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89th Graduation Ceremony at Manhasset High School

As the graduation ceremony for the class of 2009 began on Friday, June 26, the air became humid and clouds began to set in, but the students’ feelings created a stark contrast as they were excited and eager. The students, like many others, had been waiting for this moment to arrive as it demonstrated the result of their efforts throughout high school. As they proceeded out of the wooden front doors of the high school, to the music played by the Wind Ensemble under the direction of Mr. Randy Knudsen, one could easily see the enthusiasm in each student’s quick steps.

Principal Dr. Dean Schlanger opened the graduation ceremony by welcoming those in attendance to the school’s 89th commencement. Due to the threat of rain during the ceremony, however, he announced that the speeches made by adults had been cut out of the program in the interest of time. The president of the class of 2009, Robert Maisano, next addressed the audience as well as his peers, emphasizing the legacy that the students had left at the school. “Over the last four years here, everyone of this class had made a mark in this school. Whether it was the boys cross country team in 2005 named the Nassau County champions or this year’s lacrosse state champs. They certainly left their heart. A single word cannot describe this class, but if one would have to be selected, it would be competitive. This class began forming its legacy the first day of ninth grade and never stopped.”

Following Robert Maisano’s speech, Stacy Anagnostopoulos, Joseph Eletto, Kelly Klein, David Knowles, and Alida Torres performed The Italian in Algiers by Rossini accompanied by Mr. Mark van Schenkhof. Salutatorian Michelle Luong spoke next, comparing the graduating class to an orchestra. “When our grade entered middle school for the first time six years ago, we were bombarded with many new faces and names to learn. We were an unrehearsed orchestra. Not quite certain of our surroundings or how our music would sound but we came together. Personalities may have clashed as we worked with our peers, but as soon as the concert master signaled for the orchestra to come together, we all strove for the same pitch and discovered one thing, that our grade as a whole had successfully come together in perfect symphony.”

Due to strong gusts of wind, (one of which blew down the signs behind the graduating class), as well as rain, thunder, and lightning, the graduation was brought indoors to the gym, where the commencement continued. This year, five members were inducted into the Silver M Society, which celebrates the ways in which the students have contributed to the high school through various leadership roles. Silver M President, Mr. Richard Bennett, presented the awards to Devon Lawrence, Lauren Nevitt, Joseph Sullivan, Suzanna Fishman, and Hayley Buch.

As the ceremony continued, it became more and more evident that the class had become close over the years. They recounted experiences of the past and what they had learned from them. This was also true of Valedictorian Audrey Chang’s speech, as she spoke of the experiences that had brought their grade closer, such as essays for various classes and the skills she and others had learned to develop as a result. More than anything, she spoke to her peers about the importance of carpe diem (“seize the day”). She advised her peers to take what they had learned in Manhasset and apply it to their future as they seized the moment. Following Audrey Chang’s speech was a performance by Mr. Robert DiRe, Michael Geoghegan, Kelly Klein, John Paul Rinfret, Frank Spigner, Richard Tortora, and Sam Weinberg of Ants Marching by Dave Matthews.

Next, the class thanked Manhasset High, by giving back in the form of their class gift. Class Vice President John Maisano presented the school with a food stand near the football field in which food could be served to those in attendance at future games.

Following the presentation of the class gift, the class song, No Such Thing, by John Mayer, was performed by some of the graduates. This song had been voted on earlier in the year, and is yet another example of how the class had come together in deciding which song they believed best spoke of their experience.

Principal Dr. Dean Schlanger spoke to the graduates, followed by the distribution of the diplomas by school board members Cindy Cardinal, Patricia Aitken, Larry Belinsky, Aline Khatchadourian, and Carlo Prinzo. Honorary diplomas were presented by the class officers, Robert Maisano, John Maisano, Stacy Anagnostopoulos, Bradley Cappellini, and Matthew Savage to the teachers who retired this year. The honorary diplomas were to thank them for their years dedicated to teaching the students and for all that they had done for both the students as well as the school as a whole.

After the presentation of the honorary diplomas, the graduates turned their tassels from right to left, signifying that they were now Manhasset High School Alumni. The ceremony ended with the singing of the Alma Mater.

It is clear that the class will surely be missed and that their legacy will continue to inspire others. As they look toward the future, they are wished nothing but the best.