Jonathan Fisher, 17, of Old Westbury, made his musical debut in first grade when he sang “It’s a Small World” at a district-wide 9/11 fundraiser at his elementary school. He was accompanied by pianist and Wheatley School English teacher Rick Lidenfrost-Wilson.
Eleven years later, the two took to the stage again at Fisher’s graduation ceremony from the Wheatley School on Sunday. The duo performed an arrangement of “I Was Here” from the off-Broadway show “The Glorious Ones.”
“It’s really like a bookend for me because I get to end my years [in this school district] with the man I started here with,” Fisher said.
The Wheatley School, the East Williston school district building serving students in grades 8 through 12, graduated 146 students at its 56th commencement ceremony held at the Tilles Center for the Performing Arts in Greenvale.
As part of the Wheatley School tradition, the ceremony was student-centered, featuring performances and speeches given by the students. One group of students performed their own a capella arrangement, while another group played their own “senior anthem” – a musical selection of pop songs that they said embodied their experience as graduating seniors. Three student speakers were also chosen to address the audience to talk about their experiences as Wheatley students and the future to come.
“It’s unbelievable to see how much we’ve changed,” senior class president Daniel Jorge said in his speech. “But most of us are glad to see those changes.”
This was the first graduating class that Principal Sean Feeney, 46, has seen all the way through its five years at the Wheatley School, where he became principal in 2008. He said he was amazed to see how many students wanted to be involved in setting up the graduation ceremony and the community spirit of the class as a whole. Seventeen students submitted speeches for graduation and 29 graduating seniors participated in the instrumental portion of the ceremony.
"No matter where you go from here, stay connected to each other,” Feeney said in his opening speech. “You will be stronger that way.”