The Class of 2019 celebrated its graduation from Riverhead High School yesterday as the setting sun cast long shadows on the football field where the commencement exercises took place.
The first class to enter the renovated and expanded high school as freshmen became the first to have an evening graduation ceremony — the first in modern history, anyway. The stands were packed with cheering family, friends and well-wishers who had assembled to witness the milestone event.
Schools Superintendent Dr. Aurelia Henriquez, borrowing from the theme of a poem found on Mother Teresa’s home for children in Calcutta, exhorted the class to do good and give the best of themselves regardless of what others say: forgive, be kind, honest and sincere.
“The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway. Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway,” she told them. “For you see, in the end, it’s between you and your creator, it was never between you and them anyway.”
Student body president Michael Cunningham, class treasurer Dominic Bossey and student body secretary Olivia Bozuhoski shared reflections on their four years at Riverhead High School, before salutatorian Brittney Miller and valedictorian Joshua Caskie gave their addresses.
Brittney quoted the advice of poet Maya Angelou: “We spend precious hours fearing the inevitable. It would be wise to use that time adoring our families, cherishing our friends and living our lives.”
She urged her classmates to heed that advice. “Live in the moment. Put your phone down sometimes and enjoy each fleeting moment,” she said. “Cherish all you get to experience, savor the times you laugh so hard your stomach hurts.”
Joshua, who plans to study engineering in college, spoke about how his sociology class changed the way he looks at the world. He reflected on the “rise of sectionalism” and “political tensions” in the world.
“The age of thoughtful debate seems to eb over,” he said. But the up and coming generation should not just accept how things are, Joshua said.
“It’s up to us to fix it,” he said.
“Consider all sides of every argument. Don’t get swept away by emotional appeals. Look deeper than the surface. Be open minded. Take time to understand,” he said.
“Try not to think of Riverhead as a place you went to but rather a place you stepped forward from.”
NYPD Officer Peter Cybulski, a 2009 Riverhead High School graduate who was recently awarded the department’s medal of valor was invited by acting principal Sean O’Hara to address the class. Cybulski reflected on how his life’s journey led him to police work — something he never imagined doing when he was in high school.
Cybulski said he always wanted to help others and he found his “calling to help and protect” in police work.
“Believe in yourself,” Cybulski told the class. “If you don’t no one else will. If you don’t, giving up will be the easiest thing you ever do,” he said.
“Work hard, have hope and never, absolutely never, give up,” Cybulski said.
Acting principal Sean O’Hara reminded the Class of 2019 that “Blue Waves play through the whistle, leave it all on the court, think outside the box, and we perform and create with passion.”
“I hope you leave here with memories of good times that last a lifetime.”
RiverheadLOCAL photos by Denise Civiletti
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