FARMINGDALE — A few days ago, the graduating members of the Hall-Dale High School senior class visited a number of area elementary schools, wearing their black caps and gowns, in a kind of preview of their commencement ceremony Saturday night.

The younger students gave “thunderous applause” for the seniors, Principal Mark Tinkham recalled Saturday night, in his address to the students at the beginning of their graduation.

“I was most struck by the admiration of the elementary school students,” Tinkham said. “The youngest ones were awestruck, like the seniors were movie stars. “

As those 79 graduating seniors move on to the next stages of their lives, Tinkham urged them to not lose that childlike sense of wonder that is so abundant among children in elementary school, that makes them aspire to be doctors, astronauts, presidents, movie stars.

That was one of many pieces of advice the graduates received during their hour-and-a-half-long commencement ceremony.

Those graduates are heading in a variety of directions: to college, to the armed services, to the workforce.


To send them off, a couple hundred family members, guardians, friends, teachers, staff members and administrators packed the gymnasium of Hall-Dale High School.

At one point late in the ceremony, before the handing out of diplomas, the students left their seats on the stage in the gymnasium and handed red flowers to those who had supported them along the way.

Thanking those people was a recurring theme in the speeches delivered by several graduating students throughout the evening. Each speaker also imparted his or her own pieces of advice.

In his valedictory speech, Ryan Sinclair urged his classmates always to find ways to help others, even as they focus on their own endeavors.

Salutatorian Andrew Peterson acknowledged how much responsibility the graduates would need to shoulder, now that the many of them were leaving the direct care of their parents or guardians.

Mary Hicks, who also delivered a valedictory speech, warned her classmates against ever listening to someone who tells them it’s impossible to do something.


She used the example of one of her friends, a tall boy, who once expressed an interest in gymnastics in a middle school art class and was told by a teacher that he was too big for the sport. Many years later, Hicks said, he’s still a gymnast.

“There are so many decisions we make, even small ones, like what to eat for lunch, that sometimes are hard to make. Sometimes we’d rather have others make them for us,” Hicks said. “But out of the billions of people on earth, there’s only one you, and you only have one life, so why let someone else tell you what to do?”

Then, echoing her principal, Hicks went on, “Dream as big as you want. Don’t let anyone tell you won’t become astronaut, because it’s too hard, or you shouldn’t become a hair dresser, because it doesn’t pay well.”

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

Twitter: @ceichacker

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