Roslyn High School valedictorian Todd Warshawsky has had a lifelong mentor when it comes to never giving up: his grandfather.
A survivor of the Holocaust, he lost his parents, three older sisters and younger brother after being taken from his home in Poland in 1939.
“When all of Europe was designed to drain his will to live, my grandfather stood back up,” Warshawsky said. “Despite every conceivable loss short of his very life, my grandfather, with the number B16712 tattooed on his arm, defeated the Nazis simply by virtue of the fact that he moved on and, from the ashes, created a family. When I look back, I don’t see a life defined by hardship, I see one where he achieved success regardless.”
Warshawsky, a Roslyn cross country and track star for all four high school years, has helped pass this lesson onto any other classmates and teammates who will listen and will continue with this mantra at Yale University in August.
“Anyone who has been on a team with me has heard me say, ‘A champion is not someone who can run without getting tired, rather a champion is someone who can get tired and keep running,'” Warshawsky said.
Organization of Class Councils president Landon Allen welcomed the crowd at Tilles Center for the Performing Arts on the LUI-Post campus with a humorous stroll down memory lane, remembering the days the class was split into two elementary schools, merged again in middle school just in time for awkward school dances and shipped off to the highly confusing high school building during their 12 years together.
The class of 2017 was the first to participate in the Senior Walk, a new district tradition where the graduating seniors walk the halls of their former elementary schools while the wide-eyed younger students admire and high-five the graduates as they pass.
“While we saw our past selves in the hallways, in the eyes of those energetic children, those children saw their future selves,” Allen said.
Allen also remembered their late middle school guidance counselor, Vanessa Gray Williams, who passed away during their junior year, as a sad moment that brought their class closer together than ever.
Superintendent Allison Brown congratulated the class on their way out, hoping her first set of high school graduates will look back at their time in Roslyn as more than academic work.
“I hope when you come upon your high school diploma, you will remember not just this one special day, but the 2,000 school days that came before and the countless ways someone helped you on every one of those days,” Brown said. “I hope you remember that your diplomas are not only test scores and report cards and trophies and certificates, but through the truly precious value that all of us here today placed on your well being, happiness and your success.”
Salutatorian Abigail Flyer, a lifelong musician bound for Duke University in the fall, always dreamed high school would be a carbon copy of High School Musical, the 2006 Disney movie. While the majority of the movie is filled with large choreographed dance numbers and musical breaks, Flyer realized in recent weeks that between the happiness, the characters are put through the same trials and tribulations as many typical high school students.
As the Roslyn High School chamber singers performed their rendition of “And So It Goes” by Long Islander Billy Joel, graduates prepared to have their tassels turned and move into the next stage of their lives.
“It’s your time to go now,” Roslyn School District board president Meryl Ben-Levy said. “So go Bulldogs, go.”