On a sun-soaked Saturday afternoon, East Rockaway Junior-Senior High School’s class of 2021 took a step toward the future as they graduated in front of family members, friends, district staff and administrators and the school board at Marion Street Elementary School in Lynbrook on June 26.
Superintendent of Schools Lisa Ruiz expressed how proud she was of the resilience and strength that the class of 2021 demonstrated throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
“What is truly extraordinary is that each and every one of you were the other half in our reinvention of how we do school and that’s pretty amazing,” she said. “Not only did we figure it out, but you had to be the recipients and, most importantly, had to learn under those really challenging conditions. Life is going to throw us curve balls, things we are not prepared to handle, but how each one of you chooses to respond will make the difference in your life. It is not the challenge itself, but how we respond to that challenge that defines our character and shapes our lives. We know you will do extraordinary things as you travel down life’s road.”
The ceremony began with the “Pledge of Allegiance,” along with a performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner” by six graduating seniors. They included Grace McNally, Gabriella Baccari, Sofia Statuto, Emma Kathryn Pollackov, Sofia Bertolotti and Michael Mistretta.
Several speakers delivered moving speeches and offered words of advice to the graduating class, including Board of Education Trustee Peter McNally, Valedictorian Lucy Temple, Salutatorian Emma Kathryn Pollackov, class of 2021 advisers Melinda Best and Caitlin Castellano and high school Principal Richard Schaffer. Class Presidents Raymond Acampora and Emma Kathryn Pollackov also delivered a farewell message before presenting their class advisors with a flowers and gifts.
Schaffer approached the lectern and asked the graduates to face the impossible head on.
“Set your goals high and never give up until you’re satisfied with the result and even then push a little further,” he said. “Don’t be afraid to get right back up should you fail and, most importantly, know who you are, what you believe is right and stay true to yourself. Don’t allow yourself to be derailed as you strive to achieve what others may think is impossible. I know for you there is nothing you can’t accomplish. For you, nothing should ever be seen as impossible.”
After the distribution of diplomas, the ERHS class of 2021 turned the tassels on their caps from right to left and then joined together in a celebratory cap toss.
Courtesy East Rockaway School District; compiled by Mike Smollins