Speaker to Viscardi grads: ‘You don’t have to be able-bodied to be a superhero’

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After graduation, Viscardi School's Class of 2018 recessed through a line of their teachers. (Photo by Amelia Camurati)

Henry Viscardi School commencement speaker Jim Sinocchi told the 19 graduates of the Class of 2018 anyone can be a superhero.

Sinocchi, managing director of disability inclusion for J.P. Morgan Chase and Co., said he has always been fascinated with the Daredevil comic book series, of which he owns issues No. 1 through No. 110. The character, though blind, uses his disability as a power instead of a weakness.

(Photo by Amelia Camurati)

“We’re surrounded in our culture by superheroes who happen to have disabilities,” Sinocchi said. “It shows that you don’t have to be able-bodied to be a superhero, and that is true in this very room, considering what you, our Viscardi graduates, have already accomplished. This is just the beginning of your journey, and you can achieve anything you strive for once you assess what you’re good at.

“Work hard, be realistic, be patient and develop your own personal values.”

Sinocchi, who was injured while body surfing at 25 years old, told the graduates how his division has worked to hire more than 600 disabled individuals in 2017 and how, despite being paralyzed from the chest down, he has had two successful careers in 41 years with J.P. Morgan Chase and, before that, IBM.

“Once I became disabled, I became a bigger fan of superheroes,” Sinocchi said. “When people see superheroes in the movies or read about them in comic books, they don’t realize they’re idolizing people with disabilities. Many comic book heroes have a disability or acquire their powers due to a disability.”

Sinocchi also talked about comic book legends Iron Man, who was wounded in a war zone and built himself an iron plate to protect his weak heart, Hawkeye, an Avenger who becomes deaf and an accomplished marksman with a bow and arrow, and Rogue, an X-Men character born with superhuman powers she considers a curse but later uses to make the world a better place.

Sinocchi said if the graduates and their friends and family gathered at the 52nd annual Henry Viscardi High School graduation on Thursday remembered anything from his speech, it was to always look for ways to pay it forward and make the world a better place — a theme salutatorian Peri Finkelstein wove throughout her commencement speech.

Opening with the quote “kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see,” by Mark Twain, Finkelstein thanked her family, teachers, nurses and friends for showing her kindness throughout her life which, in turn, makes her show kindness to others.

Finkelstein, who will attend Adelphi University in the fall, was homeschooled much of her senior year due to medical challenges. Though she originally saw the homebound life as a disadvantage, causing her to miss senior year moments, she learned to see the struggle as a learning experience.

“Throughout the year, I have learned more than I ever have before,” Finkelstein said. “I have learned this year to not only take initiative in my education, but to be organized, be calm and to have a positive outlook on any situation.”

Valedictorian Mya Forbes broke out into song with Bob Marley’s “Don’t Worry” during her commencement address, inciting a sing-along from the crowd during her speech about how the past four years with her classmates have prepared her for the years to come in college and beyond.

“High school is an experience I will remember forever,” Forbes, who will attend SUNY Purchase in the fall, said. “Some might regret decisions they made in high school, but I wouldn’t change one thing. Everything I’ve experienced have molded me into who I am now. Whether good or bad, I’m thankful for what I’ve learned and how these experiences have helped me to become a better person.”

Reach reporter Amelia Camurati by email at acamurati@theislandnow.com, by phone at 516-307-1045, ext. 215, or follow her on Twitter @acamurati.

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