At Graduation, Principal Bell Tolls for Mutual Respect, Hard Work, Honesty, Courage to Care. Remembers Matt Lewis.

Good morning.  Graduation Day has arrived!  Today we come together to recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of this incredible 2015 Centereach High School graduating class.  They have been simply amazing.  One of the best parts of my job the last four years has been accepting the phone calls, e-mails, text messages, and yes, even letters, complimenting this remarkable class.  You came to Centereach in ninth grade as children, and in our first assembly, I kind of waved my arm in front of you, attempting to hypnotize you, and quickly informed you that you are now adults.   I went on to explain that the foundation of your success would be mutual respect.  You leave us today as outstanding young men and women in large part because you embraced that concept and trusted that the adults in your lives had your best interests at heart.  You took that leap of faith, and now reap the benefits.  Without question, the staff here was influential, but, it is your parents, families, and friends that are most responsible for instilling in you the values, work ethic, and compassion which has been the foothold for your success.  We all deserve a round of applause.

You as a class took on the challenge that I put before you in September, which was:  To follow in the footsteps of last year’s graduating class and continue to raise the bar.  I am here today to state that you definitely accomplished that task.  In reflecting as to how you did so, it became clear.  Individually and collectively, you remained intensely focused on your goals.  You refused to let distractions have an impact, you never shied away from hard work, and when you were faced with disappointment, you picked yourself up and continued on your path.  Further, you faithfully supported each other along the way.  Don’t get me wrong, you took the time to have fun and enjoy high school as well.  Raquel and I are still answering phone calls regarding the sale of the school!   More than any other class, you are ready for the challenges that lie ahead.

As you go forward in this world, and make your mark, do so with pride and confidence, knowing that you have been well-prepared.  Be mindful that as the world continues to change at a rapid pace, some values and concepts will remain true forever.  My parting advice to you is to:

~ Continue to ask questions, because those questions will spawn creative solutions

~ Continue to listen intently to others, their perspective is important

~ Continue to be honest, you have nothing if not your word

~ Continue to have a strong work ethic, nothing worth achieving was ever accomplished without hard work

~ Continue to care for others, that is the food for your soul

In conclusion, this weekend, high school principals throughout the state will speak with great pride to their graduating classes, recognizing their collective accomplishments, and thanking them for their efforts.  What I know and am sure of is that none of those principals will be speaking with greater sincerity or conviction.  You have been outstanding.  Once again, thank you.  It has been my privilege and honor working with you.

At this time, I would like to take a moment to recognize two members of the class of 2015.  The first being Matt Lewis who succumbed to illness earlier this year.

Matt touched the lives of so many of us here today.  Matt was many things- funny, sarcastic, and random.  He was a good student, challenging himself with college level classes, and a true friend to people from all parts of his life.  His passion was music and theater.  He was very involved in our music department events and outside community theaters.  His family told me that if he were here today, he would tell you all to follow your dreams and live your life to the fullest!!  They also wanted me to remind you, that you, the Class of 2015, are not leaving Matt behind, but rather, you are taking him with you in your hearts and your memories.  In Matt’s words, “Always Let Your Life Shine and remember to Keep the Music Playing”.  At this time I ask that you welcome Mrs. Lewis and Matt’s sister Karleen as they accept his honorary diploma.

The second person I would like to honor today is a dear friend and colleague who will be retiring this year after 43 years of service in education, our assistant principal, Ms. Joann Marshall.  Like nobody I have ever known, she has worked tirelessly to support our students and made sure we as a community kept the students first and foremost in our thoughts.  Joann, please come forward and accept this cord honoring the years of service that you have given to the thousands of students whose lives you have touched.

We are truly honored today to have one of the most powerful and well respected men in the country joining us today. A man that has dedicated his life to helping others, please welcome United States Senator Charles Schumer.

It is my honor to present to you a student that has demonstrated class, pride and character during her time here at CHS.  Bound for City College of New York, the prestigious Macauley Honors College next year, please welcome Ms. Casey Sniffen, the Salutatorian of the Class of 2015.

It is with great pride that I recognize a truly great student and incredible young man as the Valedictorian of the Class of 2015, off to Binghamton University next year, Mr. Devon Patel.

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