Huntington's Class of 2022 tosses its caps high into the air. (Craig Haas photo)

Huntington High School’s Class of 2022 Graduates

Huntington's Class of 2022 tosses its caps high into the air. (Craig Haas photo)

June 27 , 2022

Huntington High School’s Class of 2022 received the accolades and sendoff that it so richly deserved as a standing room only crowd of more than 2,000 turned out at Blue Devil Stadium for the high school’s 161st commencement exercises last Friday night.

The seniors marched into Blue Devil Stadium in parallel lines wearing blue caps and gowns. As the procession circled the track to cheers and made its way to the center of the field where a stage had been erected and chairs arranged in neat rows had been put in place there weren’t many dry eyes in the crowd.

 Superintendent James W. Polansky addressed the crowd. (Craig Haas photo.)
Superintendent James W. Polansky addressed the crowd. (Craig Haas photo.)

The early evening ceremony saw 355 seniors awarded diplomas. The commencement featured a series of heartfelt addresses by class members and school and district officials. The Class of 2022 claimed millions of dollars in awards and scholarships.

As the ceremony got underway, senior members of the high school’s chamber choir performed a beautiful rendition of Francis Scott Key’s “Star Spangled Banner.”

The huge crowd completely filled every square inch of the massive grandstand and spilled out along the north and south sides of the structure, stretching around the fencing, with people sometimes standing three or four deep. The visiting side bleachers were also occupied. It was the largest turnout in many years.

It was a day for every Huntington graduate to feel the pride that comes with being an alum of what is believed to be the oldest free public high school in the state.

Seniors Quincy Chery (University at Albany) and Naysa Escobar (New York University) served as masters of ceremony. The duo led the huge crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance before the chamber choir sang the national anthem.

Class of 2022 President Theadora Carnesi, who is headed to the US Military Academy at West Point addressed her classmates with an upbeat message and told the seniors how proud she has been to serve as their elected leader.

Class Vice President Ashley Genao, who will be attending St. John’s University, followed and announced the Class of 2022 would be gifting all the remaining monies in its coffers to the Class of 2023 to help underwrite its prom next June.

Several speakers followed with celebratory messages that encouraged the seniors to push onward and upward, pursuing their goals with vim and vigor and showing kindness and compassion to everyone they encounter along the way.

“As you take your next steps, I implore you to heed the advice of Albert Einstein: ‘Stay away from negative people, they have a problem for every solution,’” Superintendent James W. Polansky told the seniors. “During your years in Huntington, I hope that you have much more routinely experienced a positive vibe and that you feel you’ve been genuinely challenged to grow as students and as human beings. Your progress and successes speak for themselves. And despite how you may feel at times or how others may make it seem, it is far from abnormal or uncommon for anyone to fall short, to lose or to feel pain at times. You will not always get what you want when you want it. That’s part of life; the shortcomings and losses provide opportunities for growth and for you to work harder and/or differently.”

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 on a daily basis.

“During your time in Huntington, I hope you’ve recognized the importance of your voices, that you’ve felt respected as learners and as people, that it’s okay to agree to disagree and that, above all else, respect, understanding, empathy and kindness are critical elements of any conversation,” Mr. Polansky said. I’ll leave you with words from American fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger: ‘We are in the new age where change is the only constant. I encourage you to embrace it, to be inspired to push the boundaries, innovate and find your own unique ways to set the norms.’

“In that light, live life your way and make it count. Continue to do unto others. Rejoice in what you have done together as part of this school community during your formative years. Take pride in what you did here and the legacies you leave, and make them the foundation on which you build further. Understand that you have so much to give and know that the memories and spirit of those who are unable to be here with us today, Victoria Gaines, Eileen Hernandez and David Fuentes, will live on through you. It may sound cliché, but Class of 2022 members, this is not a goodbye. You will all carry a piece of Huntington and each other with you wherever you go next. It has been my honor and privilege to play even a small part in the beginnings of your journeys.”

