Happiness, gratitude and relief were a few of the emotions members of the Rye Lake Campus High School Class of 2021 expressed to family, friends, teachers and staff who attended their graduation on June 10.
Senior Christian Rivera – one of 16 graduates – said 2020-21 was “probably the most difficult school year I’ve ever had.”
“There was a time I wanted honestly just to quit school because it was so difficult, but I overcame it and honestly I feel blessed,” said Christian, speaking to faculty and staff who attended the graduation at Rye Lake, and family and friends who watched online.
Salutatorian Sean Lynch, who recently moved to Florida, participated remotely. “I just wanted to say thank you to my parents, everybody in the school and the faculty and staff,” he said at the end of the ceremony. “I love you all. Thank you for teaching me so many things in my life, and if it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t be graduating right now.”
The Class of 2021 was one of the largest Rye Lake High School has ever had. Some graduates will start college in the fall; others will head straight into the workforce, attend a cosmetology program, or take time to travel and decide what they want to do next.
Five graduates will attend college at State University of New York schools: valedictorian Justin Cardona, Stony Brook University; Kiara Fountain, Westchester Community College; Patrick Kelly, Westchester Community College; Elias Miller, Onondaga Community College; and Christian Mallett, SUNY Delhi. The other graduates include Christian, Sean, Kamayah Castro, Emily Coyt, Tishari Goldstein-Brissett, Elliott Issaka, Jackson Pimentel, Hector Gonzalez, Alexander Rivas-Orantes, Michael Vurchio and Jordan Sanful.
School counselor Cristina Tompkins encouraged them to persevere and continue moving forward, no matter which path they take and what obstacles they face.
“I hope you take with you the skills you were able to develop here with us at Rye Lake High School. I am proud of each and every one of you and what you have accomplished,” she said, choking up. “I wish you all the best with all your future endeavors. I love you all.”
Rye Lake High School Principal Marvin Elliott encouraged graduates to be grateful, to like themselves, forgive others, smile wide, laugh hard, “take time to smell the roses” and more.
“Do not rush to grow up so fast. I’ll repeat that again. Do not rush to grow up so fast,” he said. “Enjoy your youth. Treasure what is truly important. Learn from the past but don’t live in the past.”
Mr. Elliott compared the journey of life to a NASCAR race, which includes many pit stops to refuel. “Sure you will encounter obstacles and setbacks, but it is OK because this is preparation for the next phases of your lives,” he said. “Therefore, use these roadblocks as opportunities to reflect, refuel and then get back into the race, for some day you will come to realize that life is not a destination but a journey. Slow down and enjoy the ride.”
At the end of the ceremony, Emily thanked her family for loving her and pushing her to be better. “Without you guys, I wouldn’t be here and I love you,” she said.
A few graduates had quick messages for their families. “I did it, Mommy!” Kamayah shouted as she posed and bowed before the virtual audience. “Peace out!” Jordan said when it was his turn at the lectern, pumping his right fist into the air.
Earlier in the program, Jordan paid tribute to beloved teaching assistant Nancy Garcia, who passed away in late May after 23 years with SWBOCES.
“We all shared some amazing and wonderful moments with Ms. Garcia and everyone cherished the time that we all had together with her,” he said, adding that she had the ability to “change the vibe” when she walked into a room and make everyone happy.
“She will be missed for she is loved by everyone in this school,” Jordan said.