After Class President Katelyn Marcus led the salute to the flag and the national anthem was sung, students Allison Carr, Samuel Goldsmith, Anne McLean, Julia Myers and Francesca Primeggia sang “Time to Say Goodbye,” made famous by Sarah Brightman and Andrea Bocelli.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Edward Fuhrman took the podium to speak about lifelong learners and their contribution to society. “Leadership is less about self-interest and more about serving others,” he said. “Utilize your moral compass and make a commitment to a shared mission.”As a Rotarian, Dr. Fuhrman discussed service above self, or servant leadership, which incorporates truth, fairness to all concerned, the building of goodwill, and decisions that are beneficial to all. “Seek extraordinary accomplishment, focus on what’s in your heads and in your hearts, and take a stand on a situation if it hurts others,” he encouraged the graduates. “Don’t sit on the sidelines of life."
Student Emma Ilioiu-Brad followed with an original song on guitar that reflected on the graduates’ past experiences together. “Being young is the best thing you can ever be,” she sang.
In her address to her peers, salutatorian Brianna Herron opened with a quote from Booker T. Washington: “Nothing ever comes to one that is worth having, except as a result of hard work.” She added, “It takes focus, determination, motivation and passion…[and] we are discovering who we are. You must make your own choices and make your own dreams. Be open to ideas, but don’t lose your dreams. Accept challenges and bring passion to what you do. We will take what we’ve learned along the way and be the best people we can be.”
Teacher Daniel Delaney spoke about the extremely popular Croton-Harmon Options and Opportunities for a Senior Experience (CHOOSE) program, in which 140 students were involved and participated in internships and career-related experiences. He thanked the students and parents, as well as the faculty for their assistance.
“Students were able to see the big picture,” Mr. Delaney said of the program. “They viewed things with a new lens and raised many important questions…It was a fascinating journey from April (when the program began) until tonight.”
Mr. Delaney distributed CHOOSE awards to Class of 2014 members Paul Banta, Mariel Cariker, Will Gmoser, Sophia Martin, Aleksei Pavloff and Ellen Wikler.
In her valedictory address, an enthusiastic Marie Syku said, “This is the best graduating class in Croton-Harmon High School history!” She continued, “We are bound to make mistakes, but we shouldn’t let that eclipse our passion. We possess the intelligence and ability to do great things. Our success will be measured by how we live our lives.” Marie also urged her peers to never stop dreaming. “Dreams and passions will guide us through this wonderful journey,” she said.
Before presenting the graduates, Principal Alan Capasso described them as intelligent, musical, artistic, athletic and more. “This is a milestone,” he told the students. “You’re leaving the community school system where you know everyone and everyone knows you. This is a place where you are anchored. You will be attending 87 different colleges in 28 different states. As you travel, know that we believe in you.”
Mr. Capasso also shared that over the students’ 13 years in the district, the community had invested a quarter million dollars per student. He humorously quipped, “As a parent of two, I can say with a smile, ‘Don’t screw up!’
“Stretch yourself, take risks, accept the times you fail and ask yourself, ‘What can I learn from this?’” he continued. He recalled the supposed failures and mistakes of others and the ways in which those mistakes ended up being blessings. “Speak out when you need to and do things that please you. As James Taylor says in ‘Secret o’ Life,’ ‘The secret of life is enjoying the passing of time.’ I feel fortunate to say that I have. Commencement means a beginning, not an ending. I have enjoyed serving as principal these past five years. We have great teachers, a supportive community and great students. I know you will continue to make us proud.”
Diplomas were individually distributed by Board of Education President Andrea Furey, assisted by class officers Lileesha Boyd, Diana DeFilippis, Alexandra Dorn and Katelyn Marcus. The ceremony closed with Handel’s “Music for the Royal Fireworks,” followed by a PTSA-sponsored reception.