Nearly 300 students, along with their families and faculty members, celebrated their graduation from Great Neck South High School on Tuesday afternoon, to the tune of performances by classmates at the Tilles Center at LIU Post.
But Sally Passarella, the dean of students who touched many lives before losing her battle with cancer in October, could not.
So time was taken to honor her.
“Sally was someone who demonstrated great care, compassion and kindness toward her colleagues and all her students,” South High School Principal Christopher Gitz said. “We would like to take a moment this afternoon to reflect on and celebrate the impact Sally has made on the students at South High School.”
For David Carbone, who became known as “the voice of Great Neck South High School” for the morning announcements, her impact began when she noticed his anxiety about presenting in front of his class.
She took time out of her schedule as the dean of students and a teacher of several English classes to privately hear his presentation, he recalled, giving him consideration other teachers hadn’t.
A few weeks later, she then encouraged him to try helping with the morning announcements to help him overcome his anxiety.
“Great Neck South was an immeasurably better place because of Mrs. Passarella,” Carbone said. “And I’m just one of many students whose life she touched over the years, plenty of whom are sitting right here.”
Chloe Metz, the salutatorian of Great Neck South High School, said the graduating class has grown up in a distinctly unique time. Not only have the students experienced considerable social change, seen in part from student involvement in the Women’s March and the March for Our Lives, but personally.
“In just four years our worlds have changed exponentially,” Metz said. “We have become activists, young scientists, burgeoning musicians, engineers and athletic stars.”
And while Passarella could not be here to celebrate with the class of 2019, Carbone said her legacy will live on through its members.
“I know that I speak for all of us when I say that while we will continue to miss her, the lessons she taught us and the change she has made in our lives will live on in all of us,” Carbone said.