Lynbrook High School hosted its 51st annual Senior Awards Night to honor deserving individuals in the graduating class of 2021 after a difficult year brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
In all, 125 students were recognized and earned more than 60 awards, in addition to the recognition of Valedictorian Ashley Roth and Salutatorian Kathryn Postiglione.
The event was organized, as usual, by the LHS Guidance Department and Scholarship Committee, which includes guidance counselors, building administrators, teachers and benefactors. The precise dollar amount awarded in scholarships remains to be determined, but Director of Guidance Laurie Mitchell confirmed that the collective number is well over $100,000.
“This was an extraordinary year,” Mitchell said, “so to be able to host a live event is finally bringing us back to a place of normalcy. All we wish is to celebrate this graduating class that has been through so much. Each and every one of the graduates was there to celebrate, and they truly brought their all.”
Students applied for the awards in January, and the Scholarship Committee met in March to determine which students would receive honors. Recipients were chosen based on academic excellence, dedicated school or community service work, athletic success or financial need; benefactors also provided the committee with criteria for their respective award recipients. While some awards came in the form of a plaque or certificate, most included a scholarship with monetary value.
Unlike a typical awards ceremony, parents and loved ones were unable to cheer from the gymnasium bleachers as students accepted their honors. Instead, the event was live-streamed, and only members of the graduating class, guidance counselors and administrators were present. Benefactors could not present awards, as they have traditionally done. Guidance counselors and administrators instead presented the honors to students.
Many honors were created in memory of revered Lynbrook community members, those who are “near and dear to the heart of LHS,” Mitchell said. Memorial awards included the Zachary Bernstein Inspiration Award, in honor of the beloved student who died in 2014 after a battle with brain cancer, and the Santo J. Barbarino “Owls of Excellence” Scholarship, in honor of the late superintendent of schools who died in 2012.
Emotions were evident throughout the ceremony, for students and staff members alike. While presenting the Dennis Buckley Memorial Scholarship to recipient Nathan Stewart, LHS Principal Joseph Rainis struggled to hold back tears as he read the words of his brother, Peter.
In the end, Rainis thanked all who contributed to making the event possible, and he congratulated the class of 2021 for its array of accomplishments, including withstanding pandemic challenges. “I will never forget how the class of 2021 handled all of the changes and setbacks they encountered this year,” he said. “Always look at the bright side, and know this: You’ve already proven that it works.”
The link to the recorded Senior Awards ceremony can be found on the high school’s page of the Lynbrook School District website, at lynbrookschools.org.