Cindy Coffee’s high school in Amityville is more than 5,000 miles from her hometown.
She begged her mother to come to Long Island and live with her father in August 2008, just before her freshman year.
And on Saturday, the 19-year-old Ghana native practiced her salutatory address in the cafeteria before graduation, dressed in three tassels, medals and ropes over her gown.
“In my country, some people have to walk miles on unpaved roads to access education, and I’ve gotten it right here in Amityville,” Coffee said.
She joined 188 other graduates on the football field at the Amityville High School commencement ceremony.
“I’ll never forget this humble school, and I know there will come a morning when I will miss this place,” said Coffee, who will attend Wellesley College in the fall.
John Williams, superintendent of the Amityville Union Free School District, told the Class of 2012 that they are just beginning their academic achievements. Graduates of the school earned a total of $587,550 in scholarships from universities throughout the country.
“You’ve all obtained unprecedented growth, many against all odds,” said Williams in his speech. “There are no secrets to success; you just need to remember to persevere after each failure.”
James Seubert, an advisor for the Class of 2012, recalled memories of the students’ senior year.
“It’s been a great experience, even when we were selling half-cooked burgers and ice-cold hot chocolate at inflated prices at football games,” said Seubert.
Peter Hutchison, the assistant principal, said he felt like a proud parent while watching the graduates receive their diplomas.
“We love each and every one of them and they will truly be missed,” said Hutchison. “They came in as nervous kids freshman year; now they’re walking across the stage as young ladies and gentlemen.”
Coffee described graduation as an emotional roller coaster with her best friends by her side.
“I had to struggle to learn the American way, and now I have friends for life,” she said.