It was an afternoon of pride and sentiment as 427 graduates from High School West’s Class of 2017 celebrated an important academic milestone during the 102nd annual commencement exercises on the football field on June 22.

After a salute to the flag, the jazz choir sang the national anthem, followed by Superintendent of Schools Dr. James Grossane’s welcome to the students and their guests. In giving advice to the graduates, Dr. Grossane called on the lessons learned in the readings of “Winnie the Pooh” stories as they related to individuality, unselfishness, comfort, wealth and trust. “Trust in your abilities to deal with anything,” he said.  

Honor speaker Cory Zhou, who was elected by his peers in lieu of a valedictorian and salutatorian, encouraged classmates to find passion in their lives and to use their natural talents. “Do not subjugate your gifts out of fear,” he said. “Instead, flaunt them and be proud of them.” Class president Courtney Grafstein spoke about the importance of reaching out to others. “Everything we do, no matter how small, can make a difference in the lives of others,” she noted.

Prior to the presentation of the class, Principal John Coady thanked the students for their assistance in making Smithtown High School West a school of excellence. “You have left a mark on this school,” he said. “I thank you for what you have done and what you will do.”

After each graduate was called to the stage to receive his or her diploma from administration and faculty, concert choir seniors and the jazz choir paid tribute to the parents and graduates with a performance of “The Sweetest Days.”