Topping a class known for resilience


Looking back on four years of high school filled with unexpected challenges at East Rockaway Junior-Senior High School, Valedictorian Madeline Prucha and Salutatorian Jason Miller reflected on what their class endured.

“Looking ahead, it’s safe to say that the class of 2022 will be ready for whatever the future holds,” Miller said in his speech to his fellow graduates. “We’ve gone from normal classes to fully remote classes where we didn’t see each other walking down the halls for months, to a hybrid schedule, and finally back to something close to normal.” 

Miller was a co-president of the school’s National Honor Society, vice president of Key Club, a member of DECA, president of Tri-M Music Honor Society and a member of the Student Cabinet. He earned AP Scholar with Distinction and Super Master awards, and is a recipient of the Rensselaer Medal. He volunteered with the East Rockaway Public Library, Kiwanis Club, and the New York State School Music Association.

Although the coronavirus pandemic added an unexpected layer of difficulty to their high school tenure, Miller said he was proud of his graduating class’s resilience.

“Despite all these challenges,” he said, “we’ve been able to spend our last year in person and experience and enjoy all of these milestones together”

“The Junior Banquet, Senior Sunrise, the Athletic Complex Grand Opening, Senior Day, Awards Night, Great Adventure, and of course Senior Prom. As a class, we have proven that we can handle whatever is thrown at us, and I think we actually came out stronger in the end.” hool’s clubs and organizations during her time at ERHS as well as being a talented writer. She is a model of school spirit and involvement, holding various leadership positions as captain of the cheerleading and badminton teams, and president of DECA, Mock Trial, Newscasters, National Honor Society, and the school newspaper.

Prucha received the Nassau County Scholar Award for cheerleading was an All-Conference selection for badminton. She was an New York State School Music Association participant and received honors and awards in English, science, and social studies.

She received the Academic Excellence and the Nassau County District Attorney Shield Award. She was a two-time winner of the East Rockaway Andrew J. Stern Memorial Essay and participated in the Knovva Model G20 Climate Change Summit, where she was awarded Most Outstanding Delegation. 

Throughout her high school tenure, Prucha piled up a number of accomplishments but in her speech to the class, admitted that her lengthy list of accomplishments is not her biggest high school takeaway.

“If you had asked a ninth-grade Madeleine if she’d rather be happy or accomplished, she’d probably tell you the latter.  I think that’s kind of sad.  If you asked a ninth-grade Madeleine if she thought these two entities could coexist aside from each other, she’d tell you no, which I think is even sadder” she said from the podium.  

“Another certificate or promotion or congratulations are never worth your mental well-being.  Your accomplishments are worthless if they are detracting from your feelings of self-worth.  Awards alone will not solve your problems.  Your preoccupations won’t be packaged up with paper parcels, passing fully from part-time prosperity.  Life is always going to deal us hands that we don’t feel that we deserve.

“Our teachers won’t recall us by our test scores, but rather, how we acted when things got tricky.  We have redefined what it means to be a successful high school class through the sheer sincerity of our spirits. I can look at this cap and gown today and feel that I am a successful individual, but it has taken me a great deal of effort and time to get to this point.  We are graduating this evening both accomplished individuals, as well as caring, hard-working ones with loving hearts. This is what will allow us to prosper further.”