At Deer Park’s 52nd commencement exercises on June 26, the high school Class of 2015 took a meaningful step on their life journey, celebrating in front of a cheering sea of family and friends.
The American Celtic Pipe Band again led the way, marching onto Al Centamore Football Field with a long line of excited seniors behind them clad in maroon and white, ready for their big moment.
Beginning the ceremony, the Pledge of Allegiance was led by Student Council President Taylor Morales, followed by a masterful rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” by Jessica Orelus.
Superintendent Eva J. Demyen talked to the seniors about their yearbook theme, “A story to remember,” relating it to an anecdote from her own senior year when she fell from a tree. “The moral is, if you fall, get back up,” she told them. “And if you fall, someone will be there for you. I wish you all the best life has to offer.”
In an emotional speech, senior class adviser James Henry told his students, “We’ve grown together as a family to achieve special recognition. You are a remarkable class and one I will never forget.”
“Our time is measured in moments and memories,” said wistful Senior Class President Taylor Brennan, lamenting how fast time has gone for the students during their high school career. “I hope you find yourself happy and healthy after high school,” she told them. “Make spectacular moments and friendships.”
A 27-strong vocal ensemble then sang the school’s alma mater, leading into affecting speeches by the salutatorian and valedictorian.
Salutatorian Aaron Zhang began by mentioning his move from New York City three years ago, saying, “I know what it’s like to leave longtime friends. In leaving Deer Park, we must not forget what makes this community so special. Have pride when you leave, and celebrate all you’ve accomplished.” He went on to deliver a memorably metaphysical address, touching on time, space, mathematics and the universe. “It’s easy to feel overwhelmed in the face of the unknown,” he told his classmates. “The world you are about to enter is one of uncertainty, but look closer and you can find order and wonder. You are ready to find your way.”
“Today marks one of the first turning points of our lives,” said Sabrina Grunseich, the class valedictorian, reflecting on the students’ shared journey at Deer Park. “High school was hard work but I enjoyed every second of it,” she said. Grunseich’s contemplative speech discussed the meaning of time and the ephemeral nature of accomplishing goals. “Take the lessons you learn and use them in the now,” she urged. “We must be willing to let go of what we have done. The journey to achieving a goal is more important than the accomplishment.” She ended with a hope for her fellow graduates, saying, “I wish for all my peers’ journeys to be filled with meanings and firsts. Congratulations and best of luck, Class of 2015.”
In an ongoing Deer Park tradition, Principal James Cummings welcomed back a face from a decade past, Class of 2005 valedictorian Megan Chrones Barco, who spoke of the value of gratefulness, even during difficult times. “It reminds you of how blessed you are,” she said. “The choices you make during trials and tribulations build character.” Citing the song “My Favorite Things” from “The Sound of Music,” Barco recommended reflecting on positive things and developing a true attitude of gratitude.”
The final speaker was Cummings himself, who noted the school’s 94 percent graduation rate – tops in the town of Babylon – as a deep source of pride. “This is an easy class to brag about,” he said. “I couldn’t be more proud of what they’ve accomplished. This group has done incredible things – in the classroom, on the field, on the stage.” He also made sure to thank the parents in attendance, saying, “Thank you for trusting us with your children.” Urging the new graduates to make a difference in the lives of others, the principal ended his address on a high note, telling his charges, “It is time for you to make your mark on this world.”
Their next step on that journey was to the podium, receiving diplomas from members of the Board of Education. Once all were seated again, it was time for the ritual of turning tassels from right to left, then tossing the caps to the sky. Leaving the field to the sound of the combined symphonic and ninth-grade bands performing Elmer Bernstein’s “The Great Escape,” the new alumni walked out to begin their bright futures.