White Plains High School celebrated the graduation of 500 students during its 121st commencement program at the County Center, June 21.
Decked out in the academic regalia symbolizing their own achievements, Dr. Joseph Ricca School Superintendent, Ellen Doherty WPHS Principal, WPHS faculty, and members of the Board of Education acknowledged the accomplishments of the students during the evening’s program.
Rosemarie Eller, President of the School Board, addressed the graduates, wishing them well and sending them off to future endeavors. Members of the Board presented the diplomas.
Most of the graduates were set to take the next step in their academic careers by attending colleges and universities across the country, some to enter the Ivy League.
The student speeches acknowledged the growth experience offered by high school but also focused on community support and the need to advocate for others as well as yourself.
Brooke Falvey spoke on behalf of the General Organization and Senior Class President Samantha Carranza thanked parents, teachers and others who offered support throughout the school year.
Class Salutatorian, Anna Tender, spoke about learning to use her voice to express her ideas.
“I truly believe that it is the culture of White Plains High School, its diversity and its acceptance that encouraged all of us to speak up unapologetically. Without the support of our teachers and the availability of resources in this district that we are all so privileged to have, we might not have had the chance to find or to develop our voices,” Tender said.
She continued, “Throughout my high school career, I observed this shared passion amongst our grade for making a difference in our communities.”
“As freshman, our grade walked out to protest the murder of Michael Brown and other black men at the hands of the police. Throughout high school our grade rallied for peace during Peace One Day. Our voices were heard throughout our community, and we succeeded.”
“Just this year, I was able to stand beside one thousand fellow classmates fighting for students everywhere, using their voices to enact a change at our school walkout, in solidarity with victims of gun violence. To me, that experience felt surreal. All of our voices combined amplified our common beliefs and we, along with millions of students were able to grab the attention of a nation. Together, with our combined spirit of advocacy, we succeeded.”
“I was able to watch as countless student-run organizations raised money and awareness for causes that are important to them. I also saw our grade advocate to change a long-standing bus ticket policy, which forced all students to pay simply to get to school. We saw how unfair this policy was, and from the ground up, were able to get this issue on the ballot, and were able to change it. Now, all future White Plains High School students will ride to school free of charge. Together, yet again, we succeeded.”
“From this, our ability to rally behind a single cause and fight for what we believe in, I can tell we are all well on our way to becoming advocates that will mold our future communities,” Tender concluded.
Class Valedictorian Andreas Alexandrou looked back on four years of change and personal growth.
Reflecting on a generation that grew up with social media, Alexandrou commented, “… there is no single ideal that every human should aspire to. Different circumstances, different body chemistries, and different ambitions mean that everybody is their own unique individual. You can’t rely on others to set your goals for you.”
He continued, “…we are a part of the first generation to grow up with social media and nobody ever prepared us for it. We expose ourselves to a small, often manufactured, portion of somebody’s life and internalize that misleading morsel into our needs and wants, distracting from our true desires that come from within.”
“Part of what high school taught me about becoming my best self is the importance of finding yourself a community that cares and supports you as much as you do it. Placing yourself within a supportive community not only gives you the opportunity to propel others forward, but gives you others who are willing to do the same,” Alexandrou said.
The White Plains Examiner wishes the Class of 2018 well. May you continue to grow and learn and your youthful enthusiasm, never expire.