New Hyde Park graduation: Once a gladiator, always a gladiator

For salutatorian Saumya Sharma, graduation from New Hyde Park Memorial High School on Sunday at Hofstra University meant reminiscing, and preparing to turn her kaleidoscope for a new chapter in her life.

“My lesson came in fourth grade. My teacher always kept an old wooden kaleidoscope on her desk and my aching curiosity made me approach her about it one day. When I finally looked in, my wild imagination was not disappointed,” Sharma recalled.

“With every glance, I discovered new breathtaking designs with new colors and shapes. However, to see the metamorphosis unfold before my eyes, I had to spin the knob that held the colored pieces. Change only came when I took the initiative … I long moved on from elementary school, but the lesson I learned from the kaleidoscope still stays with me,” she said.

The 317 graduating students were addressed by Dr. Richard Faccio, the principal of New Hyde Park Memorial. Faccio said that the Class of 2018 is special to him because it is the first class he has witnessed attend the high school from start to finish since he began his faculty career there. The high school begins in seventh grade.

“I have seen you enter as a seventh grader, and now I get to shake your hand as you depart into the world,” said Faccio. “It has been such a wonderful and honorable experience for me. I can’t tell you how much of a journey it’s been.”

Jonathan Lopez and Danielle Schwartz, the senior class co-presidents, welcomed family members and friends to the graduation and encouraged their peers to make the most of their lives after graduation.

“What we can take from our past few years of high school is this; one day you’re 17 and you’re planning for someday, and then quietly, without you ever really noticing it, someday is today, and then someday is yesterday, and now this is your life,” said Schwartz.

“Make every second count because life moves on too fast,” Lopez added.

In congratulatory remarks, state Sen. Elaine Phillips reminded the class that everyone is different, but what all the students have in common is the opportunities that New Hyde Park Memorial provided for them.

“Each of you now has hundreds of blank pages before you. Pages that will be filled with words unique to each of you, and no two books will be the same,” said Phillips. “When you return in a reunion, you’ll be nurses, firefighters, teachers and lawyers, community leaders and business executives. Your paths, your stories will all be different, but they will all be traced back to today.”

In addition to a speech from Student Council President Nicholas Lopez, there were multiple musical performances at the commencement.

The school’s Select Choir, directed by Robert McKinnon, sang “Pure Imagination” and “The Lord Bless You & Keep You Up.” Hope Bagley directed the senior high school band, which played selections from “Rent.”

Before the graduates walked across the stage to receive their diplomas, valedictorian Arianna Ragusa spoke about future endeavors.

“Even the smallest acts of kindness can make anyone’s day just a little bit brighter,” she said.  “While it’s hard to be positive 24/7, especially when we’re feeling down on ourselves, the more positivity we try to spread, the more positivity we begin to feel.

“We have left our mark on New Hyde Park and now it is our time to make our mark on the rest of the world … we will always hold these years in our hearts because once a Gladiator, always a Gladiator.” 

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Gretchen Keller

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