Despite the coronavirus pandemic, the Freeport School District was able to hold its 127th Commencement Ceremony for the graduating Class of 2020 at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on June 20.
Although the ceremony was atypical, students, families and educators alike enjoyed their opportunity to participate in the drive-in ceremony.
“This year will always be remembered in history,” said Freeport High School Principal Joseph Mille. “You have made an indelible mark and you’ll always be remembered in our minds and our hearts for your resiliency, fortitude and resolve, and for that, I applaud you.”
Along with speeches from administrators and local elected officials, the drive-in ceremony included a video presentation, which played a montage of the Class of 2020. The video showed off each student and played scenes from the small ceremonies the school held for the seniors in early June where the students were given their diplomas.
Along with Superintendent of Schools Dr. Kishore Kuncham, Class of 2020 valedictorian Sheilly Duque and Rosa Medina also made a speech, encouraging their classmates for their accomplishments during a tumultuous school year.
But rather than sum up their school year as purely fond memories, both Duque and Medina used their time up on the stage to confront the hardships their school and community has had to face in the past year.
Duque said this was the year she truly came to understand the Black Lives Matter movement after protests erupted across the nation over the death of George Floyd.
“I’d like to thank every single one of you who participated in the protests in Merrick, Freeport and across Long Island,” Duque said. “Thank you for setting an example and I urge you to continue fighting for what’s right. I hope growing up in Freeport has shown you all the importance of supporting each other when our friends and their families are experiencing horrible treatment that we wouldn’t want to experience ourselves.”
Looking back at her time in Freeport High School, Medina admitted that she could not remember her first day of school or even the start of her senior year. What she did remember, however, was the death of her former classmate, Khaseen Morris, who was stabbed to death last September in Oceanside after he transferred to Oceanside High School.
“His death had a profound impact on our school as grief thickened the air in the hallways,” Medina said. “I want to take this time to remember him.”
Freeporters honked their horns in support of the students’ speeches.
While Kuncham sympathized with students and families over not being able to hold a normal graduation ceremony, he felt hopeful for the Class of 2020, which he dubbed “The Changemakers.”
“You are primed to become the leaders of your generation and to be the change our world needs,” Kuncham said. “And you have already started to lead. At times, life puts adversity in our path. Think of the skills and strengths you have gained as you navigate through an enormously challenging time in our history. Itis important you continue to move forward while learning and growing from that experience.”