“Your best friend was once a stranger,” valedictorian Michael Luvin reminded his fellow South Side High School graduates, assuring them that change, while difficult, could lead to good things.
The nearly 300 graduates, who filled Hofstra University’s David S. Mack Sports and Exhibition Complex on June 22 for the school’s 127th commencement ceremony, walked single-file to the stage as “Pomp and Circumstance” issued from their younger schoolmates’ band instruments. Friends and family offered cheers, applause and the occasional whistle over the music.
The atmosphere was bittersweet, as the class of 2018’s achievements and the future’s possibilities mixed with feelings of newfound nostalgia. Some graduates looked sad, others beamed. Some waved to parents while others goofed around with their classmates — making the most of their final moments in high school.
“It is clear to all that the future is in capable hands,” said Lily Coll, president of South Side’s Student Government Association. Following her, salutatorian Peter Weiss explained, “Every moment is like a Wikipedia article,” because wherever you find yourself — even if you’re not sure how you arrived — you will leave learning something.
The Centennial Awards for School and Community, presented by the Alumni Association to the students who best represent the spirit of the graduating class, went to Zoey Roman and John Pennisi. Coll won the Dr. Richard S. Byers School and Community Service Award, and the Laurel Awards, given to the male and female senior most involved in extracurricular activities, went to Luvin and Emma Becconsall.
Board of Education President John O’Shea told the students that 2018 would be the year they start shaping not only their futures but also the world’s future. “You and you alone hold the key to the future . . . and you’ll make our future better,” he said.
Principal John Murphy told the crowd that he had recently met with some alumni, whom he described as “a group of people who could speak red and blue.” They reminisced about their time at South Side and what they were proud of, he added, and none of the memories included a test. He added that while a high grade point average is an accomplishment, it does not define a person.
“I miss you already,” Murphy said, calling the class of 2018 the “standard-bearer” for future classes and “the trendsetters.” Ninety percent of the seniors earned advanced Regents diplomas, he said, also noting their participation in Relay for Life and Centre Stage. “You’re poets . . . scientists . . . athletes,” Murphy said proudly.
The event ended with mortarboards thrown high, followed by thunderous applause, ecstatic “woo-woo”-ing, widespread hugging and more than a few tears.
“Your story, I am hopeful,” Murphy concluded. “Class of 2018, thank you.”