Written by Geoffrey Walter Friday, 04 July 2014 00:00
“Today’s a day of endings and beginnings, a day full of mixed feelings,” Mineola High School Principal Ed Escobar said on Satuday, June 28 on stage at the Tilles Center at C.W. Post during the school’s 123rd commencement exercises.
Mixed due to the happiness shared by the 195 graduates up on stage, but with a small touch of bittersweet due to the absence of one high-profile member: Frank Trivigno, who was tragically killed in an accident in upstate New York last year at the age of 17.
“Because of how kind-hearted Frank was, we united as a class and were inspired to keep his spirit alive with everything we do,” said class president Emilia Beszterda.
“We can appreciate that over the many years together we have a close-knit community that I and many others truly believe is remarkable and unmatched,” added salutatorian Joyce Hwang. “Few can say that they’ve experienced this kind of unity as students...we will always remember; the loss of Frank was a challenge we overcame together.”
Of the 195 members of the graduating class, 132 received advanced regents diplomas, 37 with distinction.
“There’s excitement about actually graduating, but many of you are anxious about the future,” Escobar continued. “You started high school wondering how you would fit in, and then the years pass by and you began to worry about SATs, ACTs and college applications.”
Valedictorian Kristen Sze-Tu offered advice to her classmates, several of which were pearls of wisdom from her grandfather: show respect, continue to inspire others, look for a silver lining, remember your roots and to branch out.
“When I graduated from middle school, I was convinced that Mineola High School was not the school for me,” she said. “I wanted to move to the city or enroll in private school; anywhere but here. But I stuck out the first year and went through the second year and made it to this final day of graduation. Staying in Mineola was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”
Breaking from his tradition of telling anecdotes about the members of the class, School Superintendent Dr. Michael Nagler instead chose a musical theme of popular lyrics for his speech, inspired by the performance of “Let It Go” from the Disney movie, Frozen that was performed at the spring musical and quoting lyrics from One Republic – “(who) reminds us to dream big” – Katie Perry – “reminds us to believe in ourself” – Billy Joel – “to cherish great moments but know there are many more to come” – the “Hanna Montana”-era Miley Cyrus – “the importance of perseverance” – and even Marshall Mathers (aka Eminem) – “to live in the moment.”
“We all have special talents and gifts; don’t hide them, discover them, embrace and cultivate them,” Dr. Nagler said.
Musical presentations of “In My Life” and “Unwritten” with the audience clapping along to the beat were performed by Kathryn Barnwell, Rebecca Bastos, Matthew Eisen, Joyce Hwang, Douglas Llanes,
Nicole Mengler, Joyce Rhim, Michelle Senra, Natalie Sequeira, Bonnie Small, Rebecca Torres and Christina Vafiadis.
Board of education President Artie Barnett, whose daughter Kerri was one of the graduates, spoke from the view of the parents:
“Eighteen years ago, we held you with two hands while your hand could barely wrap around our finger,” he said. “Seventeen years ago, we held you by your two hands as you went and took your first steps.
And 13 years ago we held you with one hand as you walked into your first day of school. Then we reluctantly let go and watched the teacher take that hand. Since then you have stood and moved forward—mostly on your own—you’ve made friends, made decisions, made mistakes and make changes —and each of you will remember a teacher who made a life-long impact on you. Years from now, many of you will have children of your own, you will hold down your jobs and now and then you will have some tough days; it happens and you’ll deal with it. At the end of the day you may be restlessly trying to sleep wondering what tomorrow will bring. And then you’ll fall asleep and in your dreams you’ll be back, walking the halls of Mineola High School in a simpler time, surrounded by friends. When you wake up, you’ll get a new day and a new way to approach anything you may be dealing with. The world is out there for you to own, like a present you get every day. All you have to do is open it, embrace it and go for it.”
For more photos from the Mineola High School graduation ceremony, visit facebook.com/mineolaamerican