ONE Class of 2008.” Camaraderie and solidarity have united this class with “common experiences: growing up in Sayville; sharing the history “at the tail end of the 20th century; and maturing at the beginning of a new millennium.”  While it may be a society in transition and turmoil, fraught with “negative impacts of global warming, globalization, the growth of the corporate state, nuclear proliferation, famine, and the horrible writing that has befallen Saturday Night Live,” Stephen encouraged the class to work together. Rather than outperform or outcompete one another, Stephen urged his classmates to “feed off the spirit of solidarity to overcome the incredible odds which have been stacked against us by previous generations.”


    Tying up his conclusion with another reference to the stalwart Ewoks, who “believed in each other,” Stephen closed by alluding to Obi-Wan Kenobi’s remark “to Luke Skywalker when he first discovered the force inside him: ‘You have taken your first step into a larger world. Good Luck, and May the Force be With You!’”


    For comic effect, Stephen imitated a Jedi Hand Movement to hypnotize the audience and said in a faux commanding voice: “You will now give me a wonderful ovation.”



    During the program, Mr. Buderman welcomed and praised the Alumni for joining the ceremonies as representatives of the graduating classes from 1936-2007 “You attendance is greatly appreciated and clearly reflects your pride, your enthusiasm, and the respect you have for your educational experience.” At the request of classmates, Mr. Buderman asked for a moment of silence to “honor those students, family, and friends who passed away during the school year and ask that you particularly keep in your thoughts and prayers two students, Corey Young and Danielle Meehan, who would have been members of this terrific class.”



    “As I look at our graduates,” Sayville Superintendent Dr. Rosemary Jones confided in her address, “I can’t help but feel proud and at the same time hopeful. You’re living in a world that is rapidly changing and that is filled with unprecedented opportunities and risk, but you have proven to us that you are ready to begin to tackle that world. So, we congratulated you…. Because of your hard work, you have brought distinction to yourselves, your family, your school, and your community.  


    Praising the class for being more involved in a variety of academic, athletic, artistic, and community service activities and for going to college in greater numbers, Dr. Jones especially acknowledged the three students: John DeBonis, Eric Durosky, and Matt Brooks, who have chosen to serve their country.


    Dr. Jones also congratulated the parents for all their support that enabled their children to attend graduation this day.


    The lyrics “life is a series of moments” from the popular song One Hundred Years by Five for Fighting prompted Dr. Jones to suggest they “do what that song encourages you to make the most of your moments and years. The alumni here today can tell you how quickly time passes.”


    Quoting Mahatma Gandhi who once said, “You must be the change you want to see in the world,” Dr. Jones declared. “You can no longer depend on others to make everything happen for you…you must make it happen for yourself. In the end,” she concluded, “life is the sum total of the decisions we make. Make decisions that give meaning and character to your life. The way to be happy is to like yourself and the way to like yourself is to do only things that make you proud. God bless you!”




    After his greeting, President of the Sayville Board of Education John Verdone wondered what’s to come for the Class, but he hoped the graduates would realize that your “future is not something that is just going to happen.” Quoting from his favorite Beatle song, In My Life, Mr. Verdone focused on the idea of “moments” and encouraged the graduates to be open to moments to live, love, laugh, and learn, "moments for looking forward to goals and aspirations, and moments for looking back at what you have already achieved.” Pausing to describe a snapshot of moments for the Class of 2008 on Graduation Day, Mr. Verdone urged the students to leave here today, “with open eyes and find your vision. Take pride in your endeavors, create something that gives you purpose and meaning. Remember live, laugh, love, and hold on tight to your dreams!”




    After the presentation of Diplomas to all the graduates, Mr. Buderman invited the last speaker, “a young man who has worked tirelessly for the class of 2008, a remarkable role model, a tremendous athlete, a talented vocalist, and a special person, Mr. Evan Martel” to the podium.


