FARMINGDALE — Anaïs Truman said she had been counting down the days to Hall-Dale High School’s graduation with her phone.

She watched the number drop from 100 to 50 and, finally, on Saturday morning, down to zero.

“I’m really excited because this whole year has been working toward this moment,” Truman said before she lined up with her fellow classmates to march into the school’s gymnasium.

Truman, 18, plans to go to Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Ore., next year to study history.

“Now that I’m here, it’s like, wow, this is the end of my high school career,” she said, “and it’s the start of my new life as a college student.”

Truman and the rest of the graduating class capped off their high school careers Saturday evening, accepting their diplomas in front of friends, relatives and supporters at the school.

Student speakers at the ceremony emphasized their futures and described how their experiences in school prepared them for life after graduation.

“Let this be one of those many moments that we don’t take for granted,” said Laura Allen, the class valedictorian. “The choices and experiences that we have are what shape our futures, so let’s be proud of our accomplishments and step confidently into the next chapter of our lives.”

Allen recalled her and her classmates’ accomplishments that helped hone their skills — winning at the winter carnival two years in a row, playing on sports teams and adjusting to the new grading system.

“Though not all choices completely alter our character, this time in our lives is important as we respond to who we are in how we envision our futures,” she said. “It’s our chance to see ourselves as adults and truly question how we want to live.”

The graduating class of 71 has 55 students going to college, 11 going into the workforce and one going to the military, according to Principal Mark Tinkham.

During the ceremonies, the school gave an honorary diploma to the parents of Audrey Call, a class member who died unexpectedly in 2007.

“There is someone not physically with us tonight, but she’s here in our hearts,” said student Natasha Brown, as she called up Call’s parents to accept the honor.

Salutatorian Michael Woods opened his speech with recollections of being in the gymnasium, starting as a statistics keeper for the boys’ varsity basketball team and eventually playing in his last game for the team on senior night.

He urged his other classmates to embrace their abilities and potential for excellence.

“Playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you,” Woods said. “As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same.”

Student Kurt Thiele concluded the night with an optimistic speech, telling his classmates that the night was a time for tears of joy, not sadness. He thanked his peers for their time together and encouraged them to work their hardest after high school.

“Do not sell yourself short. When you see a barrier, get your hammer and beat that barrier down,” Thiele said. “I promise you all, once you have found your passion and you work your very hardest at it, you all will have bright futures ahead of you.”

Paul Koenig — 621-5663
[email protected]

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