The new graduates are destined for dozens 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, Virtual Enterprise business and robotics competitions and athletics while winning a variety of awards and honors.

“Over the course of my 10 years so far here at Huntington High School, I’ve been blessed to witness over 3,000 students walk across the stage to get their diplomas,” Principal Brenden Cusack told the crowd. “And it never gets old. It never gets less emotional or meaningful. This ceremony and every handshake, or fist bump or elbow-tap… every single one represents a great deal of work and perseverance to get to this moment. It really is a special day. Just don’t miss the opportunity to really appreciate each moment of the journey between now and your next achievement. The very wise words of Michael Gilmor sum it up perfectly, ‘Don’t be so focused on the end result that you miss the miracles along the way…’ Class of 2022, may you be truly blessed as you go forward. Never forget where you came from, remember that we will always, always love you and know that you will forever and always be Blue Devils.”

The dais was filled with Messrs. Cusack and Polansky, Assistant Principals Gamal Smith and Jully Williams, Assistant Superintendents Kathleen Acker and Beth McCoy and Human Resources Administrator Christopher Hender along with all seven members of the Huntington School Board and the Class of 2022’s leading members.

“Living in the now, appreciating the little things, that is what eventually shapes your character and your mindset,” said valedictorian Erin Ye, who will be attending Stanford University. “It’s hard to know that the future is out of your control, but the present is entirely yours, so take advantage of that, and soak it all in. If we could see our entire lives from start to finish, I think most of us would be shocked. You could be a completely different person ten years from now than what you’re expecting at this moment, and that’s a wonderful thing to think about. You’re going to change and grow in ways that you could never imagine, and the best advice I can give is to embrace that journey every step of the way. But today, right now, we’re graduating high school, so let’s just focus on that.”

The 355 seniors sat attentively in their neatly arranged chairs throughout the ceremony. Many personalized the top of their caps with messages touching on the future and offering up thanks to special people in their lives.

“I feel really lucky to have been born around the same time and to have ended up in the same place, at Huntington, with all of you,” Ms. Ye told her classmates. “Among this class are the funniest, kindest, brightest, weirdest, most beautiful people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. Every single one of you is capable of greatness, and I encourage you to strive for happiness, whatever that means to you. Attack life with voracity, which I now know how to spell. Take risks. Be brave. Be kind.”

The ceremony was livestreamed for those unable to attend. Chairs were arranged on the track along the facade of the bleachers for those who needed to sit in the shade and who were unable to climb into the grandstand.

“Senior year was a time of hard work and celebration,” said Duke University bound salutatorian Luke Rinaldi. “It was the culmination of the past 12 years of our education. For that level of dedication alone, we should all be proud of ourselves. It’s been my pleasure to see all of you grow and flourish within the Huntington School District, and I know that we are all destined for great things. As Huntington students, and now as Huntington alumni, I am confident that we will always have this place, as well as each other. No matter where our paths may take us, we will have Huntington linking us together. Our futures are bright. We have a lot to look forward to. But for now, it’s enough to sit here in our caps and gowns, with bright orange stickers on our windshields and surrounded by our classmates. I will miss all of you.”

The graduates and their families celebrated on the grass athletic field and posed for an endless array of photos. Huntington’s newest alums didn’t seem to want to leave, realizing it was the last time the Class of 2022 will ever be together in one place.

Blue Devil Stadium was packed for the 161st commencement. (Darin Reed photo.)
Blue Devil Stadium was packed for the 161st commencement. (Darin Reed photo.)
Jillian LoTurco will be attending the University of Virginia. (Craig Haas photo.)
Jillian LoTurco will be attending the University of Virginia. (Craig Haas photo.)
Valectorian Erin Ye is headed to Stanford University. (Darin Reed photo)
Valectorian Erin Ye is headed to Stanford University. (Darin Reed photo)