KATONAH, N.Y. – Family members and friends packed the tent at Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts on a sweltering Thursday evening as they proudly watched the John Jay High School Class of 2012 receive their diplomas during its graduation ceremony.
The hot, humid weather didn’t seem to bother the 303 seniors who took part in the school’s 56th annual commencement exercise as they entered the stage to the traditional strains of “Pomp and Circumstance” as spectators whooped and hollered and yelled their congratulations.
Schools Superintendent Paul Kreutzer opened the ceremonies by telling parents that while he knows they lament the passing of youth and probably want to hang onto their children a little longer, he didn’t share the sentiment because the graduates are needed elsewhere.
“We need you in the real world. Truth be told, the real world is in need of new ideas, enthusiasm, inspiration, confidence,” Kreutzer told the students. “We need your ingenuity, determination, and optimism. We need your songs and your art. We need your contribution to medicine and healing. We need your competitive spirit. We need to move from a starving world to a meal to hunger for. We need you to design the dress, publish the Pulitzer piece, green the globe.”
Mark Lipton, president of the Kathonah-Lewisboro Board of Education, reflected on the graduates’ four-year academic careers at John Jay and offered some statistics he had compiled. He noted that during that time most of them had traveled approximately 48,000 miles on a Katonah-Lewisboro school bus and collectively used 120 million pieces of paper for homework. Lipton also figured that they had spent 2,000 hours in athletic competition.
“You sit on the edge of a new world,” he told the grads. “As parents, we know this day is coming but we are never truly ready for it.”
Salutatorian Stephanie Riocci spoke of the decisions students must make and how the choices determine who they ultimately become.
“Life is about making both the small and huge decisions and turning them into memories worth keeping. And that is what I think matters most about high school,” she said. “Because in 20 years I won’t care about the calculus test I failed or even the salutatorian speech I butchered. I’ll remember all the awesome people I met who made the journey worthwhile.”
Reflecting on her college application process, valedictorian Melissa Grossbarth told her classmates that while she fixated on one particular school, she soon realized that life would become a series of choices and that flexibility is key to being happy.
“Don’t sell yourself short, but don’t be disappointed if your preferred path doesn’t pan out,” she said. "Dream big, but realize how large those dreams are and be honest about what would be necessary to obtain them. Set your eyes on achievement, but remember that success comes in all sorts of forms and you may have to take off the blinders to see the possibilities around you. Be realistic, be flexible, and, above all, keep going forward.”