“This class, with intention, turned on the light in inspiring acts of resilience, kindness, and gratitude," said Dr. Steven Siciliano, Principal of John Jay High School, in his Opening Remarks to the two hundred and eighty-two graduates and their guests.
“Despite living in tumultuous times, the light never went out at John Jay High School. And all of us are grateful to each and every one of you for that.”
As Dr. Siciliano spoke, brilliant sunlight shimmered through the tented Venetian Theater at Caramoor, the renowned music venue where John Jay traditionally holds graduations. The fifteenth-century columns behind him were back-lit in John Jay purple.
Co-Presidents of the Class of 2017, Steven Palmesi and Carter Lombardi, presented the Key of Knowledge to the Co-Presidents of 2018, with an inscription from Star Wars added to the talisman’s collection of charms.
Greg Kaplan, Salutatorian, spoke about choosing the path of humility. “All it takes is one person, in a world of many people, to pick up a piece of trash that he or she didn’t drop. One person to offer up a seat on a bus or to help carry a package or groceries for a stranger,” said Kaplan. “You don’t have to do heroic deeds to be someone’s hero.”
Valedictorian Sophie Lee reflected on being a newcomer to John Jay four years ago. “One of my friends told me something during those first few weeks of transition to John Jay that I’ve never forgotten. She said that she believed that the more people you meet, the better person you become. I can say with confidence that I know exactly what she means,” said Lee. “All of these memories and experiences create you; all your homes live with you, and shape you into the person you are.”
The outdoor Venetian Theater’s supurb acoustics carried wonder and hope along with a cappella harmonies as The Treblemakers sang “One Day,” Matisyahu’s prayer for peace, followed by The Notables performance of John Mayer’s rumination on time, “Stop this Train;” and The Rolling Tones rendition of the Beach Boys’ "God Only Knows.”
Daniel Longhurst’s Keynote Address looked at the unexpected pleasures of spontaneity. Longhurst, a physics teacher, was selected by the students for this honor. He began with a story from his year teaching English in France after college.
“I would say that the most significant part of my experience in France is that I fell in love . . . with cheese,” said Longhurst to an audience already laughing along.
“Spontaneous experiences make for the best memories, best stories, and create deep and lasting bonds with the people you experience them with,” he said.
Maria Labriola, a senior selected by Dr. Siciliano and other members of the administrative team, gave the Senior Class Address, bringing her classmates back to the rules of elementary school and the increasing freedom they have had in each successive year. “John Jay High School’s graduating class of 2017 is passionate, is inspired. We are ready to find our own voices, and to contribute who we are to the world.”
“You leave us at a time of incredible opportunity to make the world a better place,” said Andrew Selesnick, Superintendent of Katonah-Lewisboro School District. “We cannot wait to see what you accomplish.”