Cool news is: Mineola High, you’re on your own now

Cool news is: Mineola High, you’re on your own now
Mineola High School Valedictorian Natalie Laszewski. (Photo courtesy of Mineola School District)

In the words of Taylor Swift, the scary news is you’re on your own now.

But the cool news is also that you’re on your own now. 

The same words the music star gave during her NYU commencement address last year rang true through the walls of the Tilles Center Saturday morning in Mineola High School Class of 2023 valedictorian Natalie Laszewski’s remarks. 

Laszewski echoed Swift’s comments to reiterate the importance of maintaining the friendships she and her classmates cultivated at Mineola High as they take their next steps.

“Don’t let distance or language or any other barriers bring you apart,” Laszewski said. “Though Taylor Swift is right about one thing, you are on your own now, making your decisions about your future and more importantly which people you keep in your life.”

Laszewski added the past few weeks of getting ready to say goodbye to Mineola gave her a chance to reflect on the true meaning of success, which she said was living life to the fullest and being surrounded by loved ones while doing so. 

“Does that mean a strong career or a certain lifestyle? The reality is the meaning of success is up to interpretation,” Laszewski said. “When someone wishes you a successful future, it’s up to you to determine what that means.”

Salutatorian Maya Meola thanked the district from Willis Avenue to the high school for the efforts in helping her and her classmates reach this point. 

Meola said while growing up the year 2023 represented both the class’s adolescence and the countdown towards adulthood. She reflected on coming to school as an eighth grader, learning through the COVID-19 pandemic as a freshman and sophomore and applying to college as a junior. 

“The halls of Mineola have seen so much,” Meola said. “They have seen friendships form and grow throughout our time in the high school, they’ve seen our community come together to help others, but most of all they have seen us grow from kids to teenagers to adults. They have seen the memories we shared and the lessons we learned.”

Instead of giving his annual remarks, Superintendent Michael Nagler decided the best token of gratitude he could give Supervisor of Health and Physical Education Ralph Amitrano, who is retiring after 22 years in the district, was his spot to address the class of 2023. 

Amitrano began by saying there is no need to recite famous song lyrics or quote celebrities because the graduates’ greatest role models are already sitting in front of them––their families. 

The outgoing administrator shared a personal story that traced his own early journey starting out as a pessimist, someone who considers the glass half empty, then an optimist, who considers the glass half full, and an opportunist, who drinks the cup and enjoys its benefits while the other two weigh the factors. 

“Without knowing it then, I became the opportunist and it changed my course for the future,” Amitrano said. “Be ready to take the opportunities as they present themselves. Remember that success is where preparation and opportunity meet.”

Board of Education President Margaret Ballantyne-Mannion urged the graduates to forge their own path outside of Mineola, not just “a series of moments destined for Instagram.”

“May your road bring you happiness and love,” Ballantyne-Mannion said. “Enjoy every step of the way.  We will be cheering you from the sidelines.”

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