Written by Mary Marks Friday, 10 July 2009 00:00The skies finally cleared of dark rain clouds, so persistent in the month of June, to let the sunshine in for the 291 members of the Jericho High School Class of 2009 and their families and friends who gathered together in celebration of the 49th annual Commencement on Sunday, June 28. Students, in a sea of blue and gold, entered the auditorium at the Tilles Center to sounds of Pomp and Circumstance promptly at 9 a.m. After Senior Class Vice President Stacy Stern recited the Pledge and the graduation band played the national anthem, student council co-presidents Jennifer Bell and Jaycee Gruszecki welcomed family and friends to the day’s festivities.
This year Jericho High School graduates listened to the collective wisdom and thoughts of valedictorian Joshua Kornberg as well as salutatorian Adam Weser. They reflected on the past, looked to the future, thanked families, staff and friends, dared classmates to follow their dreams, remember where they came from and stay true to themselves. “We all have secret ambitions …… ambitions we fear we’ll eventually have to abandon for what’s expected of us,” stated Joshua. “I hope that we don’t. I hope that we have the courage to open those doors on the periphery- the doors that lead to what we really want, even if we’re not sure now what exactly that is.” “I think I speak for all of us when I say that life is too short,” shared Adam. “Do what makes you happy and do what makes you proud. It doesn’t matter what the rest of the world thinks because every night before your head hits the pillow, you have to relive the memories and experiences you’ve had in your life. Stay true to yourselves, and never forget that everything we’ve done these past four years will stay with us for the rest of our lives, and every bond we’ve formed, every emotion we’ve felt, and every memory we have make up the individuals we are today.”
Jericho School Board President Barbara Krieger reflected on her roots as a linguistics major while she considered her graduation address. “Today we’ll be hearing a lot of people wish each other good luck. Good luck as you leave school for the real world, good luck as you begin your new job, good luck as you enter college. But is luck really what we wish for our students?” pondered Mrs. Krieger. “When I spent my junior year in France, I had studied French for a number of years and was able to translate the words good and luck, so I wished people bonne chance, or good luck, whenever I thought it was appropriate. But over time, I realized that the French are more likely to wish someone bon courage, which translates as good courage.” “And I think that’s what I’d really like to wish you: good courage as you go out into the world and take on the next set of challenges, “ she continued. “You’ve already proven you’re smart. You’ve succeeded at one of the top high schools in America. Personnel and admissions offices across America – and in some cases even outside this country – have already determined that you have what it takes to succeed in their domain. But I wish you the courage to surprise us. Those of us remaining here in Jericho look forward to hearing from you when you come back to tell us what you’ve accomplished.”
Jericho Superintendent of Schools Hank Grishman shared the story of Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortensen. “The subtitle, ‘One man’s mission to promote peace, one school at a time’ had caught my eye,” said Grishman. “Mortensen’s story is a riveting adventure as well as a testament to the power of the humanitarian spirit.”
“We can all take something from Mortensen’s experiences,” he continued. “I might argue that many of our students and staff have already built relationships while demonstrating humility and respect for others in school projects to support: AHRC, Island Harvest, Project Care, Hewlett House, LI Housing Partnership, Habitat for Humanity, rehabilitating a high school in the Bronx, LI Crisis Center, Make a Wish, Rock CAN Roll, PAWS, American Cancer, Autism, and Special Olympics, to mention only a few. Let us all keep in mind - everyone has an inherent talent to share, it only grows and strengthens by giving. I am sure that you will continue to be involved in humanitarian causes much like those that you have participated in during your years in our school community. As Mortensen said, ‘Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and get out of your comfort zone.’”
Jericho High School Principal Joseph Prisinzano compared graduates to the new iPhone, which is a minicomputer to which you can add practically infinite functionality through tiny applications otherwise known as apps. “So my challenge to you… Class of 2009… is to follow these four pieces of advice: Be relevant, be indispensable, be the best, and always be open to upgrading yourself, ”said Mr. P. “Then, you will know that you, a newly minted, beta tested, real life app, will be downloaded for your knowledge, passion, and value until the end of time. Congratulations, we could not be more proud of you and can’t wait to see you in version 2.0.”
Then, amid a sea of flashing cameras, each of the 291 Jericho High School seniors received diplomas from Mrs. Krieger, Mr. Grishman, and Mr. Prisinzano. A special “graduation diploma” was presented to Cathy Deans, a longtime and much loved health and physical education teacher. After leaving the stage of the auditorium to the “Grand March,” smiling graduates and families poured outside onto the grounds of the Tilles Center. Cheers, kisses, hugs, handshakes, and even a few tears, completed this memorable occasion for the Jericho High School Class of 2009.