Family and friends gathered on Friday, June 24 at Wallkill Senior High School and celebrated the commencement ceremony for the 247 graduates of the Wallkill Class of 2022.
Two years have passed since the COVID pandemic first broke out, which forced schools and other academic institutions to transition to online learning. The Wallkill Class of 2022 were in their sophomore year during the first year of the pandemic and were not able to experience several school events and class activities together during that year.
On the day of their graduation, under the sun and blue skies, smiles could be seen and cheers and air horns from the stands could be heard as the graduates made their way from the high school building onto the field. Pomp and Circumstance played in the background as students passed by their teachers. Some students stopped and gave their teachers a hug before heading to their seats.
Parents, friends and other guests of the graduating class had the opportunity to acquire a program that featured all the names of the graduating seniors with their respective organizations or their received awards. Each of the students’ pursuits after high school which included military service, trade school education, college education or workforce entry were all listed for each graduate.
Wallkill Senior High School Principal Brian Masopust welcomed parents, families, friends and guests to the commencement ceremony. Masopust asked the gathered crowd following the brief introductions to rise as The Wallkill Choir performed the Star Spangled Banner
In his opening remarks, Masopust again welcomed all those in attendance and congratulated the Class of 2022 for achieving this milestone and was proud to be a part of the special moment for this class.
“Graduating from high school is an achievement that should elicit great pride. Class of 2022 this ceremony is designed to recognize each of you as individuals as well as a group,” said Masopust. “You’ve all worked hard to make it to this event and I’m honored to be part of it with you today.”
Masopust also introduced Superintendent of Schools Kevin Castle, Assistant Superintendent of Support Services Brian Devincenzi, Board of Education President Joseph LoCicero and members of the board of education and additional dignitaries and faculty to the commencement ceremony.
In his opening remarks, Castle began by asking the parents gathered in the crowd if this was their last child graduating from Wallkill. Some parents raised their hands and cheered in happiness.
Castle thanked the parents, faculty and staff of the district for preparing these students for this special day even while facing adversity along the way. “While adversity may bring sadness and doubt, it also builds strength and resilience,” Castle said. “Learning is not easy. However, with the help of your teachers, parents and guardians you have been able to succeed.”
Through education and perseverance, the graduating class have all grown and are ready for the challenges that lie ahead. Castle wished the best of luck to the graduating class and is confident that this class will be successful wherever they go in their future endeavors.
Jayden Ramos, who will be attending Syracuse University in the fall and served as president of the National Honor Society followed Castle and reflected on the time spent on Wallkill from the pep rallies, school projects and to handing in assignments at deadlines. A piece of advice that Ramos instilled on his fellow graduates was to be open and attempt new things, to not feel any pressure from others and prove others wrong. “We only live one life. So do what will truly bring you happiness,” Ramos said.
Salutatorian Jing Ngo, who will be attending Stevens University of Technology, thanked her parents and her aunt for being her support system and all the friends and teachers she has met along the way to get to this point. Ngo shared to the class that time has flown by so fast, especially with the last two years of COVID forcing everyone into lockdown. Even with the pandemic, the community of Wallkill came together during those difficult times and supported one another. Though this chapter of their lives is coming to a close, Ngo shared to her fellow graduates that it’s all going to work out. “There is no knowing what will happen to us in the future, some people may be excited to move on from this part of our lives, but there also may be some people who find it scary,” said Ngo. “Everything’s going to be okay for us.”
Valedictorian Marcus Lewis, who will be attending Brown University, shared his thanks for all the teachers and friends he has made over the years at Wallkill. Two teachers, Mr. Higby and Mr. Davis, who will be retiring at the end of this academic year, were two teachers that Lewis is grateful for and asked the crowd to applaud them. “Many schools do not provide education opportunities like Wallkill does, which is something we should not take for granted,” Lewis said. Lewis’s advice to his fellow classmates is that graduates should go out and inspire and support others, whether it be a big or small impact, just as their families, teachers and friends have done for them in their lives.
Student Government Association President Sera Goering, who will be attending the University of Colorado Denver, shared that none of the positions she has held would have been possible without the relationships she has created with other students and the work she has put in. Goering’s advice to her fellow students is to work hard and stay committed to whatever it is that they do. “Play the game of life. Learn how to work well with others. Learn how to talk well with others. Become observant. Place yourself into environments where you’ll be able to grow and then capitalize on any opportunity pointed your way,” Goering said. “If you play this game right, there’s nothing you can’t achieve. The effort you put into your schooling, internships, jobs or whatever it might be will pay off. If you want something, you need to go get it.”
President of the Class of 2022 Madison Rivera, who will be attending SUNY Albany, recognized COVID as being as a detriment to the class and their experience at Wallkill, but today was about celebrating how far the class has come. “Being a part of this class was an honor because I got to walk into the building everyday to see so many familiar faces and watch them grow,” Rivera said.
Heading out into the world, Rivera encouraged her classmates to always thank those who have helped along the way and to not be afraid to make mistakes and learn from them going forward.
LoCicero, whose son Michael was a graduate, congratulated the Class of 2022 on this milestone.
He then brought them back to September 7, 2009, the first day each of the students started kindergarten. Now, 12 years later, these students are ready and prepared for the next step. Even though they may be gone, LoCicero said they will always be Wallkill Panthers. “I cannot wait to see what you all do next,” LoCicero said. “No matter which direction you go, I want you to always do your best.”
Masopust once again came up to the podium and listed off many accomplishments and highlights of the class such as raising thousands of dollars for local charities, earning several million dollars in scholarships, winning multiple championships despite the pandemic, planning an outdoor homecoming and many more accolades that he said he could go on about for hours.
In closing, Masopust shared to the graduating class that life will be challenging but if you create a disciplined work ethic, maintain a positive outlook on life and continue to grow and push oneself each and every day, it will lead to success for each and every one of them. “We [Wallkill] are so proud of you and I cannot wait to hear the wonderful ways in which you’ll help shape our future,” said Masopust.
Calling up Castle to the podium once more, Masopust presented the graduating Class of 2022 for acceptance and approval by the office of the superintendent and thus the beginning of the distribution of the diplomas started. As the final diplomas were given out and students returned to their seats, Masopust once again called the students to stand and officially confirmed them as graduates.
Students moved their tassels from the right to left and shortly after, caps were flown into the air and confetti started flying, thus concluding the ceremony and the completion of the Class of 2022’s journey at Wallkill.