Uniondale graduation starts in song, ends in 'wave'

Uniondale High School's Show Choir performed "Wings" during Uniondale High School's Show Choir performed "Wings" during the school's graduation ceremony at Hofstra University in Hempstead. (June 22, 2013) Photo Credit: Brittany Wait

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Their bodies swaying back and forth, members of Uniondale High School’s show choir clenched their fists and raised their hands in the air while performing Beyonce’s “I Was Here,” marking the final moments of their high school career.

“I did. I’ve done, everything that I wanted,” they sang. “And it was more than I thought it would be. I wanna leave my mark so everyone will know. I was here.”

Most of its members were among the 505 students, many wearing decorated caps, who graduated from the school during a ceremony at Hofstra University in Hempstead Saturday.

Their principal, Florence Simmons, told students in her speech that they “will forever bleed black and gold” no matter where life takes them and Uniondale will always be home.

“As you follow your hearts, stay on the right path and you will reach greatness,” Simmons said. “Make every minute a momentous occasion and you will all make a difference in the world. I love you all and I’m so very proud of each and every one of you.”

Valedictorian Gilbert Tagufa, who plans on studying biomedical engineering at Hofstra in the fall, told his classmates to be proud of their accomplishments, and repeated his principal in saying “Uniondale is Long Island’s best-kept secret.”

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“Each one of us has the power within us to create change,” said Tagufa, 18. “Sometimes Uniondale gets a bad rap, but don’t let that be what defines us. Make your own path.”

A longtime fan of hit show “CSI,” Iliana Reyes, who plans to study forensic science at John Jay College, has always been interested in solving puzzles and challenging herself.

“Graduation is one of the first of many milestones we’ll reach in our lives,” said Reyes, 17, after the ceremony. “I have to say I’m excited for college.”

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Salutatorian Daniel Clayton, who plans to study electrical engineering at the University of Florida in the fall, advised students in his speech to never forget where they come from.

“No matter what people say about us, we’re breaking barriers just by being here,” said Clayton, 18. “As the maid in the movie ‘The Help’ told the small child she looked after, ‘You is kind, you is smart, you is important.” We are the most talented, ambitious and extraordinary class to graduate from Uniondale. Keep moving forward Class of 2013.”

And as the last student crossed the stage to receive her diploma, the entire class simultaneous created “a wave,” cheering loudly and prematurely throwing their caps in the air.

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