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Hats Off to the West Babylon Class of 2020

Hats Off to the West Babylon Class of 2020 thumbnail175973
While the ceremonies may have been smaller, the excitement, encouragement and accomplishments were vast as the West Babylon Senior High School Class of 2020 celebrated its commencement exercises. To keep to social distancing practices, the district held seven ceremonies during the course of a two-day period on the Junior High School football field on July 30 and 31. Each graduate was seated with two invited guests on the field, while others could view the ceremonies livestreamed at home.

Following “The Star-Spangled Banner” by Jenna Halvorsen and Darren Del Orfano, Carissa Brock took to the podium for “God Bless America.” Senior High School Interim Principal Dr. Ellice Vassallo, who is retiring next month after 26 years serving as principal of the school, welcomed the soon-to-be graduates and attendees. “I have been able to cheer for you, applaud you and encourage you to be your best selves,” she said. “The final chapter of your senior year has been like none before you. You will be remembered for your perseverance through this time. Embrace all this because it has made you stronger and more compassionate.”

Senior class president Antoinette Acerra asked her classmates to remember all the positive parts of their high school experience. “To say the least, our class was dealt a very unique hand of cards,” she said. “But rather than dwell on the losses, I urge you all to be grateful for the amazing three and a half years we got to experience. In times like this, it's important to look back and remember all of our accomplishments. I wish you all the best of luck in life, even though these past few months have shown us that we don't need luck, with our strength, passion and perseverance.”

Enjoying the small things in life was the theme of the speech given by valedictorian Erin Thompson. “Too often we focus on bigger things that are coming,” she said. “We put off enjoying ourselves, spending time with our friends and family to spend too much time focusing on less important things that, at that moment, seem like the world. Whether it's working, studying or practicing, we sacrifice our time to enjoy ourselves and be kids. We instead wait for that end of the year feeling to relax and be together and enjoy senior year. Now, it is important to make those sacrifices, as they are what has gotten us to where we are today. However, as we have learned more than any class before us, we cannot spend our time delaying our happiness for subjective achievement. Life is about finding balance, remaining driven while still cherishing the people around you and the moments you have.”

Salutatorian Olivia Golebiewski spoke to her classmates about how they have all grown together during the pandemic. “During these challenging and changing times, we are the class that learned how to adapt and grow from unpredictable change,” she said. “I know this wasn’t the perfect senior year that we all had imagined. If only we would have known that our high school experiences, traditions and memories would all come to an end on March 13. However, what we do have to be thankful for is many years of personal growth surrounded by caring and passionate faculty and staff. Although events and moments pass, the effects of our high school experiences will forever live on within us.”

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Yiendhy Farrelly asked the members of the class to be reflective and stay true to themselves each and every day. “I am truly honored to be standing here as your superintendent of schools celebrating this significant achievement that ends your high school chapter but starts an exciting new one,” she said. “Throughout your junior high school and high school careers, I have seen, heard and cheered you on throughout so many of your accomplishments. You have made me, your parents and this community so very proud. Whatever path you choose to take, be reflective. Ask yourself every morning, ‘how can I be better than I was yesterday?’ Stay positive, maintain hope and stay true to your character and beliefs. Stand up for what’s right; stand up for those how have not found their voice. Reflect and learn from your mistakes. Be kind to others as you never know what that person next to you is facing.”

Board of Education President Lucy Campasano offered her words of advice on behalf of the school board. “I am so proud to have been a part of all that you have been through,” she said. “I am also proud to be a part of all you have accomplished. I know the last few months have been filled with many moments of sadness and joy – joy for completing one incredible journey and beginning a new one. And sadness for the prospect of leaving the people you love. Put to use all the things you have learned through your very unique experiences. You are stronger and more adaptable than any other class. Your trials have molded you into who you are today and who you will be tomorrow. You have helped one another through it all; you have survived because you were there for each other. Be kind, share everything and when you go out into the world, hold hands and stick together. In a world where you can be anything, I implore you to be kind.”

As each member of the class was called to the podium one by one to receive their diploma, Dr. Vassallo and Dr. Farrelly offered their congratulations. After the conferring of diplomas, the graduates marched off the field to the school’s song “Like an Eagle.”