The clichés could be used to describe the day – beautiful blue sky, not a cloud in the sky, and postcard perfect day – and, of course, some of the identical words heard at every high school graduation – dream big, chart your own course, set goals, exceed expectations.
But this was not the ordinary, clichéd-ridden commencement as 274 Hewlett High seniors sat in blue portable folding chairs with a cup holder for the ubiquitous water bottles on the school’s athletic field, out in the open, unmasked, as opposed to last year’s masked multi-ceremony graduation because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Remnants of Covid remained as Hewlett-Woodmere School District personnel reminded guests that a mask was required inside the building. However, this day belonged to the grads – a class that collected many academic honors and was awarded $10 million in scholarships – and in kind their parents, family and friends who helped them reach this milestone.
While speaking senior class President Logan Swerdloff said: “I want to thank my parents who have loved and supported me since I took my first breath.”
Board of Education President Debra Sheinin, whose daughter, Carly Jean Sheinin, was among the graduates, recalled 2008, the year Carly Jean and the class of 2021 began their school careers in kindergarten. Wistfully Debra said: “Now it is time to let them go. Our precious little birdies, it is time to leave the nest and learn to fly.”
Salutatorian Ethan Eisenberg took the time to recount going to a park with father and taking in the silence and the “beautiful vista.” “It is important to take a step back and reflect on what you want to achieve,” he said, adding that “Maintaining a human connection to interact with each other and learn from each other is a great skill when life gets us down,” harks back to last year’s Covid quarantine lockdown.
Valedictorian Alex Breslav unfolded a humorous tale of aliens and another planet that generated laughter before settling down into a piece of sound advice. “We set our own goals, our own expectations, some people didn’t reach those goals, now you get to set new goals,” he said.
Student Council President Ian Isseks said that the students’ journey is not finished, it is just getting started. “I’m not sure where to go from here, but the road is calling us and we have firm control of the wheel,” he said.
Noting the past and present of the pandemic, Superintendent Ralph Marino Jr. told the seniors that it is a “vast world” and “to make your mark.” He told them to “dream big” and “set your sights high” and care about the “people who really matter.”
“Having a sense of humor is necessary as laughter is the best medicine,” Marino said shortly before the students moved their tassel from right to left, several mortarboards went airborne and they became Hewlett High School graduates to begin the next chapter of their lives.