“This is our Super Bowl Sunday and we’ve won,” Shelter Island Board of Education President Thomas Graffagnino told seniors at Saturday’s graduation ceremony, describing how he and his colleagues have watched the 16 students through the years meet challenges set before them.
“We’re here for you today and we’ll always be here,” he said.
The day may have started with heavy rain, but by 2 p.m., the sun was shining brightly as parents, siblings, grandparents and other relatives and friends gathered under a tent on the school’s campus.
Among the thoughts the graduates will carry with them were those expressed by their valedictorian, Olivia Yeaman, and salutatorian, Will Garrison.
“Life is beautiful when you don’t have the stress of coming first,” Ms. Yeaman said. As the class member whose name always came at the end of the alphabet, she had plenty of experience waiting her turn, but where it counted, she came in first as class valedictorian.
In embarking on new challenges, she described opportunities to “present yourself to the world in a new way,” in a “wonderfully uncertain future.”
Ms. Yeaman addressed each of her classmates individually, telling them how much they’ve meant to her and what is special about each one.
Salutatorian Will Garrison described graduation day as “surreal.” Speaking about future challenges, he said, “Bring it on.” While describing the world outside of Shelter Island as sometimes “cold and unforgiving,” he said whatever the past has held, “It is now that we will determine what we will be in life.”
That he is class salutatorian doesn’t guarantee future achievements, he said. What matters is what’s inside, he said. The only limits anyone in the class of 2017 will have are self doubts, Mr. Garrison said. “I will shake off the negativity,” he said.
Superintendent Leonard Skuggevik said, “This entire community believes in you and supports you and encouraged the graduates to be positive and take pride in what they do.
Mr. Skuggevik singled out Domily Gil, the one class member going on to military service. She will join the United State Army in August. “She has my eternal gratitude and prayers,” Mr. Skuggevik said.
The superintendent noted that the seniors have given tirelessly to others in need and he encouraged them to continue along that path and not to compromise their values.
The 16 graduates took home 84 scholarship awards from Island businesses and organizations and from state and federal sources. Some were presented on Friday morning and the balance on Saturday during the graduation ceremony. (For a complete list of the award winners, see a separate post on this site.)
Some speakers recalled fond memories and offered heartfelt remarks.
Teacher Jim Theinert presented the Joseph J. Theinert Memorial Awards in honor of his brother, 1st Lieutenant Joseph J. Theinert, who was killed in action in Afghanistan in June 2010.
June is a tough month for his family, Mr. Theinert said. “But every year, we get stronger,” he added. The awards went to three students who best embody the qualities of his brother, he said, noting this was the first class that wasn’t in school when Joe graduated 13 years ago. The Theinert awards went to Melissa Frasco, Domily Gil and Thomas Lenzer.
Former Board of Education president Rebecca Mundy presented an award from the Shelter Island 10K Community Fund, noting that 33 years ago, she had been the recipient of the same scholarship. This year’s recipient, Julia Labrozzi, is a role model Ms. Mundy said she would like for her children and grandchildren.
John and Penny Kerr presented Ms. Labrozzi with a scholarship in memory of Ms. Kerr’s mother, Elizabeth Yvonne Clark, who taught elementary classes at Shelter Island School for 35 years. Her voice breaking, Ms. Kerr said the award was going to a student who is pursuing a career in education and has worked hard to achieve her goals.
That Ms. Labrozzi is bound for SUNY Geneseo was particularly significant, Ms. Kerr said, since her mother graduated from the same school.
“Let the world change you and you can change the world,” National Honor Society adviser Janine Mahoney told the graduates as she presented NHS scholarships to Sydney Clark, Nicolette Frasco, Ms. Labrozzi, Sophia Strauss, Ms. Yeaman and Mr. Garrison.
Following the traditional turning of the tassels, led by Ms. Labrozzi, who has been class president, the seniors made their way out of the tent to the playing of “Pomp & Circumstance” by the school band. They proceeded onto the lawn to toss their caps into the air and then scrambled to retrieve them, challenged by the difficulty for some of determining whose was whose.
The graduates of the Class of 2017 are: Zoey Bolton, Sydney Clark, Christopher Corbett, Melissa Frasco, Nicolette Frasco, William Garrison, Domily Gil, Raymond Karen, Julia Labrozzi, Elizabeth Larsen, Amira Lawrence, Thomas Lenzer, Sophia Strauss, Evan Thilberg, Genesis Urbaez and Olivia Yeaman.