As they watched their daughter make her way to the podium at the Cold Spring Harbor High School commencement ceremony Sunday, Robert and Janet LaGarenne were exceptionally proud.
Growing up, Renee LaGarenne, 17, had been a quiet kid, they said, so her parents had not envisioned they would be sitting in a packed auditorium watching her address a crowd of a few hundred people at her graduation.
“It's very emotional for me, because I gave the commencement speech at my graduation,” said Janet LaGarenne. “She's always been a little reserved, so this is really an accomplishment for her.”
Renee LaGarenne was among four graduates who were selected by their principal, Jay H. Matuk, to speak at the ceremony. Since Cold Spring Harbor High School does not name a valedictorian, all students have the opportunity to submit a speech for a chance to deliver a commencement address.
Renee LaGarenne’s message to her fellow graduates, 163 in total, was to “live in the moment.”
She said that too often people spend their lives looking toward the future rather than cherishing the present including moments that might not seem monumental like family dinners.
“Our lives are made up of moments like this. We should appreciate them while we are living them,” she said, adding, “If we spend so much time looking forward to the future we forget to live.”
Living life to the fullest was a common theme among the speakers at the 2013 Cold Spring Harbor High School graduation. Sporting rainbow colored hair, graduate Vanessa Monti also told her classmates, “let your true colors shine through.”
“Life is short,” she said. “Don't waste your time hiding your ideas or your personality … Live with no regrets.”
Cold Spring Harbor Superintendent of Schools Judith A. Wilansky urged the graduates to challenge themselves and step outside their comfort zones.
“You learn more from your failures,” she said, citing the blunders of accomplished people such as Steve Jobs and Albert Einstein. “Don’t let the fear of failure hold you back from achieving.”
After all the speeches were given, each graduate walked across the stage to accept their diplomas including Peter Rossetti, 17, who is headed to Nassau Community College to study audio engineering.
“You don't notice it until you're up on the stage and walking past the podiums … that you're really done,” he said. “We're moving on, the future's coming and it's just beautiful.”
Although he was sad to leave the friends he made in his small, close-knit high school, Rossetti said, “I know I'll see them again and everyone one of my friends is going to go far.”