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East Meadow School District holds socially distant graduations

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Although graduating seniors in the East Meadow School District have not been in the classroom together since March because of the coronavirus pandemic, they were able to don their caps and gowns and graduate with some of their peers.

To comply with social-distancing requirements, the district divided students into 14 ceremonies over three days. W.T. Clarke High School seniors attended one of five ceremonies on July 24 and 25. And East Meadow High School, which has a larger student body, hosted nine ceremonies on July 26. Each was outside on the respective school’s football field, and the audience was capped at 150, in accordance with state protocols.

W.T. Clarke students honored 

Students at W.T. Clarke High School’s graduation were allowed to bring their parents or two guests to sit with them in the audience while they waited to receive their diplomas.

A ceremony at noon on July 25 began and ended with a recording of the school’s band and chorus playing the W.T. Clarke alma mater. Then, class President Gabriella Sferrazza spoke before nearly 50 of her peers and their guests.

“This truly wasn’t how I pictured this year would go, but hey, we made it,” she said. “Although we’ve had struggles, we’ve had them together.”

Sferrazza noted that she and her peers were born in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, faced Hurricane Sandy as children and are now graduating high school in a global pandemic.

“No matter what struggles we’ve faced this year, we will come back as world-changing people,” she said.

The ceremony ended with an address by Principal Timothy Voels, who said, “My wish for you all is that you find happiness in whatever you do.” He then read from the Dr. Seuss book “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And you are the one who’ll decide where to go.”

Voels concluded his speech by saying, “We want to thank you for your patience and understanding during this extraordinarily difficult time.”

Other ceremonies included speeches by Valedictorian Abishek Ravindran and Salutatorian Arjun Panickssery.

“This has been, to put it lightly, a crazy year,” Ravindran said. “And though these are not the circumstances under which I think any of us would hope to be graduating, I think that this shared experience has brought us together in a unique way, and does not take away from the significance of our accomplishments as we graduate.”

EMHS students celebrate

East Meadow High School held nine graduation ceremonies on July 26, at which roughly 30 students sat in one section and their parents and guests sat in another. Students were then called to receive their diplomas and any awards they earned.

Speeches throughout the day were given by Class President Vanessa Froehlich, valedictorian Ikshu Pandey and salutatorian Brendan Wilkowski.

“I want to tell my graduating class that they should focus on their own growth, rather than the growth of others,” Pandey said. “Everyone is so talented and has a different definition of success. If we stay true to ourselves, we can all make an impact in the world in our own unique way.”