Dominique Napolitano walked up the steps, onto the stage, and took a deep breath. She began her own graduation ceremony, singing “America, the Beautiful.”

She was so nervous that she wrote the first verse on her wrist.

“If I could do high school all over, I would stress less, focus more on what I needed to do,” said Napolitano, 17, of Bay Shore, who plans to attend Molloy College to study speech pathology. “And my advice would be to stay true to who you are and don’t be afraid to pursue your own interests.”

Napolitano was among the 408 graduates to walk the stage during the St. John the Baptist Diocesan High School graduation on Saturday at the Tilles Center at Long Island University in Brookville.

Kevin Kruse, salutatorian of his class, stood in front of his fellow graduates and emphasized Mahatma Ghandi’s words, “Be the change you want to see in the world,” by adding his own.

“My advice would be to not wait for others to do what you can do for yourself,” said Kruse, 17, of Port Jefferson Station, who plans to study electrical engineering at Rochester Institute of Technology. “Sitting around idly won’t make you happy, you have to go out there and get it yourself.”

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Toward the end of the ceremony, valedictorian Sean Campbell, stepped up to the podium to share some words of wisdom with his classmates. He was still not sure what career path he would choose:   computer or environmental science.

“I learned to be more active in getting what I want, instead of waiting for it to happen to me,” said Campbell, 18, of Wantagh, who plans to attend either Iona College in New Rochelle or Amherst College in Massachusetts. “I’m afraid to leave high school, but more excited to take the next step.”

Although it’s Nan Doherty’s first year as principal at the school, she had been assistant principal for 17 years, so she’s no stranger to the students. She mentioned that students have gone on missionary trips to places like Peru and Appalachia.

“You want them to experience things that inspire them. It changes them and their problems become smaller when they serve others,” Doherty said. “I hope the kids take away a sense of integrity and character and sense of spirituality that we’re all connected.”

Picture: Justin Benigno of Massapequa at graduation ceremony.