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    Resiliency Shines at OBHS Graduation 


  • In what seemed like an impossible feat just a few months ago, 138 Oyster Bay High School seniors came together on the front lawn of the school for a live commencement ceremony before families and friends, June 26.  

    Beaming with pride for reaching this pinnacle moment after 16 challenging months, seniors and staff in cap and gown, happily proceeded to the concrete “stage” in front of the school as the Oyster Bay High School Symphonic Band and Wind Ensemble played  “Pomp and Circumstance” under the baton of Mr. Matthew Sisia.

    Graduating senior Brianna Barefoot led the audience in “Pledge of Allegiance” and graduating members of the Chamber Singers sang “The Star Spangled Banner” as American Sign Language (ASL) seniors signed the song under the guidance of ASL teacher Dr. Nicolle Sisia.

    In her welcoming remarks, Oyster Bay High School Principal Ms. Sharon Lasher, who at one point choked back tears, spoke about the respect, intelligence, and kindness of the Class of 2021. “What I will remember forever is how the Class of 2021 acted in the face of a global pandemic. They have been resilient. Flexible. Accommodating. Empathetic. They were truly role models for our younger students.”

    Salutatorian Riya Gupta reminisced about the Class of 2021’s journey from their early years at Theodore Roosevelt School, to grades 4-6 at Vernon School to their middle and high school years, and how that journey made them uniquely connected. “Reaching senior year is an amazing accomplishment, and I am so happy that we all were in it together. To the resilient Class of 2021: We don’t have all the answers, and may not be entirely sure of our role in the future. But the beauty in uncertainty defines control, limits chaos, and sets one on the path of self-actualization,” she advised.

    Superintendent of Schools Dr. Francesco Ianni, in his first commencement address at Oyster Bay High School, turned to Roman philosopher Seneca to offer two pieces of advice to the graduating class. First, “Use your time wisely and live every second because we learn from each and every experience. Don’t waste it,” he said. Quoting Seneca’s “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity,” Dr. Ianni advised the class to “Be prepared and stay alert” so they can seize opportunities when they present themselves and move onto new levels of success.

    Valedictorian  Matthew Wong engaged the audience with clever humor and some food for thought: “The friendships and lasting memories will stay with us for as long as we live. 

  • However, I would be remiss if I didn’t take time to bring awareness to important events in our world. Brutality against African Americans, hate crimes against Asian Americans, and anti-Semitic attacks have brought the issue of racism and division to the forefront of our society. These occurrences have been going on for hundreds of years but only now are they being recognized. Class of 2021, I implore you to light a fire of humanity and kindness that spurs a change for all of us.”  

    Board of Education President Ms. Laurie Kowalsky noted the perseverance of the Class of 2021. “We know a very unexpected event occurred during your high school career. This didn’t stop the Class of 2021…You moved on and figured out new ways to succeed. This is the class that brought our Advanced Placement averages above the Nassau County average…You have learned how to handle some of life’s curve balls, and you should be confident that you have learned how to make good decisions. Take all these learning experiences into the world and make it a better place.”

    Returning to the podium, Ms. Lasher presented the Beekman Medal — the highest honor bestowed on an Oyster Bay High School graduating senior — to Matthew Wong for demonstrating the outstanding qualities that the medal upholds. She also acknowledged Nicholas Tardugno for being a finalist in the National Merit Scholarship Program. Matthew Wong was a Commended National Merit Scholar.

    National Honor Society Vice President John Tiberia, on behalf of the seniors of National Honor Society, named Dr. Lisa Mulhall, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment, this year’s National Honor Society Honorary Inductee for her extraordinary work as an administrator and wished her well as she moves on to the next level of her career in another district.

    Then came the issuing of diplomas. Ms. Lasher announced each student and Ms. Kowalsky and outgoing Board of Education member Mr. John McEvoy handed out each diploma. Once completed, the Student Council Executive Board President Katherine Pinnock stood before the Class of 2021 and directed them to move their tassel from right to left. As Ms. Lasher congratulated the new graduates, their mortarboards went flying in the air. The audience cheered and applauded. “Pomp and Circumstance” played once more as the graduates hugged and congratulated one another before joining their families and friends and parading down East Main Street to celebrate their milestone. Congratulations and best of luck, Class of 2021!

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