Herricks seniors say their goodbyes at graduation ceremony

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Graduates make their way on to the field for the Herricks High School graduation ceremony on Friday. (Photo by Luke Torrance)

The graduation of Herricks seniors on Friday marked a big change for many of the people present. For the students, it marked the beginning of a new chapter in their lives. For parents, it marked the end of their child’s time at home. And for Principal James A. Ruck, it marked the end of his time at Herricks High School.

“To the parents of the graduates, thank you for letting me into your life,” said Ruck, who is leaving after two years as interim principal and will be replaced by Herricks Middle School Principal Joan Keegan. “I am participating in my 50th high school graduation ceremony today and have seen much over that time. The last two years spent in Herricks High School, although not exactly planned for, have been most rewarding.”

The student speakers also reflected on their time at Herricks and gave thanks to their families, teachers and the community.

“To our teachers, thank you for opening up our minds and changing how we think for the better so that we will graduate better people than we entered,” said Janet Hsu, the salutatorian for the Class of 2018.

The ceremony began with members of the Class of 2018, clad in blue robes and caps, streaming onto the football field as their families cheered them on. After Catherine and Charlotte Park performed the Star-Spangled Banner, a moment of silence was held for the families of Marjory Stoneman Douglas and Santa Fe high schools, who Ruck said were “missing this special experience.”

Ruck was the first to speak and called on the graduates to remember their time at Herricks as they move forward.

“May you move on to the next chapter in your life with memories of your extended family and friends in Herricks, and spread the spirit with an approach that impacts others,” he said. “I wish you good health, good luck, good wishes and good skill as you head along this journey called life. I love you all.”

Members of the Board of Education and the PTSA gave remarks, while Superintendent Fino M. Celano reflected on how much things had and hadn’t changed since the graduating students entered the Herricks school district in 2005.

“I am proud to have been a student at Herricks since kindergarten,” said Hsu, who spoke next. “Every year I would meet more inspirational teachers and work with my amazing peers, learning more than I thought I would.”

She was followed by student government President Sibin Samuel who reflected on the past four years with a top 10 list of things he learned at Herricks and said he would miss his fellow classmates.

“Tonight, I see smiles of good friends who have grown up with me,” he said. “There are a lot of us graduating today, and I feel like I don’t know some of you very well, which I regret, and I also regret knowing far too much about some of you.”

The final student to speak was valedictorian Esme Chen, who talked about her father’s hard work to become a doctor and emigrate to the United States.

“He spent countless years working odd jobs as a pizza delivery boy, dishwasher, photo printer − you name it,” she said. “In my eyes, though, my dad was successful even before he earned the title of ‘doctor’ because he never lost faith or stopped trying despite one struggle after the next.”

The final speaker was business teacher Liam O’Brien, who took the stage to cheers and laughter from the students.

“You’re about to knock on the door to adulthood, and you’re in for some surprises,” he said. “You’re going to come home, and your world that seemed so large is going to seem a little bit smaller. But that’s only because your potential is growing. Know that that’s natural.”

The students then received their diplomas, turned their tassels and tossed their caps skyward.

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