Wearing a leaf crown, senior class adviser Daniel Wenger stepped to the podium with a box of tissues and his commencement speech, as 109 students stood up, cheering.
“I heard the wagers going around, betting on how long it would take me to cry during my speech, but if I don’t cry you have to build a Greek god statue of me to put on campus,” said Wenger, 38, to the Class of 2013. “You may set your watches. I’m ready to begin.”
The 109 students graduating from Long Island Lutheran High School in Brookville on Saturday broke into laughter as Wenger, who held back tears, tossed multiple boxes of tissues at them after his speech.
“A week ago, I was taken aback when hearing many of you ask yourselves if you were truly ready to take the next step in life,” Wenger said. “Well, you are, Class of 2013.”
Salutatorian Meghan Pinezich, who plans to study chemical engineering and French at the University of Virginia, advised students to challenge themselves in making the world a better place.
“There’s suffering, economic hardship, disasters and energy crises in the world, so we should always look for an opportunity to use our education to help others,” said Pinezich, 18, of Northport. “We don’t have to be able to fix a broken world, or have all the answers to the world’s problems, but we just need to give it our best effort.”
Principal Denis Scannell recalled the moment he stood stunned in the hallway after school let out last week. Lockers were cleaned out, trash strewn every which way but, within seconds, dozens of students grabbed trash around them and threw it all away themselves.
“We try to instill in them a sense of doing good and that’s what we’ve seen and continue to see from them,” said Scannell. “We’re so proud, but we’re going to miss them.”
Michelle Perrotta was one of two students to win the Pro Deo et Schola award, the highest honor awarded to a senior for compassion and leadership.
She went on the school’s mission trip in February to continue a five-year process of building residential homes in León, the second-largest city in Nicaragua.
“It was an amazing experience meeting people who live in harsh conditions, but still have a positive outlook on life,” said Perrotta, 17, of Northport, who wants to be a teacher. “After the week we spent there, I knew I wanted to continue helping others in the future.”
Valedictorian Timothy Sorenson, who plans to study political science at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pa., advised students to dream big and apply what they’ve learned to take their future to new heights.
“I hope you use the love and support from friends, family and the LuHi community as air under your wings to soar in life,” said Sorenson, 17, of Glen Cove. “I wish you all the best on attaining a fulfilling life. I know you guys will do great things.”