    In his Response for the Class, Class President Evan Martel incorporated his dramatic talents, leadership qualities, communication skills, and comic timing to fasten his audience’s wandering attention. While his tongue-in-cheek wit made them listen, his poignancy, sincerity, and wisdom kept them focused. 


    “Hi, Mom!” he began with a grin and then recounted how, as an eighth grade Band member playing the clarinet [“Yes, the clarinet—and it is STILL, a very COOL instrument for men!”], during his sister’s graduation, he realized he could never be two of the three students who gave speeches at commencement—so, he ran for Class President in his Senior year. He continued to draw laughs of appreciation, when he cleverly compared his High School experience to the many different ranks of people and many different branches in the Military.


    Answering his own rhetorical “what have I really learned and whom did I learn the most from” in High School, Evan explained what he meant by the title of his Response, A Tribute to My Teachers. He listed attributes from many of his classmates while naming specific students who have taught him “that life is best spent laughing (Lenny Olmstead),” “that a dark day can be uplifted by a smile (Ronnie Pascariello),” “that true strength lies in those who can stay positive even in the darkest of times (Stephen Hayes, Joe Fernandez),” “that sometimes the quietest kids are the ones you should listen to the most (Jimmy Black, Daniel Johnson, Stephen Rowland).”


    Others taught him “the absolute value of friendship (Willie Slevin),” “Family Guy is still funny no matter how many times you talk about it (Tim Clemente),” “how sexy it is to be tan DURING THE WINter! (Brynn Sterback, Kate Gregory, Kayleigh Holloway)”, “how one of Sayville's finest athletes could go unnoticed all four years (Tyler Fliedner),” “saving gas by riding bikes is not too horrific a sacrifice even if it’s in the pouring rain (Dan Calise),” “the meaning of true vision (John Gil),” “the definition of determination and sacrifice (Shawn Mazzarone),” “the feeling of rejection (Emily Jung),” and that “you don’t have to be a giant to have a big heart (Robby Demeusy).”


    Evan noted with admiration in his voice that “John DeBonis, Eric Durosky, and Matthew Brooks have taught me what true patriotism is—especially John who is not able to attend Prom or this graduation because of his nation’s call to the elite Air Force Academy in Colorado.”   


    With a few anecdotes about closest friends and funniest memories, Evan referred to an embarrassing moment in Middle School when an “evil little girl pulled my shorts down in gym class. She embarrassed me and I got into trouble for yelling at her. Five years later, Erin Gross was my Prom date!”


    As only Evan can, each of his comments elicited either laughter or cheers in a literal response from his class.


    Drawing to a close, Evan admitted that lessons in High School were not just about friends: “Our families were also a major part. My parents played a huge roll in my high school career. They were pretty tough a lot of the times. To put it into perspective: getting compliments from my Mom was like getting snow days from Dr. Rosemary Jones—it very rarely occurs. I could have won a bunch of awards, aced a math test, my Mom would simply say, ‘Evan, that’s what you’re supposed to be doing.’”


    When the last chuckle settled down, Evan was in earnest in the final moments, admitting they were ready to go, it was time to move on, but that “Thanks for being my friends, thanks for everything ’08. I love every one of ya!”


    As Evan raised his arms in triumph and smiled a goodbye, the entire assembly rose to a thunderous standing ovation.






    “Members of the Class of 2008 won significant honors both individually and collectively and have been tremendous representatives of our school.”


    • The graduates met and/or exceeded the academic standards at Sayville High School: 94% of the students in the Class of 2008 will go on to further education and 92% have earned a Regents Diploma this year.

    • At the 34th Annual Scholastic Awards program, administrators, faculty, and staff presented 175 awards to 91 deserving students. Gold- or purple-ribboned medallions worn by the graduates indicated these awards.

    • So far, 134 students received academic or community scholarship awards that value well over 2.2 million dollars.  

