Rain and dampness pushed the Shelter Island graduation inside the gymnasium Saturday.
Keeping with a watery motif of the day, the tears of several graduates moved families, friends and school staff members to standing ovations for both the class valedictorian and salutatorian.
Perhaps more than at previous recent graduations, these students were more personal in their messages, as was Superintendent Christine Finn, who offered individual tributes to each graduate, noting this group will always be special to her because it is her first graduating class.
She borrowed from the theme of using a short description summing up the essence of each student.
To Valedictorian Sarah Lewis, she said: “The next Cindy Belt and beyond,” in tribute of Ms. Lewis’ love of nature and science and comparing it to Ms. Belt, who is Mashomack Preserve’s education director, and Ms. Lewis’ volleyball coach.
To Salutatorian Lindsey Gallagher, she said: “Can’t wait to read your writing.” Ms. Gallagher may be known to many Islanders for her skills as cross country runner, but her writing accomplishments played a major role in her studies on Shelter Island.
There were similar messages to each student along with six words for the school staff, to Board of Education Clerk Jackie Dunning and the rest of the board.
Ms. Finn offered five pieces of advice to her first graduating class:
• Live in the moment.
• Remember that peace begins with you.
• Remember that kindness begins with you.
• Be grateful for all you have.
• When you’re upset, ask yourself if this will matter in 10 years. If not, “Let it go.” But if so, do something about it now.
“I’ve grown up with you guys,” Ms. Lewis said. She praised Ms. Gallagher, who she said had pushed her throughout the years as the two competed for the top academic spot. With the two students so closely aligned she said, it was a toss-up on who would be valedictorian.
Calling her fellow graduates her sisters and brothers, she reminded them that intelligence is not black and white and reveals itself in many different ways.
Ms. Gallagher’s tears brought tears to many of her fellow graduates. She promised: “We will never forget the special moments we spent together.”
People don’t remember years, but they remember moments, the many “crazy moments,” she said and noted that for 13 years, most of the class of 2018 has been together.
Ms. Gallagher thanked teachers, coaches and the Shelter Island community “for being so unique” and supportive.
Board of Education President Thomas Graffagnino spoke about “change.” Ask a dozen people how they view change and you’ll get a dozen answers, he said. Some embrace it while others hate it.
“But change is inevitable,” he told the graduates. “Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change,” he added, referring to Mahatma Gandhi’s quote: “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”
Following the presentation of diplomas to each class member, senior Francesca Frasco led her fellow graduates in the ritual of turning the tassels of their hats, signifying the transition for student to graduate.
Having laughed, cried and been solemn during the graduation ceremony, the class appeared relieved and lighthearted as they marched back up the aisle and headed outdoors for the traditional tossing of their hats.
A complete list of awards to seniors will appear in the July 5 Reporter.