The 158 members of the class of 2012 weren’t the only ones bidding farewell at The Wheatley School’s 55th commencement in the Tilles Center at the C.W. Post campus of Long Island University last Sunday morning,
East Williston Superintendent of Schools Lorna Lewis delivered her final commencement address after five years at the head of the school district. Lewis accepted a position as superintendent of schools for the Plainview–Old Bethpage Central School District in April and is assuming her new duties on Aug. 1.
Members of The Wheatley Combined Band directed by Michael Rubenstein played the traditional “Pomp and Circumstance” by Edward Elgar as the students strode into the hall and took their places on the stage in the Tilles Center .
Rebecca Monachelli, vice president of the class, led those present in the Pledge of Allegiance. Vocalist Renita Alexander sang the national anthem.
Wheatley School Principal Sean Feeney offered welcoming remarks followed by East Williston Board of Education President Mark Kamberg, who commended the students on their accomplishments. But the most emotional commencement address of the day was the one delivered by Lewis.
“I have shared a journey with each of you that I will treasure forever. We entered the hallowed halls of Wheatley with the same fears and trepidation in the summer of 2007 and together we leave to face unknown pathways, but eager to see where this next leg of the journey will take us,” she told the graduating class.
As legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden encouraged his players to acknowledge a teammate for making a good pass, Lewis told the graduates that this day was their opportunity to applaud their parents and teachers for providing the necessary assists in enabling them to become a “championship team.”
She said the students had inspired her for their “generosity of spirit,” by embracing the Day of Service and Learning, fundraisers such as the Walkathon, Putting on the Ritz, Afribikes, and Earth Day activities.
“We, your Wheatley friends, families and teachers are here to say thank you for challenging us to be at our very best. We knew that we had a responsibility to prepare an amazing cohort of students for the brightest future imaginable,” Lewis said.
Of the 158 students in the Wheatley class of 2012, 91 students are members of the National Honor Society.
Lewis encouraged the students to retain the values they had acquired during their four years at The Wheatley School.
“The world needs your kindness and caring and ability to work well together,” she said. “Your legacy of service and commitment can go beyond these walls and become infectious as you interact with your peers at college. We are counting on your continued zeal and dedication to change the course for the future.”
Near the end of her address, she borrowed a line which she credited to Mr. Rogers, saying, “You can turn thoughts into deeds and visions into inventions!”
A string ensemble made up of members of the Wheatley graduating class riffed on a Mozart piece. Class of 2012 president Lucas Blumenfeld offered greetings from the graduates. Vocalists Michelle Kalish and Rochelle Schnitzler sand a Stephen Schwartz tune, “For Good,” accompanied by Ariel Feldman.
Diplomas were conferred by members of the East Williston Board of Education, including Kamberg, outgoing member Robert Freier, Robert Fallorino, David Keefe and Barbara Slone.
Then the graduates physically expressed the exuberance of the moment by tossing their caps in the air. And they filed back out of the Tilles Center to the strains of “Romanesque” played by the Wheatley Combined Band.
Reach reporter Richard Tedesco by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 516.307.1045 x204