The Commencement Ceremony for the Highland High School Class of 2022 opened with the National Anthem, sung by gradating senior Ella Falco.
Principal William Zimmer opened his address to the Class of 2022 with three words, “you did it.’ It was not easy especially since March of 2020 when the world as we know it turned upside down. I, along with your teachers and parents, are very impressed with your fortitude and perseverance. Your class, unlike any other, received an education unlike any class will in the future...Regardless of the path you choose, I am confident you are ready for the challenge; pursue your dreams. I wish you the best with your future endeavors. Please know that you will be missed.”
Superintendent Joel Freer recalled that in August 2009, when he was the Principal of the Elementary School, he welcomed these parents to a kindergarten orientation.
“I promised you then that today would be here before you knew it and to cherish every moment along the way. And so here we are, gathered at the end of one journey for these young adults and ready to see them conquer the next. I can say with certainty they are ready for that journey and will soon hit other milestones, which will come fast and furious, leaving us to continually say, seems like yesterday, doesn’t it?
You have been a very special class for me and congratulations and welcome to the real world.”
Salutatorian for the Class of 2022 Dimitrios E. Bakatsias spoke of their crucial high school years.
“We became self-aware and grew comfortable with ourselves. We expanded our knowledge and explored what we liked to do,” he said. “We’ve collected so many different things over our time here, which has led me to one conclusion – this is the only time we will be gathered in this way ever again. These past few years have shaped us and will have a lasting impact on us. This doesn’t have to be a sad moment in which we dwell on the fact that our world’s are changing. It’s not worth the existential crisis, just yet. Choose to live in this moment and cherish the time that we have spent and are currently spending right now together. Thank you.”
Band Director Dan Shaut conducted his musicians in a piece entitled ‘Beyond the Cosmos’ by David Shaffer.
Katelin G. McPeck delivered her Valedictorian address.
“I know a lot of us are excited to move on to new things, away from the school and of Highland as a whole. But before we leave I want to remind us all just how important a foundation this place has been to all of us,” she said. “The pandemic threw everything into chaos and made our classes harder than they had any right being. Despite this, we should all be incredibly proud of ourselves. We managed to not only survive high school but we managed to do it while dealing with remote learning and avoiding each other like the plague, literally. The school was such a huge help in such a trying time. The teachers taught us how to be resilient over the past two years. Moving forward we need to remember to take the best parts of Highland with us in whatever we decide to do next. After today we will officially be headed into the next chapter of our lives and I wish us all the best of luck, though I doubt we will all really need it. Thank you”
Principal Zimmer introduced this year’s Commencement Speaker, Scott MacFarlane. “He is a Congressional Correspondent for CBS, and reports across America for the CBS Evening News. He is also heard regularly on the CBS Radio Network.
MacFarlane is a Highland High School graduate of the Class of 1994 and is a summa cum laude graduate of Syracuse University and the winner of 20 Emmy and Edward R. Murrow awards for Journalism as well as the Anna Quindlen Award for Excellence in Reporting on children’s safety issues.”
MacFarlane first had the graduates stand and applaud their parents for their love and support that got them to this long awaited graduation day.
MacFarlane also reserved praise for the teachers.
“Teaching at the best of circumstances is an exhausting, tireless profession but never more so than for these four years because when you all went hybrid or virtual for your sophomore year, they had to take these finely curated lesson plans, that they worked years to build, and throw them away and start from scratch. They did this not for fame or fortune but because they care about you and they are going to miss you more than you can ever imagine.”
MacFarlane recalled that when he was in school here, he took his commitment to doing the morning announcements seriously, urging today’s graduates, “to commit to things in a next level way [and] for me it meant getting more serious,” especially when he entered college. He urged the Class of 2022 that when they get to college in September, begin by showing up early to class, take on a volunteer project or an internship, “all because this will communicate to your professors about who you are...Commit to whatever you do next. Put your heart and your soul [and] lean into it.”
He urged the Class of 2022, “to stay a part of each other’s lives because that’s the secret sauce, that’s how you get from the chair where you have a certain dream and you get to fulfill that dream.”
MacFarlane said, “When you graduate from this school, this will be a spot in your soul you never, ever lose. I am proud to call you fellow Highland High School graduates. I welcome you to the family. I will look out for you and I need you to look out for me and I am proud of what you did over these last four years. Thank you all.”
The awarding of diplomas followed for the Class of 2022, with each climbing the platform and shaking the hand of Principal Zimmer and other officials and teachers. Before closing the ceremony, Zimmer noted that these graduates have met all of the requirements of the state of New York and the Highland Central High School District, “I am pleased and honored to present to you the Class of 2022 and at this time graduates you may move your tassel from right to left. Congratulations.”