For Sayville High School’s Class of 2020, it’s all about courage.
“To choose an occupation that you are truly passionate about requires courage,” Brendan Dillon, Class of 2020 valedictorian, said during the speech he gave at two of the school’s five graduation ceremonies last weekend.
“The courage to persist when things don’t go as expected, the courage to disappoint those who care about you, and the courage to find happiness and therefore success on our own terms,” he added.
Nearly 200 graduates in total attended five small graduation ceremonies — four socially distanced field events and one drive-up ceremony for students and families not comfortable joining the field commencements. The traditional commencement in June was cancelled due to the state’s COVID-19 social distancing mandates.
Sayville Superintendent Dr. John Stimmel during the ceremonies on July 24 and 25 encouraged the class “to bring your talents to the world. Each one of you has something unique and profound to offer our community…No matter how dark the world may seem at times, always, always let your light shine!”
Students attended the field commencement celebrations in alphabetical order, with triad groupings — consisting of a graduate and two guests — six feet apart on the football field. All four field events were live-streamed for the first time in Sayville history via the Sayville School District’s YouTube channel, the district said.
“Our pandemic experience is teaching us … your health and the love of your family are truly your most valuable possessions,” Stimmel said. “Yes, these are very difficult and uncertain times that we are going through, but take good care of yourself, keep your loved ones close and never doubt that your best days lay ahead.”
Class Salutatorian Lauren Flaumenhaft delivered a speech at each ceremony, and honored her elementary school classmate Cameron Riccomini, who died in fifth grade after battling a rare form of brain cancer.
“He handled his terrible condition courageously and with a sharp, and sometimes wicked, sense of humor, made up of an endless supply of hysterical jokes,” she said of Cameron, whose parents attended one of the field commencement ceremonies on July 25 to accept their son’s diploma posthumously.
“While Cameron lost his battle in fifth grade, I think that we can all take a lesson from him to deal with the times we are living through right now,” Lauren continued. “The lesson is that we should all laugh and joke whenever we can, and we should not allow our current circumstances to get us down, but we should also pay close attention and handle our challenges with humanity.”
Shawn Gibbons, the Class of 2020 Patricia Ann Kubelle Memorial Award-winning vocalist, delivered powerful performances of “Santa Fe” from the musical “Newsies” at each of the ceremonies.
“I chose to sing it because I hope one day we can all find our utopia. Whether it be right here in Sayville or halfway across the globe, I hope we can all find our happy place,” Shawn said.
Class President Mary Vermilyea provided a pre-recorded speech because she chose not to attend each ceremony due to high-risk susceptibility in her family.
“During this crisis, I bet you’ve all seen it; there were a few similar popular hashtags that were utilized across social media platforms,” Mary said. “You saw them everywhere. We were #togetheralone or #togetherapart. Now, I think it’s appropriate for me to say that we are all becoming #togethertogether.”
Mary appeared at the final ceremony on July 25 to collect her diploma and deliver her words live. She concluded her speech, saying, “Hi, Dad. Happy Birthday!” It was a bittersweet moment for her and her entire family, as her father had just passed away the day before, according to the school district.
High School Principal Ron Hoffer concluded each of the ceremonies with words of encouragement.
“As a representative of our faculty, staff, and administration, it has been my pleasure to have worked with you for the past four years,” he said. “I congratulate the Class of 2020, and wish you success, health and happiness in all your future endeavors.”
Check out below the amazing happy moments captured at the commencement ceremonies, courtesy of Sayville Public Schools. Be sure to click on box 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 to see them all.