Congratulations to the Class of 2016!

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Amid a brilliant sea of red and white caps and gowns, the high school Class of 2016 graduated before their proud families, friends, board of education, administrators and faculty members in attendance to applaud their remarkable milestone.

The beautiful graduation ceremony, held at Hofstra University, opened with a rendition of the national anthem by the high school’s select chorale, directed by Monique Retzlaff. Prior to the announcement of each graduate’s name, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Kishore Kuncham and high school Principal Linda Carter offered words of advice and encouragement to all of the students.

“There are two pieces of advice I would like to give you,” Dr. Kuncham said. “One is to seize the opportunity; the other is to energize your commitment. There’s an old saying: ‘when opportunity knocks, you still have to get up off your seat to open the door.’ So take advantage of what this wonderful world has to offer you. Take advantage of your future, whether you’re going to a four-year school, a two-year school, a trade school or the military. Always continue sharpening your skills, work hard up to your peak performance, and I promise opportunity will be waiting at the door.”

Carter, who quoted late boxer Muhammad Ali in saying, “he who is not courageous enough to take risks, will accomplish nothing in life,” spoke about seven life lessons to the graduates.

“I would like to leave you with seven basic principles in life, that I have given to former graduates, that may serve you well someday,” she said. “Be passionate, be present, be positive, be polite, be punctual, be patient, and pay it forward. Have confidence, always believe in yourself, and have the courage to take a chance on yourself.”

Senior class President Avery Taylor said, “I can only imagine the mixed feelings we all have here today; the excitement of being out of high school, and the realization that we are in the adult world. I am scared, but I realize while walking across the stage today that I have a clear vision of what is ahead of me. I hope you do too.”

Class salutatorian Claire Goremusandu then addressed her peers, and spoke about the joy and beauty of all they will learn and experience in their futures.

“Today is the first day of the rest of our lives,” Goremusandu said. “For the past four years, Freeport High School has been our home. We have struggled together, but we have also achieved greatness together. To quote F. Scott Fitzgerald, ‘I hope you make the best of [your future]. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.’”

Valedictorian Christopher Meszaros Rodriguez’s speech was delivered by Joanna Caravantes, who was third in the Class of 2016. In his address, Rodriguez discussed the advantages of maintaining an analytical eye, and the importance of listening to others. His speech contained life lessons he learned from his grandma, and he expressed gratitude for all that his peers, teachers and family have offered.

“I thank you for your patience, your humor and for making some long days a little easier,” Rodriguez wrote in his speech. “To all the teachers who have guided me along the way, I will never forget you, and I will always be grateful. Let’s try, and let’s [all] be the best that we can be.” Rodriguez received a standing ovation for his stellar achievements and uplifting words to the graduating class.

One by one, students’ names were then announced, and each walked upon the stage in a moment they had waited for throughout high school. They were handed their diplomas by Board of Education President Michael Pomerico, and their successful completion of the past four years was celebrated with cheers and applause.

High school 12th-grade Assistant Principal Gisselle Campbell-Ham then closed the ceremony with a motivational speech to all of her beloved students.

“You are the author of your own life story,” she said. “You have free will to decide which road to take, and the choices you make today will affect your future. As you leave Freeport High School, I challenge you to take action. Every thing you have accomplished was a result of taking action. You can either be a passive victim of your circumstances, or you can be an active hero of your own life. Class of 2016, I charge you to take action. I hope your dreams take you to the point of the most special places your heart has ever known.”

Following the synchronized turning of their tassels from right to left, the members of the Class of 2016 then tossed their caps high into the air prior to joining their loved ones in a celebration of their success.