Two separate seas of maroon and blue mortarboards soared into the summer sky after seniors at W.T. Clarke and East Meadow high schools made the emotional and celebratory transition from students to graduates at the East Meadow School District’s commencement ceremonies last Sunday.
Superintendent Kenneth Card, speaking at both events, congratulated the first two classes to graduate since he took over the district’s leadership, and then, one by one, the graduates crossed their respective stages, shook hands with Board of Education trustees as they were presented their diplomas, and moved their tassels from left to right.
Pantho Sayed, the salutatorian of W.T. Clarke High, poked fun at the ritual in his speech, noting that students sit on a football field in “funny robes and hats” before they’re given “fancy pieces of paper.”
“Society sees this as the way for young people to progress through life,” Sayed continued, speaking directly to his classmates. “Apparently you do, too. And you are all to be commended.”
“The typical graduation message is always something like, ‘Your future is limitless. Go out there and explore, change the world,’ etcetera,” Sayed continued. “And yeah, the future is important . . . But I wanted to take a step back.”
Four days before they graduated, the departing seniors visited their elementary schools in their graduation robes. For the first time ever in the district, graduates-to-be walked through the halls and shook hands with their former teachers.
The nostalgic exercise reminded Sayed that he and his classmates had made it to graduation because of the support network they had growing up — teachers who inspired passion in their students, coaches who drove young athletes to push themselves, parents who encouraged their children along the way.
“We have a great community, a great school, and great people all around us,” Sayed said. “I know that I’ll miss it when I go to college, and I hope many of you will, too.”