'Traces of you will remain here'

South Side graduates reflect on the past, look to the future


South Side High School class of 2014 was all cheers and smiles in their red caps and gowns as they graduated last Friday at Hofstra University.

After the seniors entered to “Pomp and Circumstance,” Student Government Association President Forrest Butensky led the Pledge of Allegiance. Then the senior members of the Chamber Singers sang the national anthem.

Salutatorian Michael Spelfogel encouraged his fellow graduates to have faith in one another. “If we all trust each other, the world will be a better place and our opportunities will be limitless,” he said. “Class of 2014, always trust each other.”

Bobbi Edelson, of the Alumni Association, presented the Centennial Award for School and Community to Julia Ottinger and Lucas Derkatch; Principal Carol Burris gave the Dr. Richard S. Byers School and Community Service Award to Kennedy Wolfman; and Superintendent William Johnson presented the Laurel Awards to Thomas Keady and Jennifer Gentile.

Valedictorian Meghan Connelly thanked the teachers, faculty, coaches, parents and her “class of extremely intelligent people” for their support through the years. “Our families all played a role in shaping how strong we are today,” she said. “And with their help, we did it. We made it through high school, and I know each and every one of us is stronger for it.”

Connelly summed up her high school experience: “When I think about it, I didn’t just make friends,” she said. “I made a family.”

Board of Education Secretary Gregg Spaulding congratulated the graduates for earning Regents diplomas, and read a section of “Oh, the Places You’ll Go” by Dr. Seuss.

“You are a group of young men and women who have reached out to our community and made it a better place to belong,” Spaulding said. “I ask you again the same question I asked [you] in eighth grade — are you ready for the next step in your life?”

After some prompting, the graduates shouted, “Yes!”

Burris told the graduates that even though they were leaving South Side, their impact on and memories of the school would remain. “You will be in a different place next year when our school bell rings,” she said, “but traces of you will remain here still.”

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer also spoke to the graduates, encouraging them to “go for it.” “When you have doubts — and we all have doubts, that’s the natural condition, that’s how God made us,” Schumer said, “remember all the great advantages you have, and that you’re the best.”