During the Class of 2012 commencement ceremony at St. Anthony's...

During the Class of 2012 commencement ceremony at St. Anthony's High School in Melville, 633 students received their diplomas Saturday morning. The Class of 2012 is the largest graduating class in the history of the school. (June 2, 2012) Credit: Michael Cusanelli

Valedictorian Eric Caliendo encouraged his classmates to cherish their time at St. Anthony’s High School and to remember the good times and lasting friendships they formed.

“I am confident that we are all well prepared for the next phase of our journey,” said Caliendo, 18, of Manorville, who is heading to Haverford College in the fall.

After carefully reading his speech, Caliendo reminded his fellow students that none of them, no matter how intelligent, can expect perfection.

“All of us are going to fail,” said Caliendo, as he ripped up his speech in front of the crowd. “Challenge is just an opportunity.”

Caliendo addressed the biggest graduating class in the Catholic school’s 78-year history. The commencement ceremony for the 633 graduates drew over 5,000 attendees to the student center as family members came to honor the graduates.

The theme of humility paired with faith resonated throughout the ceremony.

Brother Gary Cregan, the school principal, reminded the graduates that the greatest minds balance reason with faith. Only then, he said, can we become well-balanced individuals.

“It's bittersweet, because you have the seniors who you’ve grown to know over four years, and all their accomplishments, and their leadership, and they leave,” said Brother Joshua Di Mauro, one of the assistant principals. “But of course they’re going on to more challenging things in the future and their own lives are continuing so it's a beautiful day for that.”

Parents and their children gathered outside of the school after the ceremony for pictures and to say their goodbyes as they prepared for the challenges ahead of them.

“I’m thrilled,” said Jim Sheppard, 51, of South Huntington, whose son Ryan was among the graduates. “Ryan has loved his time here. He’s wanted to go here since he was 5 years old.”

But for Don Corrao, graduation doesn’t have to mean goodbye.

“This is the culmination of their career here, and now they join the ranks of our distinguished alumni,” said Corrao, the director of development at St. Anthony’s. “And they won’t go away, they’ll be back. That’s the great part about the Saint Anthony’s family.”

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