Huntington High School’s Class of 2018 received the sendoff into the future that it so richly earned as a crowd of about 2,000 turned out to Blue Devil Stadium last Friday night for the high school’s 157th commencement exercises.
The seniors paraded into Blue Devil Stadium in parallel lines wearing blue and white caps and gowns. As the procession circled the track and made its way to the center of the field where a stage had been erected and chairs in neat rows had been put in place there weren’t many dry eyes in the crowd.
Valedictorian Aidan Forbes gave a heartfelt address to classmates. (Darin Reed photo.)
The early evening ceremony saw 340 seniors awarded diplomas. The commencement featured a series of touching and sometimes humorous addresses by class members and school and district officials. The Class of 2018 claimed more than $12 million in scholarships.
As the ceremony got underway, senior members of the high school’s chamber choir performed a spectacular rendition of Francis Scott Key’s “Star Spangled Banner” under the direction of chorus teacher Victoria Garbarino. Seniors Charlotte Brosoff and Niamh Condon transferred the colors to juniors Dominick Stanley and Ashlyn Case.
The band played Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance No. 1 as the Class of 2018 paraded into the stadium. Senior William Fallon later conducted the high school band in a performance of Huntington’s alma mater. The band performed music from Star Wars as the new alums marched into history at the ceremony’s conclusion.
“While we have to give credit to the community that nurtured us, we also have to recognize that in some ways it shielded us from the outside world,” said valedictorian Aidan Forbes, who is headed to Cornell University in the fall. “It was our shell and if we are to continue to grow, we must shed it. And that process will be painful. We will leave our old friends behind, although hopefully not permanently, and be forced to find new ones. Whether you are going to college or not, we will all be faced with new, more rigorous challenges. We will also have to find new ways to fill our free time with meaning and purpose. And all of this will be difficult.”
The seniors were told that they will always have a home in this community and be welcome at this high school and to take comfort in both as they begin their march out into the world at large.
Salutatorian Sebastian Stamatatos used his address to inject some humor into the proceedings, telling several short stories and doling out advice. The scholar plans to study business at Villanova University, but at the commencement he had his classmates laughing.
“You will forever be a Huntington Blue Devil”
Huntington School Board President Thomas DiGiacomo was among those presenting diplomas. (Darin Reed photo.)
Huntington School Board President Thomas DiGiacomo, a member of the Class of 1979, recounted some of the highlights of the Class of 2018’s long trek through the district.
“Because of these experiences and so many others, both in and out of the classroom you have become the ‘who’ that you are today,” Mr. DiGiacomo said. “You’ve come a long way since your first day of kindergarten; over 13 years, which happens to be a total of 2,340 school days. So as each of you leaves here today, I wish you only the best that life has to offer. There will be more challenges to come and new friendships to make. You will continue to discover and rediscover the ‘who’ that you are. But today, even as you leave, take the memories and experiences of Huntington High School with you and know you will forever be a Huntington Blue Devil.”
The huge crowd was filled with Huntington alumni and speaker after speaker told the seniors that being a graduate of what is believed to be the oldest free public high school in the state is something to take pride in.
“Happiness is the byproduct of a meaningful life.”
Principal Brenden Cusack congratulated senior Sarah Agrillo on the stage. (Darin Reed photo.)
Principal Brenden Cusack gave an especially powerful address. “On an emotion-filled day like graduation day, it is natural for lots of questions to present themselves to you,” he said. “Questions like, ‘what is most important to me?’ ‘What will I be doing years from now?’ and ‘How am I going to live a happy life?’ may be at the forefront of your mind. These questions can be overwhelming and scary, and they are, in fact, completely natural. Over the next few weeks, months and even years, many people will tell you to do what makes you happy. ‘Just do what makes you happy and everything else will fall into place;’ ‘Choose a job that makes you happy and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.’ I’d actually like to challenge that idea. The goal of life is not to just be happy. The point of all of this is not to simply do things that make you happy. If your goal is just to be happy, you may have a hard time figuring out what that actually means, and you may be missing the bigger picture.”
“Happiness is not the goal,” Mr. Cusack told the seniors. “Happiness is the byproduct of a meaningful life. If you are able to decide, over the next few years, what is truly important to you and to the world around you, and you put all of your focus, attention, drive and effort into that one thing, the end result will ultimately be your own happiness. There will be challenges and obstacles as you begin to develop an understanding of what is meaningful to you, but once you do, all of those other swirling questions and ideas will come into focus. You will find order in what might sometimes feel like chaos, and your happiness will unfold for you throughout the years.”
The new graduates are destined for a long list of Ivy League and top-tier colleges and universities. They have excelled in every academic discipline as well as the fine and performing arts, mock trial and robotics competitions and athletics, winning a variety of awards and honors.
“Huntington will forever be your home”
Superintendent James Polansky imparted some words of wisdom to Huntington's Class of 2018.
“The beauty of commencement centers on the fact that you have a blank slate in front of you,” Huntington Superintendent James W. Polansky told the seniors. “The past, however, is the material that makes up the slate itself. Your parents, siblings, family members, friends, teachers, administrators, neighbors and others have contributed elements to this material. This material will surely impact the pathways you choose and the decisions you make. You will continue to mold a life for yourself based on these choices and decisions. Realize right now, if you haven’t already, that not every choice is going to be perfect. It is important that you learn from less productive decisions; that you grow as a result of missteps."
Mr. Polansky has been a constant presence in the school life of each of the seniors, attending every conceivable event and visiting the building and classrooms virtually on a daily basis.
“There are plenty of cliché stories about currently successful individuals who began their adult lives penniless, making failed attempts at one thing or another,” Mr. Polansky exclaimed in his commencement address. “What these individuals have in common is their conviction and resolve; qualities among others that I wish for you to continue developing. I ask that you continue to stand as proud and as tall as you do tonight. Work hard, do great things in life and don’t take anything for granted. And remember, always remember, that this place we call Huntington will forever be your home.”