With the traditional toss of their caps, 211 Pelham Memorial High School seniors signaled the end of their high school years and the beginning of a new chapter for the Class of 2017.
The graduation ceremony, held Saturday morning, June 24 on Franklin Field, was filled with a number of touching moments as a variety of speakers recalled their memorable years in the halls of PMHS and looked toward the future.
“Members of this class, YOU have the talent, skills and unlimited potential to make a lasting difference as you pursue the goals and dreams you have envisioned for yourself,” said Principal Jeannine Clark in her address to the Class of 2017. “To quote Mahatma Ghandi, leader of the nonviolent movement that won India’s independence from British rule 70 years ago, ‘YOU must be the change you wish to see in the world.’”
Mrs. Clark’s speech also paid tribute to the many remarkable accomplishments of the senior class, including honoring a nationally recognized rock climber, a competitive figure skater, an equestrian show jumper, a dinghy sailor, a classical pianist and even a Miss Teen New York.
Additionally, she paid homage to Pelham’s outstanding athletic accomplishments, which include state championships in hockey, rugby and crew, as well as numerous other accolades such as All American designations and two Con Edison Awards. Academically, she noted that one senior achieved a perfect ACT score, while another was accepted to three Ivy League Schools. Mrs. Clark lauded the fact that 95 percent of the Class of 2017 will attend either two or four year colleges.
She also mentioned a number of extra-curricular accolades, such as several gold awards at the local NYSSMA competition, and success in science research and forensic speech, which resulted in participation at numerous national and international competitions.
As has become his tradition, Superintendent Dr. Peter Giarrizzo, used a song to help convey his message to the graduating seniors. This year, he chose Billy Joel’s “Vienna,” a song that he said carries a message of pacing one’s self. He cited the song’s lyrics as he encouraged his Pelicans on-stage to “Work hard, play harder, and dream big.”
In his speech, Dr. Giarrizzo encouraged the students to be persistent and principled and to “take time to create your own definition of success.”
In closing, Dr. Giarrizzo said, “Pelicans, the Pelham Public Schools are better because of you and I hope that as you move forward at this important crossroad- that as Vienna waits for you, you go forward with your eyes wide open and your arms stretched wide so that you don’t miss a thing. The rest of your life is out there for you. Go ahead and get it.”
The festivities kicked-off with music by the PMHS Band, led by Director Andrew Van Bochove, a color guard presented by American Legion Pelham Post 50, and a stirring rendition of the National Anthem sung by senior Veronica Stern.
During the ceremony, the W.W. Fairclough Prize was awarded by PTA Council President Candice Ripoll to the three top academic students: Daniel Vozza, Enea Dushaj, and Jonathan Salama. Dr. Giarrizzo awarded Memorial Tablets to Amanpreet Singh and Gregory Gordon, the senior class president. Additionally, Board of Education President Marianne Gilland awarded the Thomas B. Fenlon Award to Romina Levy, honoring her volunteer service to the Pelham Public Schools.
Gordon, in his speech titled “A New Chapter,” encouraged his classmates to fill the upcoming blank pages with something fulfilling and meaningful and quoted from Natasha Bedingfield’s song “Unwritten.”
“I wish that the next chapter in all of your lives will be filled with success in any form you wish to see it,” Gordon said. “I hope the next phase of all of your lives are littered with joy and great experiences. You may still be sitting in the audience asking yourself, How will I write you the next chapter of your life? well I have a teeny bit of help for you...
“Reach for something in the distance, something so close you can almost taste it
Release your inhibitions, feel the rain on your skin.
Trust me, no one else can feel it for you, only you can let it in
No one else, no one else
Can speak the words on your lips
Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where the next chapter of your book begins.”
Senior Kate McLaughlin’s speech, titled “He Who Travels,” focused on the importance of taking risks, and reflected on her own experiences during her years at PMHS. She also praised the school faculty and thanked parents for their guidance and dedication.
“Our teachers have stayed every day after school for academy period -- and after academy-- to help us, because they believe that we can do well,” McLaughlin said. “Our guidance counselors have called us into their offices before college deadlines to keep us on track, and helped us when we were panicking before, during, and after the college process, keeping us from buying a ticket onto ‘the crazy train.’ Our coaches have sacrificed their evenings and their Saturdays to see us do well in tournaments and games. And most importantly, our parents, who have served as models of strength to us and have made sacrifice after sacrifice for us so that we could attend Pelham Memorial High School. All of these people have allowed for us to sit here today, and for that, we should be extraordinarily grateful.”
Another student speaker, Sarah Jacobson in her speech “Yellow and Blue are the New Black,” spoke about perspective and point of view, recalling her evolution of viewing high school as a prison to seeing it as a sanctuary.
“Over time, this school has shifted, or, rather, my view of the school has,” Jacobson said. “No longer do I see a prison when I look upon its walls. I see a sanctuary filled with friends and trusted mentors.
“…Every graduating student this year has the ability to achieve greatness,” Jacobson continued. “All we have to do is approach life with the right perspective. Even when it seems impossible, remember that you deserve the most life can give you. You just have to believe it. School isn’t a prison, and life after high school is not as scary as it may seem right now.”
The final speaker, Mrs. Gilland, who is retiring after two terms on the Board of Education, reminded the students that Pelham is a special place, and that no matter where the members of the Class of 2017 go from here, they will always have a place to call home. She also encouraged the students to be good citizens.
“If there is one trait that is ingrained in our Pelham community, that is the spirit of lending a helping hand. As you move on to the next chapter, I encourage you to take that trait with you. Be aware of what is happening in our world. Always lend a hand when you can.”