Hampton Bays High School's celebrated its graduation Saturday morning. With family, friends and faculty in attendance, the Baymen were ushered into a new chapter of higher education, exciting careers, and for some, the armed services.
With the high school band playing the familiar melody of "Pomp and Circumstance," 116 students filed into a large tent on the school's lawn. The students were engulfed by the constant flicker of white light as family members strained to snap a perfect picture.
Principal Christopher Richardt was the master of ceremonies, offering opening remarks before introducing distinguished faculty members in attendance. High school professors and counselors were met with thunderous applause from the students, a pulse of energy which set the mood for the rest of the afternoon.
The day's speeches were filled with praise of a class that displayed exceptional talent, big plans for the future, and a fond sense of togetherness.
Class president Elizabeth Raimo was invited to speak first. After sharing stories of experiences that made the class of 2011 unique, looked to the future: "This class is overflowing with bright, talented and exceptional individuals. I look forward to sharing stories of success and happiness with you all."
Like Raimo, Salutatorian remembered class-wide inside jokes and shared memories dating back to elementary school. Carlin sought to dispel rumors that an "over-achieving" class actually meant a bunch of nerds, encouraging everyone to be proud of their individual and collective success.
"Last time I checked, striving for excellence and out-doing everyone's expectations is never a bad thing," Carlin said. "We are going to bring our over-achieving talents to the world."
In a fun yet emotional speech Valedictorian reflected on maturity as a product of education.
"We cannot forget what this school and town has done for us," said Golyski, who had the highest grade point average in Suffolk County this year. "Those family and faculty have passed the torch to us … just looking at these high school achievements makes everyone excited for the future."
Principal Richardt and Superintendent Lars Clemensen repeatedly said how lucky they were to be speaking and presenting diplomas to this class. Richardt seemed to care so deeply for the class of 2011 that he didn't mind the senior pranks, noting that the Slip and Slide outside his office and the cow that mysteriously made it to the auditorium roof were two of the greatest pranks the school had ever seen.
Commencement speaker Dr. Shaun McKay, president of Suffolk County Community College, was received with a similar warmth. McKay deviated from his speech on several occasions to directly address points made in the students' speeches. Dr. McKay preached the value of integrity and confidence.
"Never lose your curiosity to question," he said to students. "Value what you have to say, and say it with pride and sincerity."
Despite speeches bringing out the levity in maturity, the class was reminded on multiple occasions that they will be met with circumstances that they cannot control. It is a generation that has grown up during wartime, economic strife and environmental disaster.
One particular tragedy, however, has had a profound effect on the school and the entire community. In August 2009, , a member of the class of 2011, was killed by a drunk driver. It is a loss that Principal Richardt struggled to discuss with the audience, holding back tears along with several of the graduates.
In the most emotional moment of the day Principal Richardt presented Joseph's family with his diploma to a standing ovation and hugs from students and faculty.
Soon the students lined up to receive their own diplomas, once again navigating the paparazzi of proud parents, surprised siblings and delighted friends. Some families cheered traditionally, while others used air horns to celebrate. With a glimmer of pride under smiles of relief, the 116 students exited the tent ready to embark on a new voyage.