Class of 2017 Celebrates Goals Old and New

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As the 235 seniors in the high school’s Class of 2017 walked onto the athletic field on June 22, clad in purple and white, the first phase of their educational journey was about to conclude in a moving and memorable fashion.

“It amazes me how fast these four years have gone, but then again, it is only natural that time passes quickly when attending such a great school like Islip,” said co-valedictorian Kenneth Ortega. “The amazing friends, teachers and faculty have made my years at Islip High School unforgettable.”

He went on to urge his fellow graduates to seek out positive, supportive people.

“Islip has taught me that we need people who are going to push us to do our absolute best,” he said. “At times we will feel lost in the world, but if we surround ourselves with people who truly want to see us succeed, they will be able to help us reach our goals.”

Board of Education trustee Mary Ann Coughlin, whose son Quinn Coughlin was among the graduates, told them, “Success itself is universal, the journey is what is different.”

Senior Nicole Poliandro, who had kicked off the commencement with “The Star-Spangled Banner,” sang a soaring, sparkling rendition of Darren Criss’ “This Time.”

Principal Michael Mosca spoke of the value of perseverance, the perils of instant gratification and the long, hard road to true success in the real world.

“If this class were an Olympic team, we might not always win gold, but our work ethic, ability to take risks and compassion for each other would always make us successful,” he said. “I’ve found that each and every one of you has something to contribute to our team. Your successes and the ways you’ve overcome setbacks convince me that each of you has something to teach and a story worth telling.”

The penultimate speech – and most unconventional – was from co-valedictorian Brendan Mercado.

“I want to speak to everyone today in a language that I’ve understood longer and loved more than any other, and that’s music,” he said. “There’s a lot of good songs out there, but how many times have you stopped and thought about what their message really was? I searched through all my favorite songs and picked the ones that I felt had some wisdom to share with you.”

Mercado then strapped on a guitar, to the delight of the crowd, and performed excerpts from eight popular songs: Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing,” U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” Oasis’ “Don’t Look Back in Anger,” The Beatles’ “Yesterday,” Smash Mouth’s “All Star,” “Drake and Josh” theme song “I Found a Way,” Alphaville’s “Forever Young” and Green Day’s “Time of Your Life.”

Finally, Superintendent Susan Schnebel spoke from the heart, urging the young men and women to be unique to be successful.
She told them, “This is certainly a time in your life when you have reached a goal set for yourself years before. It’s an excellent point at which to begin fashioning new goals for the future.”

Diplomas were conferred, caps were tossed into the sky, and the high school’s wind ensemble and concert band began to play the recessional “Fairest of the Fair.” By the time the new alumni strode off the stadium track and on to celebrations with family and friends, the sun was starting to set, and a new era for all began.