As the high school’s Class of 2016 stepped onto the football field on June 24, taking their central role in the school’s 89th commencement, they also took a giant step in the game of life, ready to pursue new dreams and new destinies.
After the initial processional music from the high school orchestra, directed by Susan Rydzeski, the Pledge of Allegiance was led by Caleb Shulman and Shannon Ransom, followed by Jon Sawyer Coffin singing “The Star-Spangled Banner”. Rising above the wind, a quartet of Danielle Pafundi, Karli Pipitone, Ashley Karlin and Noelia Vazquez delivered a rendition of the school’s alma mater.
“Find what you are passionate about,” Principal William Brennen urged his former charges. “Follow your dreams now, before life gets in the way. There will be obstacles and ups and downs, and it will not always be easy, but a dream worth living is one that you have to work for. Congratulations to the Class of 2016. I wish you all the best of luck.”
Board of Education President Philip Montuori Sr., an alumnus of East Islip’s Class of 1966, recalled his own graduation 50 years ago, telling the seniors about his memories sitting in the student section where they now waited.
Superintendent John V. Dolan, in his first commencement address since joining the district last year, began by thanking the community. “Your work ethic, your enthusiasm and your EI pride have been inspirational,” he said, before issuing a special congratulations to the parents in attendance. “You were your child’s first teacher, your are their lifelong teacher, and you’ve done an excellent job,” he told them. He then turned his attention to the graduates, who he called intelligent, empathetic and caring. Reminding them of the value of pride and a work ethic, he told them, “The East Islip community – your parents, schools, teachers, friends, grandparents – has worked together to build a solid foundation so you can go out into this world and make it a better place.”
“Today marks the end of our time here in East Islip, and the culmination of more than a decade of work,” said salutatorian Joseph Teknus. “It’s also about the people we met, and the friends we have, and the memories we made.”
“Thank you to my classmates who continue to teach me more about myself every day,” said valedictorian Meaghan Coles, telling her fellow graduates to keep moving forward while acknowledging their accomplishments. “It has taken 12 long years to get to where we are right now – 12 years of homework and summer projects, but also 12 years of making new friends, discovering who we are and creating memories that will stay with us for a lifetime,” Coles said. “Sitting here on this field, we have all accomplished something. We have reached a goal set for us by our parents, our families, our friends, our teachers. This moment is validation that in the past 12 years, we have all done at least one thing right. Our lives in these hallways are over, they are no longer ours to walk. New students will sit in our desks, and life will go on for East Islip High School without us. But life will go on for each of us as well. We all have our own destinies to chase.”