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Suffolk valedictorians gather to celebrate

Jessica Murphy, valedictorian of Walter G. O'Connell Copiague

Jessica Murphy, valedictorian of Walter G. O'Connell Copiague High School, receives a certificate at the Suffolk County School Superintendents Association Valedictorian Luncheon. (June 7, 2012) Credit: Erin Geismar

In her sophomore year at Center Moriches High School, Victoria Holborow slaved away over a total of seven social studies projects on various subjects to hang on her classroom walls.

She was only required to do two.

"I’ve always pushed for extra points on tests," she said. “I’ve always looked for extra credit.”

Holborow thinks it’s that kind of extra effort (she received five points per extra project that year) that earned her the honor of class valedictorian.

The 17-year-old from Center Moriches was one of 60 valedictorians from Suffolk County who were honored at Thursday’s annual Valedictorian Luncheon, hosted by the Suffolk County School Superintendent Association at the Hyatt Regency Long Island in Hauppauge.

It was the 18th annual event, which coincided with the age of most of the students in the room.

Alan Groveman, president of the superintendents association, pointed out the many differences in society today versus when the students were born and his organization began honoring the county’s brightest.

Back then, he recalled, he backed up digital files on a 5-inch floppy disk; his camera used film; his phone could only make phone calls; and he accessed the Internet with a 56-K dial-up modem.

But the valedictorians grew up in this time of constantly changing technology, and, therefore, have the advantage of being able to adapt to the changing world before them, he said.

“There is a world in front of you that is large and open,” Groveman said.

Keynote speaker Evelyn Holman, former superintendent of the Bay Shore School District, also focused on technology. She said that rather than just congratulate the students, she would apologize to them -- they have a lot of problems to solve.

She stressed that with a world increasingly dependent on technology comes questions of ethics and morals that these students will one day have to answer.

“I think they are up to it,” she said. “They are a part of this world and they know it’s a complicated world.”

After each of the students were presented with certificates and 12 were awarded scholarships, James McKenna, president-elect of the superintendents association and superintendent of the Mattituck-Cutchogue Union Free School District, told a story about a school of sardines.

He compared a herd of blue whales, which have a difficult time changing course, to a school of tiny sardines, which can change course as a group in almost an instant.

He explained that it takes just a minority group of sardines within the school to dedicate themsevles to a different direction. Eventually, the entire school follows.

It’s evident in our society, too, he said, with the collapse of the Berlin Wall, last year’s Arab Spring and the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Sarah Grosser, valedictorian of Babylon High School, said McKenna’s closing remarks were her favorite of the event.

“It really showed how important each individual person is in a group,” said the incoming Brown University freshman.

For Jennifer Holborow, Victoria’s mother, drive and independence are qualities she’s seen in her daughter all along. She began to cry as her daughter talked about her plans for the fall, when she’ll attend the University of New Haven for biochemistry.

“She’s my oldest,” she said. “These last few weeks it’s been the last concert, the last game, the last everything. It’s going to be very hard to see her go away but I’m very, very proud of her.”

Photo: Jessica Murphy, valedictorian of Walter G. O'Connell Copiague High School, receives a certificate at the Suffolk County School Superintendent Association's annual Valedictorian Luncheon. (June 7, 2012)

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