High School West Class of 2021 overcame the obstacles faced during pandemic to a restored in-person graduation during the 106th annual commencement exercises, held on June 24 on the football field. As is tradition, the graduates dressed in their blue and white robes, processed onto the field and paid tribute to the statutory mascot on their way to their seats and to the cheers of family and friends.
After class president Shannon Alptekin led the salute to the flag, the jazz choir performed “The Star-Spangled Banner,” under the baton of James Brosnan.
In his opening remarks, High School West Principal John Coady told the graduates they have “risen above the chaos” of the pandemic. “This pandemic has taught us not to take anything for granted, and you have not,” Mr. Coady said. “You worked through the challenges and are here today as a result of your hard work and resilience.”
During his address, Assistant Superintendent for Personnel Neil Katz described graduation as a time for the students to reflect on their experiences and the numerous challenges that have shaped them. He also offered six traits he would look for in hiring an individual: adaptability and flexibility; the ability to problem-solve and to think critically and creatively; a demonstration of perseverance and resilience; the adoption of a positive attitude; the ability to express empathy and caring; and being able to communicate with good interpersonal skills. He told the Class of 2021 that they have already demonstrated so many of these skills and are thus “well-prepared for the future.”
Honor speaker George Maidoff encouraged his classmates to “view the world in a brighter light,” as well as to cherish and learn from each moment. He also urged the demonstration of gratitude. “Gratitude is a chosen mindset which gives us an optimistic perspective on life, and when practiced, we can evoke heartfelt interactions with each other and create positive change.”
Shannon, in her address, talked about the opportunities the pandemic presented. “Considering the pandemic eliminated certain distractions from our lives, we were forced to focus on what was most important to us,” she said. “We made a difference – be it to ourselves or somebody else – and that’s what really matters.”
After the congratulatory speeches, Mr. Coady presented the senior class to the community, prior to the awarding of the diplomas by the board of education and school counselors. The seniors then participated in the traditional moving of the tassels to indicate their becoming alumni of the Smithtown Central School District.
The concert choir seniors and jazz choir then performed “The Sweetest Days,” a tribute to parents and the graduates, prior to the students exiting the field to take photos with parents and friends.