By Sue Bratone Childs, Board of Education President
Thank you so much, Principal Clark. And welcome, everyone, as we celebrate the class of 2019!
This class is clearly a large and impressive group. You have distinguished yourselves in so many ways and it’s a privilege to speak at your graduation. I feel particularly honored because, over 30 years ago, on a day in VERY late June, I sat where all of you are right now. Well... to be specific … in 1985, we sat over on Ingalls, without a tent, in the direct baking sun.
Other than the exact location, many of the other graduation traditions have stayed the same. We had prom the week before graduation, wore blue and white caps and gowns, and … we felt like we were the absolute last school in the tri-state area to graduate. But, this year you may actually have taken that honor.
One of the great things about Peham is that, while we’re a few miles from the heart of New York City, we have been able to hold on to the traditions and benefits of a small town. Though I’m sure it has felt WAY too small to all of you at one point or another. Whether it was your parent’s friends reporting on your exact location at any given moment, or people knowing way too much about your siblings … or your cousins … or your business.
And even though we understand that small can mean “stifling” at times, there aren’t that many places where you can grow up on a first name basis with the ice cream lady — who many of you have known since you were in kindergarten. There’s something to be said for that. For community. For the support it gives you.
Especially in a world where we have endless distractions pulling at our attention, and really big problems to solve, it’s important to appreciate community — to acknowledge all the people who have helped make you who you are — and ask how YOU can do the same for others that you meet along the way. So, I hope you will take a moment right now to look around ………
You are, quite literally, surrounded. Your families and loved ones are here. Your teachers, coaches, and class advisors. Your friends and classmates and teammates, who’ve had your back when it mattered most. Today is for ALL of you graduates and … for ALL of us who have watched you grow and struggle and ultimately make it to this point where you are ready to take on the bigger world.
So, as a reminder of the enormous team you have behind you, I asked a few people to help me tell you what you mean to them.
Mr. Judd Rothstein, the daily voice of our Pelican nation, says: “I've always felt a strong connection to the Class of 2019 because I too arrived at PMHS in the fall of 2015. This is the first graduating class that I've seen through from start to finish and Dr. Callahan would be proud of how much they've taught me about numbers. For instance: I've seen four amazing silly walks; hundreds of delivery people bringing them food; thirty-six amazing acts and skits at the Senior Talent Show; ten terrifying rooms at the Haunted House; thousands of hours practicing and playing their sports and showing off their artistic talent; and one amazing group of graduates who have made us all incredibly proud. Stay fly Pelicans, and remember: your voice matters!"
One of your class favorites, Ms. Jeanette Connolly wants to let you all know: “It is with a HEAVY but very happy heart that I say goodbye to the class of 2019. This class is one that I will always remember as having the biggest smiles in the halls, they are sincerely friendly and polite. Every student is compassionate and empathetic. I am so proud of the young people they are -- they are warm and loving and most of all determined to succeed.”
And lastly, Mr. David Schemabari, one of your fearless class advisors, says: “In taking on the role of class advisor, I had no idea what to expect but I heard GREAT things about the upcoming freshmen class from the middle school faculty. Whether it was the Olympics preparation every year, setting up for Junior Prom or the big events like Haunted House and Talent Show, our amazing students worked so well together to get the job done. I loved how cohesive the grade was and, more importantly, they always made time to chat and cared about people on every level. This is an empathetic and compassionate bunch of young adults. As seniors, they worked hard until the very end -- this is a real testament to their dedication and showed the respect they had for their teachers and themselves. Being their advisor has been the most fulfilling four-year stretch of my career!”
I could keep going because many people have great things to say about this class. But the important point is that ALL of us can’t wait to see what you do next.
After today, you will find new communities that are ready and eager to welcome you. Wherever you go, I hope you will carry the things you learned here into the next stage of your life. I hope you also know that Pelham will always be here for you.
Don’t worry, you don’t always have to love us back. Or, even live here anymore. We understand the desire many of you feel to get away, strike out on your own and find new challenges and new faces. But, when you need us, we’ll be around. No matter how far away you go you can ALWAYS fall back on the best of the small town lessons that you learned here. Be humble, work hard, be compassionate and empathetic AND ALWAYS … say please and thank you when ordering ice cream.
On behalf of the entire Board of Education, I wish you great luck and know that you will make yourselves, your families and all of us in Pelham proud.