On Thursday, June 23, The Newburgh Free Academy [NFA] Class of 2022, 744 graduates in total, walked across the stage at Academy Field and received their diplomas, ready to head off into the next chapter of their lives.
Two years ago, the graduating class transitioned to online learning during their sophomore year due to the on-going COVID pandemic. On the day of the 157th commencement ceremony, graduates and families smiled, cheered, and captured photos and videos of each other during the special day.
As 5:30 p.m. arrived, NFA students gathered at the entrance to NFA Main campus, in alphabetical order, and waited to proceed towards Academy Field. Students and teachers were led by City of Newburgh Motorcycle Officers, members of the NFA Air Force Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps [JROTC] and NFA Band. The graduates proceed along the South Street sidewalk before entering the Academy Field gate.
The NFA Band, led by Christopher Zoutis of Main Campus and Ethan Gutzeit of North Campus, performed Pomp and Circumstance as the graduates made their way onto the field and took their seats. The NFA Madrigals performed the Star Spangled Banner and the alma mater The Yellow and The Blue.
Beginning the ceremony, NFA Co-Principal Matteo Doddo, NFA Class of 1982, welcomed Interim Superintendent Ed Forgit, also of NFA Class of 1982, Board of Education President Carole Mineo and the rest of the board of education members, the students, parents, faculty and staff and all others in attendance.
In his opening remarks, Doddo reflected on the day of his graduation and shared that he could not remember the speech given to him and his class that day but remembers the congratulatory remarks at the end. Several other thoughts that Doddo had were what was going to happen next after high school and he reflected on the journey that he had undertaken to get to his high school graduation.
Doddo shared to the graduates that his teachers, including Mineo who taught him English, were all a part of his journey and he is grateful for their support and encouragement during his life. “It is important to know where you come from in order to know where you’re going,” said Doddo.
As a special surprise to the graduates, Doddo invited and introduced several students from Balmville, Fostertown, Gardnertown, Gidney Avenue, Horizon-on-the-Hudson, Meadow Hill, New Windsor, Temple Hill and Vails Gate schools, the future Class of 2034, to meet the Class of 2022.
In closing, Doddo wished the class well on their next step in life and congratulated them on their achievement. “From all of us up here that have represented and been part of your life we thank you and congratulate you. NFA Goldbacks for life,” said Doddo.
Salutatorian Nathan Teall proceeded after Doddo and shared in his remarks that though students may not be ready or unsure of what comes next, this class is prepared and ready to head off into the world. If there are challenges, Teall said that graduates can look to their families, friends, fellow graduates, former teachers and those in their life to help on their path wherever they may go.
“As we graduate today, we are all getting ready to take our next step, whether that’s to continue our education, begin a career, go off to serve our country or just take some extra time to decide. No matter what your next step is or where you’re going, we will all be doing something that we’ve never done before, this will be our next challenge,” said Teall. “It is okay to be uncertain, we may be worried about what is to come but know that we have already grown so much more than we realize and whatever we do next we will excel.”
In her opening remarks, Valedictorian and senior class president Megan Cameron congratulated the Class of 2022 for their work and journey towards graduation, despite the past challenges of COVID.
“These past four years at NFA have forged a unique bond between all of us that we will hold for the rest of our lives,” Cameron said. “We were forced to face unprecedented hardship and loss but we faced it together and look where we are now.”
Cameron shared her appreciation for all of the memorable events and moments that made senior year enjoyable from senior prom, powderpuff football games, sporting events and volunteer projects and work. She also thanked her friends and her teachers that she met during the past four years at NFA and was grateful for the time spent with them.
Several words of reflection that Cameron shared to her fellow graduates were that regardless of the expectations of others, each of them should all go out into the world and enjoy what they love to do, be open to all new experiences, even if there may be some embarrassing moments along the way and do not be afraid of the role as a leader.
As beach balls began to bounce around in the crowd of the graduates, Forgit asked the graduates to stand and applaud their families and supporters who got them there. As a brief congratulatory video from teachers concluded, Forgit officially certified all of the graduates of the Class of 2022 and authorized the board of education to distribute the diplomas.
“Just because you’re graduating doesn’t mean that your teachers, your staff and your administrators have completed their work. Please know we are always here to support you,” Forgit said. The NFA Madrigals performed the Imagine Dragons song “It’s Time” prior to the diploma distribution.
One of the many graduates recognized in this year’s class was Robert Ross of Newburgh who enrolled in the United States Army in 1976, his senior year at NFA.
Ross was sent to South Korea under the orders of President Jimmy Carter as North Korea was advancing on South Korea during the Cold War. Ross remained in Korea for several years, returned to the states and completed one last tour in Georgia in 1983.
Once all the diplomas were distributed, applause and cheers erupted from the graduating class and their families in the stands and the playing of This Is My Country concluded the commencement ceremony as graduates made their way off Academy Field and searched for their families on South Street.