Some members of Roosevelt High School's Class of 2013 wear...

Some members of Roosevelt High School's Class of 2013 wear caps they customized for commencement at Nassau Community College in Garden City. (June 29, 2013) Credit: Jackie Salo

Standing on stage before her fellow Roosevelt High School classmates, valedictorian Nathalie Zavala knew she had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Turning her back to the crowd, she outstretched her arm with phone in hand, raised it up and snapped a photo of herself with the graduates in the background.

Erupting in laughter and cheers, the graduates cried for Zavala, 18, to upload the “selfie” she had boldly taken mid-speech to Instagram, an online photo-sharing service.

“I wanted to be remembered for taking the risk,” said Zavala, who plans to attend Stony Brook University in the fall.

Zavala said that she revealed her plan to only a few teachers and classmates before taking the stage at the graduation ceremony Saturday afternoon at Nassau Community College in Garden City.

“That was not a part of the rehearsal,” said Principal Stephen Strachan, laughing.

Zavala was not the only one who tried to have a little fun at the graduation. The lively, 152-member graduating class tossed around beach balls throughout the ceremony, and some danced as they made their way up to the stage to receive their diplomas.

Salutatorian Glenda Sanchez, 18, explained that the late graduation date, compared with the majority of local school districts', was the reason the class was in such high spirits throughout the ceremony.

“We were ready to graduate already,” Sanchez said. “As serious as this year and graduation were, we like to have fun.”

Strachan said Roosevelt High School’s enrollment gives each graduating class a special bond.

“One of the unique things about being in a small district is that they stick together,” Strachan said.

Zavala took the time in her valedictorian speech to thank her classmates for their support and friendship.

“We say goodbye to the uniforms, administrators, having only one bathroom open in the entire building and -- let’s not forget -- the endless chicken patties and French fries,” Zavala said. The graduates jumped out of their seats and cheered, perhaps the most on the subject of the bathrooms, as she explained later that the others are inaccessible during the day. “But it is also the day we say goodbye to the teachers who have influenced us and the friends who have stood by us.”