Syosset High School held its 64th annual commencement ceremony for the Class of 2022 at Hofstra University in Hempstead on the evening of June 22.
“We’re here in the arena today to celebrate as a class, a school and a community, your graduation from high school,” Syosset High School Assistant Principal David Steinberg said. “This is a night to celebrate all that you have accomplished, and at the same time, that none of us have gotten here alone. Surrounding you here is members of the support staff, administrators, parents, family and friends who have all played an integral role of getting you here tonight.”
The stadium was filled with proud loved ones of the graduates donning red and white caps and gowns. Many of the caps were decorated with college or university logos, inspiring sayings and other designs. Six students were honored by Steinberg for joining the forces.
“You’ve all made us very proud that you’ve chosen this path to serve our country,” Steinberg said.
He also brought up the fact that this class has had a very different experience than prior graduating classes, as they’ve learned to adapt to change amid ever evolving COVID-19 policies.
Deputy Superintendent of Schools Charlie Cardillo said he felt like he was an arena during a seventh game of the National Basketball Association playoffs with the amount of energy and enthusiasm in the room. He read a speech on behalf of Superintendent of Schools Dr. Thomas Rogers, who was not able to attend the graduation because of his COVID-19 diagnosis, but was watching the live stream of the ceremony.
“As we’re hopefully nearing the end of this COVID-19 disruption, there’s a temptation to try to make sense of the last few years,” read Cardillo on behalf of Dr. Rogers. “It’s probably a mistake to go too deep without the benefit of perspective. But one thing seems immediately apparent; no one could have possibly predicted your success given all the headwinds you faced for almost all of your high school career. I’m struck by the thought that you have shown resilience and perseverance beyond any expectations we might have had.”
As the students have shown bravery during such adversity nobody wished on such young people, Cardillo read on behalf of Dr. Rogers, they should continue to show that bravery and strength to help others, and their intelligence to achieve their goals.
“You have lived and learned and achieved through unthinkable times in the last few years,” Syosset Central High School District Board of Education President Tracy Frankel said. “You have experienced elimination of activities that have become a part of who you were. You experienced illness. And you’ve known others that were ill, or worse. But you did more than just get through it. You made the choice to make the best of the hand you were dealt.”
Syosset High School Senate President Caroline Zhu and Senior Class President Christopher Zandieh president then delivered speeches. Zhu quoted commentator David Brooks, who has said that character can be characterized into two virtues; résumé virtues and eulogy virtues.
“Our résumé virtues are skills you bring to the marketplace,” Zhu said. “Reading, writing, math, you name it. Your diploma today is a recognition of your academic achievements. Congratulations. You worked hard to earn your grades through sleepiness nights and cramming… On the other hand, your eulogy virtues are what people talk about at your funeral, whether you were kind, brave, honest or faithful. Take a moment to reflect on whether you embodied a goodness throughout your last four years. If you did, you are amazing and I hope that you continue to share that sentiment with those around you. And if you didn’t perfectly do so, then we’re in the same boat. And that’s okay. Because we’re only graduating high school students.”
Before Zandieh began his speech, he carried on a tradition of taking a selfie with the graduating class. He also jested that he was looking forward to the ceremony being over so that he could follow some of the faculty on Instagram.
After Zandieh’s speech, the speaker of the Class of 2022, Chloe Zelenitz, approached the podium
“First, I’d like you all to imagine a scenario,” Zelenitz began. “You are in your online class. It’s the first year of hybrid learning and the unthinkable happens. The fire alarm goes off at school due to yet another accident in the chemistry lab. It should come as no surprise considering the gummy bear incident caused smoke alarms to go off more than four times in a week, but I guess for each time that it happened we thought that the odds of it happening would be slimmer and slimmer. At least that’s what we thought until the virtual students were stuck listening to an automated voice telling them insistently that there was a fire and to exit because the teacher didn’t hit the mute button on the Google Meet.”
Situations like that, Zelenitz went on, were a constant reminder that a situation was totally out of their control, yet they had to deal with it and solve it anyway.
And finally, after a presentation of awards to students Caroline Zhu, Ethan Chiu, Valedictorian Sabrina Chen, Rohan Ghotra, Alex He, Vivien Huang, Yuni Kim, Christine Ling, David Liu, Salutatorian David Wang and Wesley Zhou, it was time for Salutatorian Wang to give his speech.
“For my speech, I’d like to happiness; a concept that is foreign to many of us high school students,” Wang said. “Stress, boredom and fatigue are the norm in high school; and I think the environment in Syosset could certainly exacerbate this at times. But judging from the fervor at which everyone scrambled to get yearbook signatures on senior day, the excitement surrounding prom and the teared eyes and hugs on the last day of school, I think I can speak for the Class of 2022 when I say that we will treasure the memories we’ve made and the relationships we have formed at Syosset High School.”
Valedictorian Chen joked that the class finally made it to National Onion Rings Day, and graduation day.
“We first entered as saucer-eyed freshman with our overwhelmingly heavy backpacks and binders that made all of us shorter than we already were,” Chen said. “Though we were afraid of losing our way in this architecture behemoth we call our home, which by the way has a hallway called Guam, becoming victim to a senior prank, making friends with new people; we took on high school as champs.”
Despite the challenges that this class, unbeknown to them when they started their high school journey, would face, they still managed to connect with friends, give back to communities in need, adjust to new circumstances and even take a nap between the five minutes between classes.
“Finally, came our senior year,” Chen said. “Our last year and our best year. We entered as the oldest and most experienced and we’re exiting as the oldest, the most experienced and still the most confused. Because while many of us have mastered parking in the senior parking lot, waking up on time for the senior sunrise and skillfully navigating the halls during the lunchtime rush, all of which I personally can not do, we are, at the most basic level, young and curious 17 and 18 year-olds afraid of what’s to come.”
Chen left the class with one idea; failure and regret are more terrifying than the trek to success, and oftentimes change and productivity are mitigated not because of a lack of information, but rather because of the complacency of the now. “Instead of asking ‘what if,’ we must ask ‘what now,” Chen said.
After all, this class has done it time and time again.