Student leaders from New Hyde Park Memorial High School’s class of 2021 reflected on the memories they made over the past six years and how a global pandemic spurred newfound appreciation during Sunday’s commencement ceremony.
The ceremony, held at Hofstra University, featured four leaders from the senior class expressing their gratitude for the relationships made during high school and the unique experiences they had.
Class President Nicolette Caneda thanked parents, faculty, staff and fellow classmates for their constant support and encouragement to make the most out of the last two school years despite the obstacles the pandemic presented. Caneda, who was a member of the varsity girls soccer team, touted members of the class of 2021 for all they have achieved over the past six years and the resiliency they showed during the pandemic.
“The class of 2021 is full of strong-minded, hard-working, and overall incredible individuals,” she said. “Being president of our class throughout our high school journey has been so rewarding. I know that even though this year was not as close to what we expected it to be, it only proves how strong we really are together.”
Student Council President Emily Locker reflected on her time as a member of the Gladiators varsity basketball team and how that experience mirrored that of a family.
“Playing with these girls, I felt comfort, motivation and love,” she said. “I knew that they had my back during every second of every play and every game and they knew that I had theirs.”
Locker said she will always look back upon her time at New Hyde Park Memorial fondly and will continue to carry school pride with her throughout her life.
“The pride that I have in our school and in each and every one of you will never diminish,” Locker said. “I truly wish you all the best and I hope you never forget the gladiator that is in your hearts forever.”
Salutatorian Adithya Krishnan spoke on the shock value that a global pandemic presented to the class as midyear juniors.
“It’s truly astonishing to think that we’ve been in a global pandemic for one-and-a-half years,” Krishnan said. “If someone told me in January of 2020 that the entire world would shut down and go into quarantine I probably would have told them, ‘Get away from my house before I call the cops.’”
Krishnan, not wanting to hark too much on the doom and gloom that came with the pandemic, gave the audience an overview of his daily routine while quarantined. Krishnan also spoke on the importance of actively going out and making the best of a bad situation, rather than complacently waiting for something good to enter through the bedroom door.
“I took social interactions and events for granted because they were so prevalent that I often stayed at home when it was a beautiful day outside,” he said. “We can all agree that everyone will come out of the pandemic with a new appreciation for the littlest things in life.”
Valedictorian Olivia Wong spoke on some of the ripple effects that the past year will have on the future of the nation and world, aside from the pandemic. A variety of events surrounding social justice and inequality issues, she said, will change the course of a new generation of young adults willing to make a change in the world.
“We experienced a necessary reckoning regarding social justice and realized that our generation has the power and duty to initiate change and call for unity,” she said. “The pandemic has certainly not defined the class of 2021, rather it has unified us because we all share this experience. And most importantly, we did not quit.”
Wong said she recognized the issues that the past 14 months presented to the graduating class, along with the rest of the world, but touted the importance of reflecting on the past as it can shape how people can grow.
“Just remember where you’ve been and where you come from, because the past will help you in life’s long journey,” Wong said. “Our next destination is close and the light is green. I wish you the best in whatever you do in this next chapter.”