A Jubilantly Traditional Sayville High School Class of 2021 Commencement
A Jubilantly Traditional Sayville High School Class of 2021 Commencement
June 25, 2021
What a difference a year makes! With traditions restored, the Sayville High School Commencement Exercises, held on Friday evening, June 25, 2021 was a jubilant celebration.
When the 267 members of the Class of 2021 first emerged from the High School building, they resembled a purple-and-gold ribbon unfurling across the softball field. The Seniors processed to their seats on the Buderman football field in step with the musical accompaniment of Pomp and Circumstance performed live by the High School Band, directed by Mrs. VanBoxel. Enthusiastic guests, roaring and cheering from the packed bleachers, were obviously delighted to be attending this year.
The steadfast Sayville Alumni, waving banners depicting their class years, marched behind the Senior Class while the faculty being recognized by the Class of 2021 as “teachers who made a difference” brought up the rear of the processional.
To begin the exercises, Sayville High School Principal Ronald Hoffer introduced the Senior members of the Sayville High School Chorale: James Anderson, Hunter Caiazzo, Jacob Diaz, Victoria Earvolino, Cristiana Ferreira, Paige Gaiser, Katie Gozaloff, Chloe McCormack-Falk, Nora O'Donnell, Gianna Romano, and Katrina Schieck who sang the National Anthem.
“I’m getting choked up,” Sayville Superintendent Dr. John Stimmel admitted when he took the podium for his address, “…seeing our students in front of us and seeing you in our stands! Can we hear it for the Sayville Class of 2021!” After the hollers and applause subsided, Dr. Stimmel welcomed everyone, saying, ‘This has been a year like no other, but that’s not where I want to begin my conversation with you this evening.” Avoiding clichés about the pandemic, Dr. Stimmel instead harkened back to thirteen years ago, when the Seniors were in Kindergarten and he was principal at Cherry Avenue. “Your mother, father, grandparent or someone else who was close to you held your hand. Many of you were excited, all of you were at least a little nervous. But some of you were terrified.” he recalled, remarking some clung in “a vise-like grip” to the comforting parental presence accompanying them on that first day. "There was no way that you were going to let go. ...Who of us today cannot relate in some way to that terrified young child from thirteen years ago?”
After sharing anecdotes and observations from the past (see full speech in pdf below), Dr. Stimmel focused on the present. “What can be said about this year that hasn’t already been said? So today I simply want to celebrate your resilience. Working with your teachers, principal, assistant principals and staff you found a way to make every day count. Whether learning in class or on line, you showed up. When things didn’t work one way you found another. When they said, 'we’ll be lucky if we make it to October,' you’ve made it to June.
“Though our seasons and events may have appeared unusual at times, your performance was, as always, spectacular. Thanks to you, your teachers and your coaches we had art, music, theater, song, and sports.
“With each event that you participated in this year you brought our schools and our community one step closer to normal. And now on this last official day of your Sayville Schools career, as you are poised to take your next great step in life’s adventure, let me say to you this: our world needs you;our world needs your creativity, compassion, and zeal. Our world needs solutions, healing and peace.”
After Dr. Stimmel acknowledged those from the Class who aspire to serve in the front lines: “first responders, healthcare providers, and especially to our remarkable four Seniors who are joining America’s armed forces,” he concluded, “In closing let me leave you with these two thoughts: Your school journey started when you first stepped through the school’s big doors as a scared young kindergartener. Now as you are about to step through the door into a much larger world, it is your parents and teachers who wish they could hold onto you with a vise-like death grip. I speak for many of us when I say that part of us never wants to let you go. How we wish we could hold onto you for even just a little bit longer.
“But we know we can’t. The world needs you and you need to go it into it. There is no doubt that with your talent, knowledge and wisdom you will grow and, as you do, you will make the world a better place. May God bless our nation, our town, and may God bless the Sayville graduating class of 2021!
In his Salutatorian Address, entitled If We Want to Achieve Our Dreams, Tyler Schaefer (above right) shared what he learned from his routine Sunday Long Run, a 14-mile circumference of Sayville. “It has taken me years to build up to these runs, and along the journey, I’ve learned a few lessons that are key to finishing a long run and can also be used as a recipe to achieve a goal in life.” (see full speech in pdf below.)
