After more than 2,700 days spent together in school, members of the Great Neck South High Class of 2022 were encouraged to maintain balance throughout their lives during graduation Thursday afternoon at the Tilles Center.
South High Principal Christopher Gitz spoke about his experience as a first-generation American-born citizen raised in a European household and having his father explain the differences between their upbringings. Gitz took an excerpt from his father’s advice to him and expounded on the meaning to the graduates during the ceremony.
“Keep your balance,” Gitz said. “As you go through life, you will begin to feel as if there are never enough hours in the day or enough time spent with your loved ones or enough time to spend on the things you really want to do. You may begin to focus on the next project, the next task or the approaching responsibilities of life. You may lose focus on yourself and your inner peace, you will begin to look for balance.”
Gitz advised the class to “relish in the moment” of each day that lies ahead and find time to pursue passion projects, hobbies and other things that keep their respective balances. Gitz said he wished that each graduate’s journey ahead would be filled with happiness, fulfillment and, of course, balance.
Amanda Volk, one of the student speakers at the ceremony, said the smallest interactions her fellow graduates experienced over the past four years and the ones that lie ahead could lead everyone to unexpected journeys and relationships that may last a lifetime. The memories the class made since 2018, she said, will trump the classes, tests and other school work that everyone endured over the past four years.
“So as we all sit here today, ready to graduate from high school, take a look around and remember this moment,” Volk said. “I hope that the past 2,744 days have been filled with excitement, joy and celebration and let us look to each day to appreciate the small moments that are to come.”
Valedictorian Jansen Wong said looking at the senior class of 2018 from a freshman’s perspective made them seem “so small,” but four years later, they were the ones standing on tables and counting down the final bell to conclude their final day of classes. Experiencing classes online and participating in sports from a socially distanced setting throughout the coronavirus pandemic, he said, led others to find new hobbies and showed the class’s resiliency when facing unprecedented circumstances.
“My message to all of you is to keep preserving,” Wong said. “I know it’s a cliché, but it’s more true now than ever before. When it seemed like our quarantine would never end, we found ways to cope and made it through. No matter what the future brings to you, you must persevere in all that you do.”
Following the message of perseverance, Superintendent Teresa Prendergast spoke about the resilience she has witnessed from the Class of 2022 and compared that to the attributes of a palm tree. Prendergast said palm trees’ roots become stronger when met with harsh conditions and can bend up to 50 degrees without snapping from strong winds.
“Bending and learning are essential elements to our growth as humans and it gives us more strength to deal with life in the long run,” Prendergast said. “Surface issues can definitely seem like they’re the most important thing in the moment, but what really matters the most is who you are at your core.”
Students also performed a musical number called “Sull’aria,” “Washington Post March” and the “Semper Fidelis March” in honor of longtime Superintendent William A. Shine, who died earlier this year.