Confirming a deep sense of community and shared optimism in the face of adversity, while maintaining appropriate safety precautions in the midst of a pandemic, the high school held its Class of 2020 commencement on July 30 and 31, spread out over six separate sessions.
During each celebration, after each group of seniors and their families had filed in to the stadium, a Student Senate officer led the salute to the flag and National School Choral Award winner Kathryn Paidoussis led the singing of the national anthem.
“Throughout this pandemic, I couldn’t have been prouder of the Class of 2020 and marveled at the leadership roles our students took on and the maturity you displayed,” said the school’s principal, Dr. Anthony Bridgeman, in his opening address. “You didn’t sit by and watch history happen. You were an active part of this history.”
“Graduates, I know this has been a challenging year for you but because of your determination and resilience, the story of today, and your senior year, is not a sad one,” said Board of Education President Steve Gellar. “While I want you to know that we are all deeply sorry that this year has been plagued by disappointment and uncertainty, we rejoice because you have overcome the challenges, and we are here together celebrating your graduation.”
Superintendent Bernadette Burns told the seniors, “You entered school 13 years ago seeking the three ‘Rs’ – reading, writing, ‘rithmetic. You are part of an educational revolution in which the four Cs became important: coding, communications, creativity and collaboration. And over the last few months, you have proven you are ready to move on to your next challenge with commitment, courage and compassion. You have demonstrated that you have the capacity to do great things, despite impediments thrown your way, to change our world for the better.”
“We grew up in a shifting and everchanging world where technology shaped us, a post-9/11 world with more security and more fear,” said salutatorian Courtney Metzger. “We only know a world where information is shared so quickly, and life varies by the day. We grew up with this type of change, and now we face the biggest shift of all. We will leave high school during the height of a pandemic when handshakes are now unwanted, smiles are covered by our facemasks, and hand sanitizer is more valuable than anything. We will enter a world where everything is uncertain and confusing, and we will enter it six feet apart. But I know, as we enter the real world, that we’re more prepared than anyone else. The world has changed, and it’s our turn to step up.”
Comparing her class to favorite childhood books, valedictorian Grace Gallagher said, “The moment we leave this field as graduates, we cease being mere onlookers to someone else’s story, but become authors of our own. We now have the ability to begin to write a new narrative, with each day offering a fresh page full of endless possibilities. Every action that we take with each day that passes adds to our ever-growing story. More importantly, as our individual stories unfold, let us be reminded that as they intersect and collaborate with one another, they collectively become the next chapters of our history books. We leave this ceremony not only with our diplomas, but also the pen and paper upon which we can begin to create whatever story we choose. Even though we are entering an ever changing and tumultuous world, we have proven time and time again that we have what it takes to be successful. Our graduating class is resilient. As West Islip Lions, we have both the strength and the courage to take the world by storm. It is time to make our own individualistic and unique marks on the world. Let us take on each challenge with confidence and determination and write the best story that we can.”