Valedictorians and salutatorians across the Nassau County’s high schools are getting set to graduate and embark on new journeys, pursue their passions and walk in the steps of scholars who came before them.
Before their send-offs, however, the students were recognized by the Nassau County Council of School Superintendents for earning spots at the top of their class. At a June 1 breakfast, David Flatley, the council’s president, gave words of encouragement to the Class of 2018.
“Question everything,” he said and, quoting former President John F. Kennedy, added “Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.” In order to strive for excellence, Flatley continued, the best and brightest minds must reject the status quo and never settle for what appears simple or easy.
Flatley’s words resonated with Pantha Sayed, this year’s salutatorian at W. T. Clarke High School. The graduating senior, who plans on attending Fordham University this fall, said “There’s a lot of really smart people in this room, so it makes me feel honored to be a part of the select few who are being recognized today.”
Keynote Speaker Elizabeth Hashagan, an anchor at News 12, spoke of the key to success as addressed the graduating class. She asked them to imagine a world in which they are always given what they want and they solve all of their problems, effortlessly. If such a world were to exist, she continued, there would be no growth.
“For me, the ‘nos’ in my life have made me a fighter,” Hashagan said, referencing her dream of becoming a news reporter and the many rejections she received before finally getting her first job.
In order to accomplish her goal, Hashagan said that she had to continuously produce numerous content on her own and eventually an employer admired her work and offered her a job. “If you want something, sometimes you have to make it happen yourself,” she said.
When asked what the morning’s event meant to her, Aashini Shah, this year’s valedictorian at W. T. Clarke High School, said, “I’ve met a good number of these people through extracurricular and school activities. It feels like being among friends. And it’s also inspiring.”
Shah plans on attending Massachusetts Institute of Technology this fall along with Ariana Adames, this year’s Salutatorian at East Meadow High School. Also recognized at the breakfast was Patrick Cruz, East Meadow’s valedictorian, who plans on attending Cornell University in the fall.