    • Four students were recognized by the National Merit Scholarship foundation for academic excellence. The National Merit Commended students are Cory Faragon, Katelyn Harlin, Erika Schreiber, and Stephen Tuozzolo. In addition, Cory Faragon and Stephen Tuozzolo were named National Merit Scholarship semifinalists.

     Stephen was later named a National Merit Scholarship winner!

    • Our Art students earned numerous awards and received great recognition at such exhibits as SAVA, SMBA, the BAFFA High School Student Invitational Art Exhibit, as well as at the Huntington Arts and Humanities Juried Art Competition and we, once again, had a number of works entered at the 27th Annual Congressional Arts Competition.

    • Our Music Department held many outstanding concerts throughout the year and the Wind Ensemble, under the direction of Mr. Peter DeSalvo, received the highest Award possible, Level 6 (Gold) Rating with Distinction at the New York State Festival; Our music students have been recognized locally and throughout the county, state, and nation with awards from NYSSMA, All-State Awards in Band, Orchestra, Chorus ,and Jazz, National School Choral and Orchestra Awards, Long Island Spring Festival Awards, SCMEA All- County Awards, a NYSCAME scholarship, John Philip Sousa Band Award, Louis Armstrong Jazz Award, and Chopin Piano Award; and if an award were available, the students would have earned one with their performance of John Rutter’s Mass of the Children this year. It was clearly an outstanding year for the Music Program.


    •Our Theatre Arts program, under the direction of Mr. Steven Hailey, successfully held the Fall Plays (Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream), Winter Plays (The Fantasticks), and Senior-directed or -written May One-Act Plays. In addition, the Music Department worked collaboratively with Sayville Theatre Arts and successfully produced this year’s outstanding musical guys and dolls.


    •In the arena of Interscholastic Athletics, Sayville had a spectacular year: 21 of our 25 varsity teams participated in postseason competitions; 23 of our varsity teams were selected for Scholar-Athlete team awards by the New York State Public High School Athletic Association. Sayville won individual and or team championships in eleven (11) sports, while also winning two Division Championships in Girls Cross-Country and Boys Golf, and two County Championships in Boys Soccer and Boys Golf.  In addition, our athletes have also earned Long Island Championship titles in Boys Soccer and Boys Golf, and had County finalists in Girls Tennis, Girls Swimming and Diving, Girls Soccer, Field Hockey, and Girls Lacrosse, while also having a number of our athletes named to All-State and All-American teams in Football, Swimming and Diving, and Track and Field.  In addition to the success of our teams, we had ten (10) student-athletes in the Class of 2008 earn an unprecedented number of Gold Key awards from Section XI this year.  Congratulations to our Gold Key award recipients.


    • High School Service organizations(the Student Government, the Key Club, the Anchor Club, Tri-M, F.B.L.A., the Art Honor Society, the Interact Club, SWEEP, SADD, The History Club, and the National Honor Society) provided volunteers and support for various Town of Islip programs, Habitat for Humanity, Senior citizens, and raised money for The Special Olympics, The American Heart Association, The Lupus Foundation, The Salvation Army, The American Cancer Society, The March of Dimes, Long Island Blood Service, 6th Annual March to the Sea to Fight Leukemia, The Keith Nintzel 5K Memorial Event, The Mitchell Cangelosi Memorial Run and raised thousands of dollars and tons of food, clothing, and toys for the Sayville Food Pantry along with other organizations that assist the less fortunate on Long Island.



    After the Jazz Chorus led the assembly in God Bless America, Mr. Buderman closed the Commencement program with the following declaration: “As the representative of our faculty, staff, and administration, it has been my pleasure to have worked with you for the past four years. Ladies and gentleman, I congratulate the Class of 2008, and wish you success, health, and happiness in all your future endeavors!”


    With explosive cheers, the Class of 2008 lofted their hats skyward!


    Now online: Videos (in six parts) from Commencement Exercises on sub pages of this page