After being out of commission due to a spinal fracture from playing hockey last year, Bishop McGann-Mercy Diocesan High School salutatorian Anthony Pupplo got back on the ice within months to keep his passion alive.
“The experience changed me. I never gave up,” said Pupplo, 17, of Shirley, during his salutatorian speech Wednesday at the Riverhead school. “So, I want all of you to believe in yourselves like I did, battle any obstacles that get in your way and remain steadfast in accomplishing your dreams.”
Pupplo, who plans to defer a full ride to Elmira College for one year to see if he can continue playing hockey in Canada or on local junior league PAL Junior Islanders, was among 84 students receiving diplomas and flipping their tassels.
Of the graduating class, Kevin Lane is the only one to enlist in the military. He decided to follow in his family’s footsteps, enlisting in the Marines and heading to boot camp at Parris Island, S.C. in August, part of a four-year service commitment.
“We’ve always been a military family and I wanted to make them proud,” said Lane. “I got a lot of criticism from friends at first, but I feel that serving will open so many doors.”
Principal Carl Semmler said this year’s class has demonstrated intelligence, spirituality, civic capacity and maturity, while also earning nearly $11 million in college scholarships.
He said students held a blood drive in February that collected over 100 pints, and through car washes, dinners and bake sales raised $13,000 for Stony Brook Children’s Hospital.
“They’re prepared to go out into the world, become active citizens and make the world a better place,” said Semmler, of Merrick. “Words cannot express how proud I am.”
Valedictorian Elizabeth Morgan recalled last April, when the school’s choir participated in a music festival at Lincoln Center in Manhattan. During that concert, she nearly teared up when singing “Let music never die in me” from the song “The Awakening” by Joseph M. Martin.
“I became emotional because in that moment it had hit me that high school was ending,” said Morgan, 18, of Wading River. “Let music never die in me. Let Mercy never die in me. The Mercy spirit and values we learned here will never leave us.”
During her speech, Morgan, who plans to attend Stony Brook University in the fall, advised fellow students moving forward in life to always listen to their internal voice.
“As author Jane Austen said, ‘We have all a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be.’” Morgan said. “I’ll end by saying, today we celebrate that this is not the end, but instead a bright and new beginning.”