Graduates across Long Island in June are sure to share sentiments of overcoming adversity, celebrating accomplishments, and simply being grateful to be together.
West Babylon Senior High School’s June 25 graduation on the football field will be split into two days, and the 307 students will have a limited number of guests they can invite.
“I think these students who are 17 and 18 now going into college are going to have tremendous resilience and problem-solving skills when they come to difficult times ahead,” says Stephen O’Leary, principal of the senior high school, of the graduating class.
Julie Cook, a West Babylon senior, says graduating feels bittersweet after the unusual yet enjoyable year. The school is also holding a drive-through parade, yearbook signing, awards ceremony, and prom to celebrate the seniors.
“There was a big difference between the first half and the second half [of senior year],” Julie Cook says. “It was mostly virtual in the first half, which was definitely very strange. The second half really turned around — I started coming back full time, we had extracurriculars, and it was like the school years prior.”
Kiersten Sweeney, a senior at St. Mary’s College Preparatory High School in Manhasset, was among 90 students who graduated on June 5. With fewer students, the ceremony was held in one day with students and their families.
“All I wanted for my senior year was to be with my friends all in person,” Sweeney says, expressing gratitude for the teachers and faculty who made it happen. “We found new ways to have fun.”
Now, as her high school days come to a close, she says she’s learned a lot as a high schooler in the pandemic. She was part of multiple clubs and sports, and enjoyed movie days with her senior class this year.
“In some aspects it’s definitely sad,” she says. “It’s the people who have helped me grow these past few years. I’ll miss them a lot, I’ve seen them every day, sometimes even more than my family, but now I’ll get to try new things and meet new people.”