Manhasset Grads Overcome Unique Challenges

Class President Peter Barry rings the bell three times to signify past, present and future. He is surrounded by the class officers. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)

Celebrating 102nd commencement at high school

Long after the mortarboards were tossed up in the air, marking the end of the ceremonies, the grassy area where the 102nd Manhasset High School Commencement had taken place was filled with clusters of families and friends chatting, posing for photos. Just one more snapshot. And then another.

Sydney Silvia is pictured on the large display, and actually coming down the steps during the processional. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)

You only graduate once, and for many, it was a chance to experience a bit more of the uniqueness that being a member of a particular class imparts. Of course, in Manhasset there is always The Frolic that follows the ceremony. The graduating class gets to mingle in an elaborately decorated gym meant to impress the visual and aural senses. It represents the last chance to gather, to spend time with their cohorts before summer and the future scatters them until the first class reunion is organized.

Andrew Hahn, left, and Victor Diaso are boith members of the National Honor Society. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)

The graduates kicked off the milestone event by ringing a bell three times, a school tradition that honors Manhasset High School’s past, present and future graduates.

The seniors then walked down the stairs of Manhasset Secondary School for the last time to “Pomp and Circumstance.”

Class president Peter Barry opened the ceremony and the Manhasset High School symphonic orchestra performed “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

High School Principal Dr. Dean Schlanger participates in the processional. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)

The graduates heard from a variety of speakers, including Acting Superintendent of Schools Dr. Gaurav Passi, salutatorian Evan Ginsburg, Silver M President Lukasz Mosakowski, valedictorian Dylan Wu, class co-advisers Devin Hagendorn and Karalyn Medlock and high school principal Dr. Dean Schlanger.

Proud parents and relatives look on during the processional. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)

As with the Class of 2021, the Class of 2022 was shaped by the once-in-a-century pandemic. COVID-19 was the great disrupter, and the speakers at the ceremony made note of it.

Students react to a speech. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)

Valedictorian Wu gave the pandemic its due, but found the silver lining, stating, “out of this adversity would come an unprecedented opportunity for growth, and I would argue that we found resilience, community and a perspective in a way we wouldn’t have been able to otherwise.”

Class Vice President Eric J. McCormick poses for the “official” portrait after receiving his diploma. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)

He thanked the administrators, teachers and staff for nurturing and supporting the students, and advised, “I want you to remember and cherish all of those memories from the past four years. That way, we’ll still have a sense of home even when physically apart from one another.”

A happy Silvana Davi poses with her diploma. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)

Following Wu’s speech, select senior class vocalists directed by Jared Berry performed “Seasons of Love.” In addition, the class gift was presented which included two custom signs for the school’s Senior Spa. The Senior Spa, also known as a senior privilege area, is a long-standing Manhasset tradition that is space reserved for seniors where they can enjoy lunch, do homework, relax during free periods and gather together.

From left, Ava Giangrande, Despina Giannakopoulos and Tyler Godfrey readily posed for a photographer. In front of them, with her decorated mortarboard, is Michigan-bound Esha Brar. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)

In his remarks, class President Barry said, “Every Manhasset High School graduating class has its own story. COVID-19 defined this era as well as the final two-plus years of our high school careers. The Class of 2022 will be remembered primarily for what we overcame to get to this moment.”

Steven Pullano greets his mother, Board of Education Trustee Jill Pullano, on the diploma receiving line. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)

He reminded the assembled that “the only two full years of high school we spent together as a class were our freshmen and senior years.”

Barry concluded, “The Manhasset Public Schools have laid a great foundation for us. Let’s go out and build on it.”

Kathryn Gajdjis was a member of the Student Senate and was the student representative on the board of education. She greets board President Patricia Aitken as she receives her diploma. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)

In his address, Salutatorian Ginsburg quoted F. Scott Fitzgerald: “I hope you make the best of it. I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people who have a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start over.”

Ginsburg compared his high school career to being part of the crew team, in which he was the coxswain directing the rowers.

Class Secretary Katherine Stackler introduced Salutatorian Evan Ginsburg. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)

“Whether you took part in theater, a musical group or any other sport or organization in this community, I hope you learned how important you are to your metaphorical boat and to the course you rode with your teammates,” he said. “It was the voice you developed, the drive you had and the effort you put in that has brought us to victories, yes, but also to this graduation day.”

Eva Kosciusko returns to her seat after accepting her diploma. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)

Dr. Passi noted how quickly time passes and encouraged the students to thank their parents. He also made note of the polarizing times in which we live, pleading for tolerance and respect for differing viewpoints.

A volunteer helps Kathryn Papagianopoulos sanitize her hands. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)

“I ask you to work hard to suspend your own certainty and the need to be right,” he told the graduates. “Embrace different points of view as opportunities for learning and growth by holding space for difference. I challenge you to always speak and listen from the heart without judgement and, importantly, remain open to outcomes that may not be your outcomes.”

Shelter Rock Elementary School Assistant Principal Paulette Williams, who is retiring, greets Interim Superintendent Dr. Gaurav Passi. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)

He concluded, “In the end, our humanity, our dignity, and our sense of community depends on our collective capacity of joy, peace, love, hope, kindness, generosity, and faith in each other to thrive.”

