Great Neck North seniors share their last journey: graduation

Great Neck North seniors share their last journey: graduation
Great Neck North seniors give high-fives to students as they take their seats for the graduation ceremony. (Photo by Cameryn Oakes)

Salutatorian Nicole Nazar recounted when the bell rang at 8 a.m. on Sept. 4, 2019, the first day of freshman year at Great Neck North High School, the start of the class of 2023’s journey together.

While that day was filled with relief for making it to high school, Nazar said it was also filled with eagerness to explore the potential of their high school years and the beginning of many lasting friendships.

On June 22, three years and nine months later, the class embarked on their final moment together as they took the stage to graduate and embark on a new beginning as they go their separate ways.

“I urge you all to bring that same raw excitement that beamed from us as freshman to the next chapter of our lives and beyond,” Nazar said.

Nearly 300 students took the stage Thursday afternoon to graduate from John L. Miller – Great Neck North High School at their graduation ceremony at Long Island University’s Tilles Center.

The graduation, entirely planned by students under guidance from their advisers, featured an acapella performance of “You’ll Be In My Heart” by Phil Collins from the Great Neck Senior Choir, the presentation of various awards and speeches by graduating seniors, school faculty members and alumni.

The ceremony was dedicated to late Superintendent Teresa Prendergast, who died a couple weeks prior to the graduation ceremony from a ruptured brain aneurysm at the age of 60. She was planning to retire at the conclusion of the school year to become principal of Sacred Heart Academy in Hempstead.

A moment of silence was held to remember Prendergast.

Senior Class Speaker Aaron Harouny delivered the speech in memory of Prendergast.

Harouny attended monthly Board of Education meetings as the school’s student delegate and said he experienced firsthand the leadership and dedication of Prendergast.

“Dr. Prendergast’s commitment to our education was nothing short of remarkable,” Harouny said. “Her tireless efforts and dedication to our success was evident in every decision she made. Dr. Prendergast’s passion for education and her devoted belief in the potential of each and every one of us was instrumental in shaping our student experience.”

The high school honored Prendergast as an honorary member of the class of 2023, with a diploma to be presented to her family.

The school also honored valedictorians Danielle Kobrick and Katharine Tang, and salutatorians Gavin Hakimian, Nazar and Taylor Schnatz at the graduation ceremony.

Nazar shared her reflection on the past four years at Great Neck North, looking back on the first interactions with many of her classmates unaware of the relationships they would foster with one another.

“Little did I know that each of these faces would make their own unique mark on me as well as all of you,” Nazar said. “These faces soon became best friends, teammates, peers and eventually came together to form something eternal – a community.”

Nazar said that at this moment, everything in their lives is a learning experience but that it is one they are going through together.

She asked her classmates to look around and see all the faces of their classmates and think of the memories they shared with one another, the last time all of them will be in the same room together before they embark on their next journey.

“Over the years we’ve endured so much, but we’ve stuck together through it all, creating memories that will last forever,” Nazar said. “Nobody will ever be able to take away the memories and relationships we’ve built throughout our years here. They’ve impacted us deeply – who we were, we are and who we will become.”

Senior Class President Menash Harooni praised the graduating class for their tenacity during the trying times they experienced during high school, from the COVID-19 pandemic to learning how to drive a car to procrastinating on studying for a test until the night before.

“Against all odds, we still managed to graduate,” Harooni said.

Principal Dan Holtzman told the graduating class that he had been fortunate to experience the class grow from the time they entered high school, especially during an unprecedented and challenging time.

“Through it all you have left an indelible mark on the faculty and student body of North High,” Holtzman said.

Holtzman advised the graduating class on the importance of reflecting, not on what could have been but on what could be. He said their lifelong pursuit of knowledge will now take place in the classroom of the outside world as they embark on a lifetime of being a student.

“New learning is a treasure to cherish,” Holtzman said.

While this is a continuous pursuit for the graduating class, Holtzman said it is a path they cannot embark on by themselves. He advised them to seek assistance and accept it when it is offered by those that support them throughout life.

As the graduating class parts ways to pursue their desired paths, the principal left them with one last parting comment:

“It’s not goodbye, it’s see you later,” Holtzman said.

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