Story by Kristina Hoti
On Sat., June 29, the distinguished Warwick Valley High School 2019 graduating class accepted their diplomas on the C. Ashley Morgan Field while hundreds of family, friends, and well-wishers looked on. The sun shone as brightly as their futures, as they gathered to say good-bye to their days as students at Warwick Valley High School.
The distinctions of biliteracy, community service hours worked above and beyond the requirement, C-Tech, Leadership Academy, Mu Alpha Theta (Math Honors Society,) National Honor Society, National Technical Honor Society, Regents with Distinction, Science Research, and Senior Project Completion, were noted alongside the achieving students’ names in the program. Nearly half the 345-student graduating class had a minimum of two distinctions beside their name, with as many as 56 students carrying greater than three distinctions.
Attendees sat in the bleachers above the field. Tents were set up on the lawn beside the bleachers with seating for senior citizens. Warwick EMS was on hand, and the Town of Warwick Police Department were ever vigilant throughout the very large crowd of attendees.
Musical selections were performed by the WVHS Band under the direction of Chris Persad as people gathered. “Pomp and Circumstance” played throughout the long march of the WVHS faculty and administration, local dignitaries, and of course the graduates, from the high school down to the field.
Warwick Valley High School Principal, Dr. Larry Washington, led the Pledge of Allegiance, and the Meistersingers under the direction of Noreen Hanson sang the National Anthem.
Dr. Washington gave the welcome address, his last as the principal of WVHS, thanking the students and faculty for a great five years. His advice to the students was in part, “Do your best, and never flinch at failure…be generous in judging others; welcome adversity; control your emotions.”
Salutatorian Hannah Davis spoke next, offering her thoughts on what defines success, and the role that money may or may not make in indicating success. “Wealth,” she said, is the richness of one’s mind. Doing what you love is the pay that you will receive.” Davis graduates with five distinctions: National Honor Society, Science Research, over 100 hours of community service rendered, Mu Alpha Theta, and Regents with Distinction.
Sharon Davis, President of the Board of Education, next spoke of the Warwick Community as one that embraces values such as humility, forgiveness, and collaboration. She said, “We believe that the character we instill in our children is more important than an SAT score or an elite college acceptance.” While students continue to strive for and achieve these accolades, she said, “we are sure not to abandon our values in pursuit of them.”
Erin Flannery gave the Valedictory Address, thanking the entire faculty, administration, and parents. Flannery graduates with six distinctions: National Honor Society, Science Research, over 100 hours of community service rendered, Mu Alpha Theta, Biliteracy, and Regents with Distinction.
Flannery spoke of the necessary change in the world that they all collectively have the power to implement. She said, “if one person solves world hunger, another finds a solution for conservation of water resources, another helps climate change, one works for women’s rights, and another fights for racial equality, we can change the world in a collaborative effort.”
Senior Speaker Harsev Singh spoke to his class of the ways in which they gained confidence and self-esteem, whether from academic achievements, performing onstage, or on the athletic fields.
Dr. David Leach followed Singh with the Superintendent’s Comments, commending the students, faculty, and board of education on their success in maintaining an impressive ranking in New York State, with best high school in the region for 6 out of the last 7 years, being named a NYS Reward School, and in the Top 50% of high schools in NYS.
The final speaker was Ava Ghobadian, Class President. Ghobadian highlighted three specific teachers who impacted her high school career: Eugene Burns, Louis Ogden, and Dorothy Ansley-Smith. She spoke of their continual academic support and willingness to listen.
Graduates and faculty alike were all smiles throughout the awarding of the diplomas. Many of the students chose a specific faculty member from whom they wished to receive their diploma for a special photo-op. Graduates then passed down a very long receiving line of administration, board of education members, Warwick Village Mayor Michael Newhard and Town of Warwick Supervisor Michael P. Sweeton.
In a most traditional and celebratory epilogue, caps were flung high into the air upon the pronouncement of the WVHS graduating class of 2019.