During his first commencement remarks in Herricks, Superintendent Tony Sinanis shared with graduates “a simple, yet profound” truth.
“Asking great questions is more important than having all the answers,” Sinanis said Friday evening during the 64th annual Herricks commencement ceremony.
The superintendent reminded graduates that the beauty of learning comes from both the answers they discover and the questions they ask.
“The willingness to embrace uncertainty and approach challenges with a curious mind is what sets apart those who merely exist, from those who thrive,” Sinanis said.
Friday’s ceremony started like many before it and like many after it will. Herricks High School Principal Joan Keegan invited graduates to the podium to welcome guests in a variety of languages spoken all over the world, representing the diversity within the community.
Board of Education Vice President Henry Zanetti and PTSA President Barbara Baur-Rizzo provided remarks during the ceremony. Each of the speakers expressed their gratitude and appreciation to Herricks staff and parents.
In a break from tradition, lifelong best friends valedictorian Jeylin Lee and salutatorian Ashley Lam gave a joint address.
Lam said while reflecting on their time at Herricks and trying to come up with a speech, it couldn’t be said without the other.
Lee added the high school journey was not one done alone but one full of companionship.
“Herricks is a beautiful journey built from teamwork and collaboration,” Lee said. “What better way to demonstrate these values one last time than through a joint graduation speech?”
The two drew comparisons between their 12-year journey through Herricks and three of the twelve labors of Hercules, the mythological demigod known for his strength and courage.
Speaking on his battle with the nine-headed Hydra, the graduates noted the importance of prioritizing the most important tasks first and don’t be afraid to help.
Hercules’ second task, cleaning King Augeas’ stables, seemed at first insurmountable, the graduates said. It wasn’t until he diverted two nearby rivers to wash the filth, emphasizing the power of creative problem solving and thinking outside the box when confronted with challenges, Lee said.
The story of Cerebrus, the three-headed dog who guarded the underworld, embodied the willingness to confront danger in order to achieve a greater good.
“Similarly, we must remember to celebrate our own uniqueness, as each of us has distinct interests and talents,” Lee said. “Like Hercules, we can all overcome our own obstacles, slay our own monsters and become the heroes of our own story.”
Lee ended their remarks with what they learned from both Hercules and Herricks.
“Listen to your heart, but also your friends and know that you have the strength to find yourself find your place and find your people,” Lee said. “As Ashley and I have realized, we don’t have to do it alone. Let’s take some friends along on our journey to become heroes.”