Copiague School District celebrated the Walter G. O’Connell Copiague High School Class of 2021 at the 62nd annual commencement exercises held on June 24 at Kenneth LaValle stadium at Stony Brook University.
Joined by family, friends, administrators and board of education members, the students processed onto the field to “Pomp and Circumstance.” Senior class president Denison Rosa led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Board of Education president Brian J. Sales offered congratulatory remarks on behalf of the board. “They say that adversity builds character and clearly you have gotten your share over the last year and a half,” he said. “You have all persevered through it all to be here today. You had to adapt to be successful. You had to use what you learned going through the pandemic and look forward to the future. Your life today is a result of your attitudes and choices made in the past. Your life tomorrow will be the result of your attitudes and choices that you make today and every day moving forward.”
Copiague School District Superintendent of Schools Dr. Kathleen Bannon welcomed the soon-to-graduates and commended them on the resiliency they have shown during the last two years. “When I think about this graduating class, I think about all the wonderful accomplishments you have had during your years at Walter G. O’Connell Copiague High School; and they took place under very unusual circumstances,” she said. “You’ve excelled in the classrooms, on the fields, on the stage and everywhere in between. You’ve certainly made an indelible mark on our high school. You are to be commended for your positive energy, effort, flexibility and dedication, which you put into everything that you did. I’ve watched you grow over the last 13 years and I know that you’re leaving us more than ready to embark on the next chapter in your lives.”
Class of 2021 salutatorian Sofia Lounici spoke to her classmates about remaining positive and staying motivated to be the best version of themselves. “Over the years, I’ve learned how rewarding it is to step out of your comfort zone and do what scares you most because afterward, you feel like you could accomplish anything,” she said. “And we should all remember that nothing we aspire to achieve comes easy, because the reality is, you must work incredibly hard and put in your all, without any excuses. Maybe you didn’t get the best grades in high school, or you didn't get accepted to the schools of your top choice. But that doesn't mean your journey to success stops. In fact, it's only the beginning. Sometimes, we need to feel the sting of rejection and failure in order to become much more willing to attack back with a greater ambition to succeed and conquer our dreams. Now as you all go on to start the next chapter of your lives, remember to keep looking forward, because the future is always something to hope for, and each day we are given is a new opportunity to better ourselves and to work toward the future we envision.”
Kiran Ahmad, Class of 2021 valedictorian, took to the podium to address her classmates about overcoming challenges and obstacles and accepting each other’s differences. “I stand before you today as the class valedictorian,” she said. “But I’ve struggled, just like many of you. Like many of you, I come from an immigrant family. Like many of you, I am the first in the family to graduate high school. Like many of you, I will be a first generation college student, and like all of you, I have dreams, hopes, and aspirations. I would like to commend you all for overcoming your personal challenges, for proving that you are resilient human beings, and for pushing through all the obstacles that were in the way of you being here today. Thank you for showing us that it’s completely acceptable to stand out from the crowd because there will always be individuals willing to accept you for who you are. I encourage you to never be ashamed of your challenges, but rather to recognize that your ability to face and overcome adversity is one of your greatest assets.”
Reflecting on the past 13 years, Walter G. O’Connell Copiague High School Principal Joseph Agosta acknowledged the hard work and dedication of the class. “When you look back and reflect, you will recognize that for much of these 13 years you have been supported by loving families, caring and dedicated teachers and administration and a board of education focused on providing you with the skills needed to help you reach your true potential,” he said. “Stand on your own and take your place as productive world citizens. Looking forward much is expected of you and I have great confidence in your abilities.”
Walter G. O’Connell Copiague High School assistant principals Jonathan Cutolo and Francis Salazar called out the names of each graduate as they stepped forward to be recognized by Dr. Bannon and Mr. Agosta. After each name had been called, Mr. Agosta instructed the students to turn their tassels and officially announced them as graduates of the Class of 2021. After a thunderous round of applause, the graduates tossed their caps high in the air.