The traditional moving of the tassel. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)

Mosakowski announced the newest inductees into the Silver M Society. The society honors students who have gone above and beyond during their high school careers. This year’s inductees included seniors Evan Ginsburg, Andrew Hahn, Stanley Kong, Sophia Vlahakis and Allison Zhang. In addition, Mosakowski announced the induction of faculty member Steve Sproul for his service in the district.

The mortarboards go flying. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)

Dr. Schlanger thanked each of the graduates for their patience, understanding and compassion during their sophomore, junior and senior years while the district and the world was adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic. He acknowledged their perseverance and many achievements, while expressing how proud he was.

Chloe Chan, left, and Devin Kantu pose for family members after the commencement. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)

“Thank you for your hard work, your grit, patience and success,” he said to the graduates. “In closing, as our school motto suggests, your education has fostered your excellence and that excellence, generously shared, will rebound in your work, relationships and life. Give of your many gifts and you will receive many more in return.”

Callie Triantafillou, left, and Caroline Yoon were both accomplished students. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)

Each member of the Class of 2022 was announced at the podium where they received their diploma and were congratulated by Dr. Schlanger, Dr. Passi and board members.

Posing one last time in front opf the familiar tower are, from left: Teresa Garvey, Ava Giangrande, Annalisa Massaro and Amelia Harley. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)

In addition, four retirees were recognized for their years of service to the district. This included Deputy Superintendent for Business and Operations Rosemary Johnson, music teacher Randy Knudsen, Manhasset Secondary School Associate Principal Peter Vercessi and Shelter Rock Assistant Principal Paulette Williams.

Grace LaBenne, Class of ’27, tries on her sister Charlotte’s mortarboard. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)

Class co-advisor Karalyn Medlock spoke of how their senior year began with “the ransomware attack where you couldn’t even use your Chromeback or internet that yoiu’ve so dependent on. Life is full of unknowns, and often life doesn’t turn out exactly how you expected. However, it’s how you navigate these obstacles, and the skills you learn throughout the journey that make you the person that you are today.”

The Frolic is a unique tradtion in Manhasset, taking place after the graduation ceremonies. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)

Fellow co-advisor Devin Hagendorn said, “Your next stage of life will also be full of new experiences, success, failures and difficult situations that you will have to navigate. However, you are lucky to have a toolbox of skills that you have learned along the way to help you climb toward success.”

The seniors moved their tassels, signifying the end of their high school careers, and tossed their caps high, marking the end of their chapter in Manhasset.

The Manhasset Press asked Schlanger to characterize the class and he replied, “It was a bunch of wonderful young men and women with innumerable accomplishments, both in and out of the classroom, and they have made the entire Manhasset community proud and they will be missed.”

He added, “They really trudged through adversity during COVID and came out stronger and more resilient. And I think their accomplishments and where they’re headed as far as college and the opportunities that they’ll have ahead will be most plentiful.”

Asked how they got through the pandemic, the principal replied, “With wonderful, supportive, loving teachers, incredible families that gave them a lot of support, leaning on one another, and resiliency. We had a good game plan, like a lot of other schools, but with a lot of big hearts and understanding and compassion.”

—Additional reporting by the Manhasset Public Schools

Manhasset High School valedictorian Dylan Wu (left) and salutatorian Evan Ginsburg. (Manhasset Public Schools)
From left, Interim Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction and Personnel Dr. Maureen Appiarius, Acting Superintendent of Schools Dr. Gaurav Passi, Deputy Superintendent for Business and Operations Rosemary Johnson and Assistant Superintendent for Student Services Allison Rushforth. (Manhasset Public Schools)
Select senior class vocalists performed “Seasons of Love” during the ceremony. (Manhasset Public Schools)
From left, retirees music teacher Randy Knudsen, Deputy Superintendent for Business and Operations Rosemary Johnson, Manhasset Secondary School Associate Principal Peter Vercessi and Shelter Rock Assistant Principal Paulette Williams. (Manhasset Public Schools)
Acting Superintendent of Schools Dr. Gaurav Passi (left) with valedictorian Dylan Wu. (Manhasset Public Schools)
Newly-minted graduates Ryan Matzelle, left, and Tina Giallias. (Manhasset Public Schools)
Giancarlo Ciotoli greets board of education President Pat Aitken and Laurie Marshall-Lauria, coordinator of student activities. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)
Sophia Vlahakis introduced the musical selection by the select senior class vocalists. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)
It looks like the heat got to this grad, who removed his mortarboard as he accepts his diploma. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)
Graduates look on during the ceremony. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)
Silver M Society President Lukasz Mosakowski inducts the newest members of the society. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)
Members of the symphonic orchestra look on during the ceremony. They were directed by Caroline Shyr. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)
A large crowd filled the lawn in front of he school. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)
Class Co-Advisors Devin Hagendorn and Karalyn Medlock. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)
A happy Carly George accepts her diploma. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)
The gym was ready for The Frolic, thanks to the generosity and labor of love by senior class parents. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)


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Frank Rizzo is a journalist at Anton Media Group. With decades of experience in the industry, he is exceptionally equipped to cover local politics, business and other topics that matter to readers. PHONE:516-403-5154


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