Tyler summarized the training techniques that prepare him for running and his goals and encouraged his classmates to consider them in the long run of their own lives. “We are closer than we have ever been to starting the next chapter of our lives,” he said after wishing his classmates congratulations. “We will be leaving today, taking a path in which we may be on our own. We will each have our own dreams that inspire us to do better each day. It may not be easy to succeed, but if we prepare ourselves, take that first step, go at our own pace without letting the expectations of others affect us, learn how to avoid those who may hurt us, and never ever give up, we will be able to achieve our dreams.“
Astonishing every one with her amazing vocal range, the Patricia Ann Kubelle Memorial Award Winner Paige Gaiser (above left) gave a riveting and outstanding performance of the song Astonishing from the Broadway musical "Little Women.” (View her performance on the video.)
In her speech Beyond the Shadows, Valedictorian for the Class of 2021 Christina Guiffre (above: second from right) admitted that her first impression of high school “was a wild maze and there’s no doubt that I found myself lost for the vast majority of it. ...I went from being fairly certain of who I was as a person to hopelessly scouring to find myself.” Despite her uncertainty during her transition years, Christina credits many who helped her: “my dedicated teachers, supportive family, and encouraging friends who kept me sane through it all. You have guided me through life’s unforgiving obstacles and inspired me to always put my best foot forward. You believed in me, even when I struggled to believe in myself. In addition to having remarkable people by my side, one of the most important things that helped me navigate high school was recognizing the delicate balance between structure and disorder. After all, if I didn’t get over not knowing, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
Christina referenced (see full speech in pdf below) Plato’s The Allegory of the Cave, in which prisoners are chained to face a wall. As they know nothing of the outside world except for the shadows cast on that one wall, they acquire a distorted perception of reality, and even when freed, they refuse to accept the light of truth. “Well, we haven’t really been prisoners,” Christina remarked, “but we are about to climb out of the cave and go into the real world. There will be new perspectives; you may despise some of them or you may just adopt some of them yourself. Either way, please don’t threaten to kill people when they offer you their opinion. Understanding and growth begins with listening to the views of others. The journey out of the cave won’t be comfortable. We may get lost along the way, but without looking around, we’ll never see beyond the shadows.
Christina congratulated her classmates for beginning their new journey and quoting Tolkien, “Not all those who wander are lost,” she wished them the best of luck.
In his brief remarks (see full speech in pdf below), President of the Sayville Board of Education Keith Kolar focused first on the meaning of perseverance—“persistence in doing something despite difficulty and delay in achieving it. ... One thing that we have learned in this past year is each one of us has our own personal story of perseverance.. For some it was the loss of a sports season, or a loss of a normal school day, or a loss of a long-planned family vacation, or a loss of job or for some it was the ultimate loss: the loss of a loved one. And for some, it was simply quarantining itself that awoke their perseverance and for others it was having to do something despite its difficulty, such as social distancing and wearing a mask. . …This past year has highlighted more than ever how the one, single obstacle can affect us all yet how that one common obstacle can have extreme differences in how it impacts each individual person.”
Mr. Kolar followed by emphasizing a different, more powerful word—empathy, “the ability to understand and share the feelings of others”—which requires more character than perseverance. "In displaying empathy, you can potentially change someone's day. You might actually be the one to give them the courage to persevere. Sometimes a little encouragement and kindness is all a person may need and you alone could possess the power to give that to them."
Reminding the Graduates that they have "learned an array of topics over these past thirteen years that have gotten you to this point, Mr. Kolar suggested, "we need to ask ourselves what we can give back to life. The answer to that is empathy and kindness. ...On behalf of the Board of Education, we congratulate the newest ambassadors of Sayville...... the Cass of 2021... We wish you all the best as you move ahead making your positive impacts on this world."
After all the graduates were called to receive their diplomas and congratulated by the Sayville Board members, the President of the Class of 2021 Nicole Moccio (above: second from left) made her Response for the Class entitled, When One Door Closes, Another Door Opens (see full speech in pdf below). “On behalf of the class of 2021, I want to begin by saying thank you to everyone who has been such a significant part of our lives here at Sayville.” Nicole listed the Sayville Administration, the Board of Education, Principal Hoffer, and family “for everything that you do and for making all of this possible. And for giving us the traditional graduation that we dreamed of.”
