Class of 2017 Turns the Page

Class of 2017 Turns the Page 1
Class of 2017 Turns the Page 2
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As the sun wrestled through the clouds, the 342 members of the high school’s Class of 2017 marched in a sea of red-and-white caps and gowns into Boomer Esiason Stadium on June 23 to start the school’s 90th commencement ceremony. The graduates nevertheless experienced a rain of inspiring words about honesty, competition and perseverance from fellow students and administrators as they prepared to turn the page on a new chapter in their young lives.

The high school band, directed by Christopher Neske, performed the processional music. Brittney Berke, accompanied by Vincenzo Mediate, led the Pledge of Allegiance, and Kendra Canavan sang the “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The vocal quartet of Roy Anderson, Amanda Baranek, Berke and Kurt Eide delivered the school’s alma mater. Members of the school’s Class of 1967 were presented with certificates recognizing their golden anniversary of graduation. 

“Dreams are important because they are what motivates us,” said Principal William Brennen in his opening remarks. Emphasizing the importance of character building based on honesty, he encouraged the graduates to develop and pursue goals and show appreciation for their parents, teachers and others who help them along their journey. 

Quoting from Adam Smith and Charles Darwin, valedictorian Jack Palmeri extolled competition as essential to productive activity in each person’s life and for whole nations, saying that it furthers innovations, sparks creativity and advances civilization.

“It’s what influenced individuals such as Bill Gates and Steve Jobs to strive to be their best,” Palmeri said. “Without competition, society would have no drive, no determination and no choices. Competition is what separates the great United States of America from the rest of the world.”

Salutatorian Alexandra Belyea reflected on how her accomplishments throughout her East Islip school career would have been unattainable without the guidance of her teachers, friends and parents, who always told her to be nice, kind and happy and befriend those that would make her a better person.

“In the end, people will only truly care about and remember the type of person you are,” Belyea said. “As we all move past high school, it is crucial to be a positive influence in society and surround yourself with genuinely good people who raise you up instead of pull you down.” 

Superintendent John Dolan encouraged students to pick career paths that would energize them, set their goals high and chase them with unbridled enthusiasm.

“Make good choices and take responsibility for them, and be sure to follow your moral compass,” he said.

Board of Education President Christopher Zachry told the graduates that they would fail only if they didn’t believe in themselves through life’s inevitable obstacles and unexpected events. He stressed that time, unlike money, is a commodity that they can’t afford to lose because it can never be regained.

“If there’s something in your heart that you want to do, don’t put it off,” he said. “Don’t waste time. Don’t wait until you’re 25 or 30. Start working towards it now.”

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