The futures of the 19 members of Shelter Island’s Class of 2019 are bright, but the weather forecast was iffy for the Saturday afternoon graduation ceremonies.
Forecasts for heavy thunderstorms and dangerous lightning around 3 p.m. didn’t materialize until much later, but the better-safe-than-sorry decision was to move the joyous event into the gym, rather than outside on school grounds.
Extreme heat and humidity made it the right choice, even if the storms didn’t arrive until very late that afternoon.
Outgoing Superintendent Christine Finn, a bit battered from a fall on Tuesday that left her cheek black and blue, told the crowd she had been covering it up with sunglasses all week, but decided not to conceal the reality on Saturday.
It was a lead-in to her theme of understanding you cannot always control what happens, but you can accept things you cannot change.
“Be yourself. Be honest. Time really does heal all wounds,” she told the members of the senior class.
Returning to the accident in which she had slipped on stairs earlier in the week just before the school’s unveiling of its valedictorian and salutatorian plaques on the Academic Wall of Fame, she spoke about those who rapidly came to her aid — School Nurse Mary Kanarvogel with ice to control swelling, along with administrators, teachers, staff members, Board of Education members, students and families — she said every stakeholder group was represented in helping her.
“There’s something special about having a Shelter Island friend,” Ms. Finn said, advising the class to keep their Island friendships alive.
She had individual messages for each graduating senior. Her parting words were to “always remember to use the bannister and grab onto” friends from school and those in the wider community.
She also praised groups and individuals in the community for their contributions during her tenure in the district and promised she would be back to visit the Island frequently as she moves on to become superintendent in Carle Place.
There was applause when Ms. Finn mentioned former teacher Brian Doelger will be taking her place as superintendent as of August 1.
Another departing member of the school community, outgoing Board of Education President Thomas Graffagnino, told the seniors that the day was all about each of them, since each would decide their own direction. He challenged them to give the world their best.
“Life is full of misfortunes,” Mr. Graffagnino said, adding, “Forgive and forget.”
Valedictorian Mia Clark and Salutatorian David Neese were brief in their remarks to their fellow students.
Ms. Clark spoke about her sense of being overwhelmed at the responsibility of her speech, but emphasized the importance of making friends among her classmates and wishing them well in the future.
From Mr. Neese came advice that there’s no wrong path to take after high school, but to remember that to get anything done, someone has to take charge.
Racing out after the ceremony, the seniors joyously tossed their hats into the air before departing for post-graduation celebrations.
A list of scholarship awards presented either during the graduation Saturday or on the previous Wednesday will appear in an upcoming issue of the Reporter.