Story by Kathleen Wilson
S.S. Seward Institute hosted a commencement ceremony on Sat., Jun. 23 for the Class of 2018. Following Seward tradition, the Florida Volunteer Fire Department picked up the graduates in the big red fire truck and dropped them off on the Great Lawn for the long-awaited ceremony.
The students then marched to the traditional “Pomp and Circumstance,” played by the S.S. Seward Institute band. As they proceeded through the decorated trellis to take their seats on stage, cheers and applause were heard from a crowd of approximately 700 parents, teachers, friends, siblings, grandparents, and officials as they honored the members of the 2018 graduating class.
The ceremony opened with the Pledge of Allegiance and was followed by “Star Spangled Banner,” sung by the S.S. Seward Select Choir. First among numerous speakers was Class President Orla Brosnan, who thanked the class advisors saying, “No words can describe the impact you’ve had on us.”
Brosnan introduced the Class of 2018 to all in attendance stating, “We may be small, but we’re mighty. We are hustlers whether on the field or in the classroom.”
The Class of 2018 was one of Seward’s smallest with 46 high school seniors. While small in number, they made a huge impact in their school and in their community. Regents Diplomas were earned by 85% of the students and 94% of graduates will be attending universities in the fall, while others will either enter the work force or armed forces. In closing, the Class President eloquently addressed the graduates stating, “Be unstoppable and never forget where you came from.”
Superintendent Jan Jehring rose to the podium welcoming all and opened her commencement speech by reflecting on the year the graduates were born, the beginning of a new millennium.
“We were all worried that our electricity would go out…it was Y2K. We used cell phones, but only to talk,” said Jehring. “So here we are 18 years later. This class is motivated to achieve.”
Seizing the opportunities available to them, more than a third of the class took extra career classes in programming, nursing, auto mechanics, the work place, etc. Approximately half of the graduates are leaving with a semester to a year of college credits and half of them took online classes for credit. Collectively, the students have given more than 1,000 hours working in community service.
The long list of awards and scholarships earned by the students totaled more than 60 and were awarded by organizations such as the Alumni Scholarship Awards, Florida American Legion Post #1250, Golden Hill Retired Teachers’ Scholarship, Memorial Scholarships, Mediacom Entrepreneur of Tomorrow Award, Pine Island Chamber of Commerce, and more.
Principal Michael Rheaume introduced both the Valedictorian and Salutatorian, citing their unique personalities, willingness to help, and desire to succeed, which all contributed to the honors they received. Rheaume proudly awarded the Valedictorian medal to Liam Quattrociocchi and the Salutatorian medal to John Shaughnessy.
These young men delivered moving and thoughtful speeches. They were funny too as they reflected on shared memories with fellow students, teachers, and the like. Shaughnessy reminded everyone that their choices will determine who they become and said, “Choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong.”
The Valedictorian’s commencement speech included, “Liam’s Little Life Lessons.” Lesson #1: Convert knowledge into power and Liam elaborated on the process of learning. Lesson #2: Give your all to what you do and explained that we all need to find the right cause and then give your all to that cause. Lesson #3: Learn from your mistakes!
These young men, together with their classmates represented the best of the best. As a relatively new reporter for the Warwick Valley Dispatch, this was the first S.S. Seward Institute graduation I attended and covered. It was moving, motivating, inspiring, and entertaining too. I can’t help but wonder where this wonder group of young women and men will be in 20 years.
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