Wearing a suit, Erik Jakob picked up his electric guitar and began strumming.
If I leave here tomorrow... would you still remember me? sang Jakob, 17, who plans to attend New York Institute of Technology in the fall. For I must be traveling on now 'cause there's too many places I've got to see.
Jakob said performing with his band Rake made up of himself, drummer Kyle OConnor, 18, guitarist Andrew Burkhardt, 17, and Robert Wagner, 18 was the perfect way to end their high school career together.
Its a good feeling to finish this way, Jakob said. But were not going to stop playing.
To close out their senior year at Floral Park Memorial High School, the band played Lynyrd Skynyrds 1975 hit Freebird while the nearly 240 graduates walked out of the arena, officially concluding the graduation ceremony at Hofstra University in Hempstead.
During the ceremony, class president Stephen Esposito in his speech asked students to take a moment to reflect on their four years in high school.
Its the little things Ill miss, said Esposito, 18, who plans to study political science at Fordham University. Although we are all moving on to the next chapter of our lives, we still remain family. Thanks for the adventure class of 13, now go have another.
Because he signed up for a second trip to Nicaragua through the high schools annual program to build schools there, Esposito wont be able to rest after graduation.
Instead, he said he was catching a plane to Nicaragua at 5 a.m. Sunday to spend eight days there.
The experience makes you put things in perspective, he said. Were so lucky to have the education system we have and if we can help provide the gift of education by building a comfortable environment for these kids, well, then its well worth the effort.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) also made a brief appearance to speak to graduates, advising them to find a career they love and not to settle for anything else. He ended his speech by saying, Congratulations Class of 2013, Good luck and godspeed.
Valedictorian and aspiring doctor Vishnu Tiwari advised his class to keep their chins up, prepare for the future, follow their passion and grab life by the horns.
I wish you all the success in the world, said Tiwari, 17, who plans to take the pre-med track at Brooklyn College in the fall. Look out world, here comes the class of 13.
As his graduating class was filing out of the arena, tears began rolling down Jakobs cheeks as he and his bandmates performed Freebird.
By the time Jakob got to, Cause I'm as free as a bird now, his classmates had left the building, on their way out toward their future.