By Jessica Chin
As the sun set, and their loved ones and teachers looked on, members of the Herricks High School graduating class tossed their caps on Thursday to celebrate one chapter of their lives ending and another beginning.
Before the 324 graduating seniors obtained their diplomas, student leaders and one honorary graduate urged them not to forget their beginnings at Herricks as their futures diverge.
Although he is a 2017 National Merit Scholarship semifinalist, a member of the Nassau County Interscholastic Mathematics all-star team and a Science Olympiad medalist among many other accolades, Herricks salutatorian Alan Chen was humble and thankful for his classmates, loved ones and teachers.
“We have some of the kindest, and most compassionate people I have ever met; we have the most dedicated, and humble people who would never wish to be called out here,” Chen said about his classmates. “People who are far braver than I’ll ever be because of their integrity and unwavering friendship.”
The Cornell University-bound engineering student ended his remarks to his classmates by saying: “Now go and change the world.”
The graduating class’s all student government president, Joseph Carmody, praised his classmates’ accomplishments.
“And we have done a lot, we have five Regeneron scholars, two Division I athletes and a long list of talented musicians,” Carmody said.
Carmody compared the education at Herricks High School to bridges. He said that Herricks has many bridges “coming from all over” and “connecting students with each other as well as the future that lies ahead.”
“The hardest thing in life is deciding which bridges to burn and which bridges to cross but luckily we have a great sense of direction,” Carmody, who will attend Villanova University, said.
With her own long list of accolades, valedictorian Setu Mehta also praised and thanked her fellow classmates, teachers and family like Chen and Carmody before her. Mehta said she was always able to rely on the “unconditional love” from her friends “to just keep swimming.”
Mehta called for a round of applause for all the friends, families and “teachers who stood by us today making our journeys possible.”
“First stepping into the halls of Herricks, it did not take me long to realize that there is always someone smarter, kinder, more athletic, a better dancer, a better singer, but therein lies Herricks’ charm,” said Mehta, who is going to Harvard University.
The 2017 Herricks High School graduating class chose Cheryl Donovan, who is also “graduating” from Herricks High School after teaching chemistry at the high school for over 25 years, to be the guest speaker.
“When voting for our graduation speaker this year, the choice was almost obvious given the tenacity and loyalty she employs on a daily basis,” said Brandon Gosine, one of the seniors introducing Donovan as the guest speaker. “Her infamous honors chemistry class is one that undeniably shapes the lives of those students that take it, both academically and in all facets of life.”
Donovan was one of the first woman engineers ever employed at the DuPont chemical company.
She advised the graduates to balance their lives the way they learned in chemistry class.
“Too much work leaves no room for play,” Donovan said. “Too much play leaves no room for work.”
Donovan also advised the class that “you will have to sometime observe the world in a critical lens and other times, you just need to put on your rainbow glasses.” The chemistry teacher threw on a pair of rainbow classes to the laughter and delight of the graduating class.
“Congratulations to all of you, love you all and I’m proud to be a member of the class of 2017,” Donovan said.