Donning their High School East Class of 2020 face masks and gathered with smaller groups of their class, the East seniors finally had the opportunity to celebrate their graduation during multiple ceremonies held on the football field on July 21 and 22.
Marching on to the field to “Pomp and Circumstance,” the students took their seats next to their two invited guests. After “The Star-Spangled Banner,” High School East Principal Dr. Kevin Simmons welcomed students and guests to the commencement exercises. “We have the faith and belief in you [our seniors] that what is impossible can indeed be possible when pursued with passion and enthusiasm,” he said. “We are gathered here today to celebrate the closing chapter of graduating seniors’ careers in the Smithtown Central School District. We are so proud of what you have accomplished and more importantly, what we see to be what your future successes will be. We know that the future is bright with you at the helm of our community.”
Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Jennifer Bradshaw offered words of advice for the soon-to-be graduates. “You have taught us lessons about strength and resilience and how to be there for each other and for our community,” she said. “As you go out into this world, what do you want to take on? As you venture into this still uncertain future, you are taking with you the strength of the connections that you have made over the course of your lifetimes: the friendships, the families, the teacher, the mentors and all the love, learning and support that comes from those relationships. Go out and share your beauty and strength with the rest of the world and that you be made even more strong and beautiful by experiencing all the world has to offer.”
This year’s honor speaker for High School East was Erin Holler. She spoke about the new normal and how to move forward and make it the best world they possibly can. “Who could have imagined that this would have been the ending we would get after 13 years of education in Smithtown?” she said. “We were left without the closure of a true last day of classes; without the big senior barbeque and without graduating as one whole senior class. It seemed as though the best part of senior year was taken from us. In spite of all that we have lost over the last four months, there’s still things that a pandemic can never take away. For better or for worse, Smithtown East has shaped us into the people we are now. If any class can handle going out into the uncertain world, it is us. So do not accept going back to our old normal; strive for just a little bit better than we had before. Because each baby step we take one day will add up to a huge leap.”
Kira Conte, High School East’s senior class president, offered her words of wisdom as she addressed her classmates. “This may be an untraditional ending yet we are all united in celebrating our achievements,” she said. “I am proud to be a part of the Class of 2020¬ – the resilient class, the strong class and the class that learned firsthand how to take on obstacles and adapt. Now it is our turn to take on the challenges that lie ahead. Celebrating our achievements today is a testament to our grit and in the future. We are 2020 strong.”
Each student was then called to the stage to receive their diploma from Dr. Simmons. After each name was called, he instructed the students to move their tassels from right to left to signify they were now official graduates of the High School East Class of 2020.