Lawrence High School celebrates its class of 2021


It was nearly normal. The 206 Lawrence High School seniors who were of the class of 2021 about to graduate filed into the Tilles Center on the LIU Post campus in Greenvale on June 24. With the event center only half-filled and more than 190 people watching the commencement ceremony through a YouTube livestream it was less than normal.

Emceed by student government President, Daniela Andrade, and senior class President, Jairo Orozco; the graduation was imbued with a friendly, warm feeling that included the traditional trappings from awards to speeches.

Kicking it off Andrade, who is also the class essayist, highlighted seven points that her peers should adhere to as they navigate their lives post-high school. She quoted Irish playwright and poet Oscar Wilde: “Be yourself, everyone else is taken.”

Her final point is worth noting. Do not forget to spread the wealth of knowledge. “Mentor a child, inspire a kid, raise a neighborhood, to be great is to be of great use and an instrument of service.”

Orozco took a humorous route to make his points, including pointing out his mother and saying, “I love you, mom,” which of course, generated sighs from the audience. Recalled high school years and in junior year this class won Battle of Classes, the first non-senior class in Lawrence history to achieve that feat. Then school shutdown because of the coronavirus pandemic.

He and his peers became expert multitaskers. “Attending class slash making lunch, attending class slash getting [drinks] at Starbucks, attending class slash scrolling through TikTok,” Orozco said.

Lawrence High School Principal Dr. Jennifer Lagnado-Papp noted the obstacles the students have overcome, the success they have had as she spotlighted five students. Tiffany Godoy took five Advanced Placement classes as a junior, including teaching herself AP physics and passing all five exams.

Accepted to a Stanford program canceled amid Covid, she was accepted to MIT’s six-month online program and developed a mobile app that provides interested voters with information on candidates.

Valedictorian Amy Sharin took part in the Garcia summer program at SUNY Stony Brook, where her research investigated the effects of pH that has impacts on water filtration and sustainable energy. She presented the results at the professional Materials Research Society.

Salutatorian Nader Daruvala was the project manager of team that created an app in three days that connects underrepresented text startups with potential investors. He also built computers for family and friends for free.

Andrade founded the College Bound Club that enhances student awareness of applications and scholarships, and teaches children how to swim, including kids with autism, hearing disabilities, verbal deficits and other challenges.

Natalie Bran volunteered more than 2,000 hours at the Five Towns Community Center, logging more than 2,000 hours of service. She also volunteers with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and is a member of the Nassau County Police Department Youth Council.

“What we learn goes beyond subject matter,” Lagnado-Papp said.

Using the analogy of a sunflower taking up to four months to blossom, Superintendent Dr. Ann Pedersen said: You’ve turned brightness during your journeys through the Lawrence School District,” she said, noting that change does not happen automatically. “It isn’t like a flip of switch. It took grit, passion, perseverance and tenacity.”

After the diplomas were presented, the students moved their tassels from right to left, the graduates filed out to the Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling,” and met their families outside for congratulations and photos.