The ceremony also recognized a cohort of Island Park students — who transferred to West Hempstead High in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Island Park Superintendent of Schools Dr. Rosemarie Bovina and members of the district’s Board of Education were among those in attendance.
“I’m so grateful to represent my hometown tonight,” said West Hempstead High Homecoming queen Tonya Bettineschi, an Island Park native who expressed her pride in her classmates for reaching out to help her neighbors. “We have become a family that supports each other, through the successes and the failures.”
Superintendent John Hogan regaled the graduates with a story about the written correspondence between former Presidents Thomas Jefferson and John Adams — who discussed their kindred beliefs in learning and inquiring in order to contribute to the nation — and advised the graduating class to follow those two celebrated thinkers in their commitment to service, passion and learning.
“I ask the students to remember to continue being curious and find that moment, profession or occupation that you’re most passionate about,” Hogan said. “You want to be able to look back and say that you not only made contributions, but that you lived your life.”
Principal Dan Rehman congratulated his former students not only on their academic achievements, but also for their perseverance in the face of tragedy this past year. He told the graduates to stay true to themselves, adding, “Don’t just be yourself — be all of yourself.”
After the ceremony, relatives, friends and faculty members gathered outside the auditorium. “I’m very proud of her,” Jennifer Moyer said of her daughter Caroline, who will head to Wesleyan University next year. “She’s always been an independent person, so I feel really confident about our relationship when she goes away to college.”
The valedictorian’s father, Tom Laurin, offered some words of wisdom for the graduates as they venture into the future: “Appreciate the moment.”