Nicole gave a special shout out to Class Advisors Mrs. Perlin and Mrs. Methven, "I honestly don’t even know where to begin… Thank you for making these past four years unforgettable and always knowing what to do when we were confronted with a problem. Even in the most strange of times, you found a way to make our Senior year so very memorable.”
While Nicole provided both a litany of events they shared and cited many classmates who left an impact on the Class of 2021, she mentioned the most significant turn of events: “For years we complained about having to get up early and go to school every day, yet this past year we realized how significant school actually was to us. Not being able to get up to go to school created a hole in our lives. This year, we begged to go back full time… I believe the greatest lesson we learned as Seniors was to be grateful for the little things in life. Nothing is permanent, nothing is guaranteed. We cannot always control what happens in our lives, but what we can control is our outlook on everything.”
Nicole concluded her Response by quoting Alexander Graham Bell: “When one door closes, another opens,” and asked her classmates to look under each seat for the tiny bottles of bubbles solution she had placed for them. “So everyone let's blow some bubbles, making one last memory together as a whole class. …Golden Flashes, it is time to open those doors, move forward confidently and make your mark on the world.”
Sayville High School Principal Ronald Hoffer concluded the Commencement exercises by extoling the accomplishments of the Class of 2021 with the following announcements:
* I am extremely proud to announce that 97% of the students in the Class of 2021 will go on to further education, and that approximately 94% of our graduates have earned Regents diplomas this year.
* This is a time for celebration and an opportunity to recognize the noblest of commitments. Would the following members of the Class of 2021 please stand: Nicholas Buffardi, Nicholas Gibbons, Meghan McLaughlin, and Aiden White. These young adults will be serving in our US military and providing us with the veil of freedom we have all come to know and love. Thank you for your anticipated service.
* Many, if not all of the aforementioned accomplishments, would not have been realized without the support and dedication of our high school’s faculty and staff. I would like to seize this opportunity to wish members of our high school staff and faculty well as they enter retirement. They are: Lou Gittler, Patricia Harris, Erin Messina, Sallie Pelligrini, Carrie Redding and Calli Triculus. Thank you for your combined 120 years of service.
* The Class of 2021 has been a credit to our school and community. The class has continued with our tradition of academic excellence, of athletic success, of outstanding music, drama, and art programs, and of civic-minded growth and involvement. I would like to thank the Student Government officers President – Matt Zender, Vice-President – Katie Zender, Senior Executive Liaison – Lainee Buck, Treasurer – Sanjeeda Rahman, Secretary – Brendan Meserve, Social Media Coordinator – Emily Steffens, Fundraising Officer – Diana Raden, Senior Representative – Giavanna Kolczniski and our Student Government Advisor - Ms. VanDorn as well as our Senior Class officers President – Nicole Moccio, Vice President – Meghan McLaughlin, Treasurer – Lindsey Yoder, Secretary – Jaden Catalina, Social Media Coordinator – Chloe McCormack-Falk, Administrative Liaison Justin Doucet, Fundraising Coordinator – Jordan Milo and our Senior Class Advisors - Ms. Methven and Ms. Perlin for your leadership, your cooperation and commitment to our school and to the students in the Class of 2021. Additionally, I would also like to thank the Guidance Counselors: Mr. Dillon, Ms. Flynn, Ms. Restrepo and Ms. Stevens.... and our Assistant Principals - Mr. Baio, and Ms. Loriston, for guiding and addressing the individual and collective needs of the students in the Class of 2021.
* Most importantly, I would like to congratulate and compliment the members of this outstanding class for your commitment to excellence in every arena. I can state, without hesitation that the Class of 2021 has been a remarkable class to work with in all endeavors. I applaud you for all of your efforts throughout your respective high school careers, and I would encourage you, as the future leaders of this wonderful country, to continue to be energetic, hardworking and committed to your goals and to your dreams.
“As a 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... Thank you for joining us this evening. Please have a safe and an enjoyable day. “I congratulate the Class of 2021,” and wish you success, health, and happiness.”