Members of the Valley Stream Central High School District Class of 2023 celebrated their graduation from high school throughout the week of June 19, as departing seniors from their respective schools gathered to take part in their respective commencement ceremonies.
Under the tent outside of Memorial Junior High School, each school’s respective valedictorians and salutatorians reflected on their heigh school experiences, and offered advice to their peers on the journey that stretches out before them.
North High School salutatorian Alyssa Garufi recounted her attempts to replicate her grandmother’s, or nonna’s, meatball recipe. Despite following the recipe precisely, the meatballs Alyssa made did not taste the same. That was until her grandmother imparted the wisdom that the pursuit of perfection can serve as a detriment. “I eventually learned to estimate the ingredients and created my own version of Nonna’s meatballs that I actually ate and enjoyed,” Alyssa said. “Take it from me, do not be afraid to deviate from the recipe, tweak it and cook to your own tastes. Experience life and find a passion along the way. Escape your comfort zone, travel places, meet people. Be kind, and do not get lost in the need for perfection.”
North valedictorian Hannah Lee used a chess analogy, noting that the choices one makes on any given day are part of the grand strategy of life. One can use their pieces to protect their king and preserve their happiness, or use them to strike out and pursue their goals. Balancing those two objectives is the key to victory. “We are the players and the pieces on the board are under our control,” Hanna said. “We must learn to strategize our choices with our goals in mind. If we choose our moves correctly, take some losses, and move strategically, it will lead to the inevitable checkmate of our opponent, life’s challenges.”
South salutatorian Ibrahim Qadri likened the graduates’ futures to a Rubik’s cube. He urged his peers to step outside of their comfort zones, set their own goals and mix their colors to create their own Rubik’s cube patterns. “Make your own unique Rubik’s cube,” he said. “Embark on that adventure of color, and do not be afraid to twist around greens and blues, yellows and reds, making your cube more complex by the day.”
South valedictorian Steven Huang spoke of the Greek goddess Athena, and how her wisdom and ethical strength served as an inspiration to so many. He urged his peers to become their own versions of Athena, and to inspire those around them. “Each one of you is a god and goddess in your own rights,” Steven said. “Over the past six years I’ve watched as each of you have served as a light to guide each other’s fires. The crowns atop your heads prove just that. Whatever it is remember this, as we prepare to span coast to coast our focus shouldn’t be driven in finding that light, but to be it.”
Central salutatorian Michael Ramos urged his fellow seniors to embrace the unknown without fear. Although they have become comfortable at Central, he said, it is important to not remain complacent or lest miss out on crucial opportunities. “My fellow graduates, I implore you to embrace this discomfort of starting somewhere new in the fall,” Michael said. “As we step into the unknown, let us replace any feelings of apprehensiveness with excitement and anticipation of new opportunities.”
Central valedictorian Michaela Sinclair used the analogy of the water cycle, in which bodies of water evaporate, become clouds and turn into rain which falls to the earth. From their parents’ evaporation, the students came into being, she said, boosted by the sacrifices to the clouds above. At Central, the students have remained in the clouds, growing until they have become too big to remain and must depart. “Our parents, our teachers and our mentors have carried us to where we need to be,” Michaela said. “It is time to release. Finally, we precipitate. We leave the clouds, and we become the people we dreamed of becoming by freefalling from the known into the unknown. The clouds aren’t here to protect us anymore, but as we hit the ground, we can make a difference. We are free.”