East Hampton graduates 127 members of the Class of 2013

By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
East Hampton - posted Tue., Jun. 25, 2013
East Hampton High School Class of 2013 essayist Adrianna Zawodniak and class president Victor Echeandia lead the procession to commencement. Photo by Janice Steinhagen.
East Hampton High School Class of 2013 essayist Adrianna Zawodniak and class president Victor Echeandia lead the procession to commencement. Photo by Janice Steinhagen.

East Hampton High School sent the 127 members of the Class of 2013 out into the world to the traditional peal of a brass bell on June 21. The day’s hot weather had cooled considerably by the time friends and family began staking out folding chairs on the school’s lawn, and a party atmosphere prevailed as rock tunes blared over the PA system prior to the ceremony.

As nervous seniors in cap and gown gathered in the East Hampton library, senior Jerry Root asked a passing reporter to lend him a pen. Once he had one, the writing implement made the rounds of his circle of friends before it was returned. They needed to write their names on the inside of their mortarboards, Root explained, so they could get them back after they were tossed into the air at the end of graduation. The toss isn’t part of the official program, he said. “They don’t let us do it,” Root said of the administration, “but every single year [the graduates] do it. What are they going to do, detention?”

East Hampton’s Class of 2013 followed that slightly defiant tradition of a ceremony-ending mortarboard toss with another, more unique one: as they marched out of the assembly, each student had the chance to ring a brass bell symbolic of the Bell City and their team nickname, the Bellringers.

Senior class president Victor Echeandia told his classmates that, “when I read what you guys wrote in my yearbook, I cried really hard. I have never felt so loved and accepted, and the feeling is completely mutual.” He called the group “a generation composed of compassionate individuals willing to give back to the world in new and interesting ways.” That compassion came from parents and family members, as well as from teachers “who taught, guided and loved us and forged real relationships with us. They have the compassion to do this over and over again” with every new group of students, he said. Quoting Kahil Gibran, he offered some words to live by:  “Today we heed only two truths: follow only beauty and obey only love.”

Honor essayist Adrianna Zawodniak called graduation “a checkpoint in life” and reminded the seniors how much they have grown since they were freshmen. “Today we are a little smarter, a little wiser, a little surer of ourselves than we have ever been,” she said. While the process has sometimes been frustrating, “each year we put a little more experience under our belts. We have all proven, because we are here today, that we are capable of success.”

“We know everything and nothing,” said Bethany Levy, the class salutatorian. "Like all energy, we can only change shape, size and state of stasis.” However, she said, “We are able to move forward confidently. We’re the only ones who can decide what to do with our new-found freedom. Don’t let anyone change who you are.”

Valedictorian Emily Norton, citing her classmates’ wide range of involvement in community service, said that selflessness was the key characteristic that made this graduating class special. “We won’t all be prosperous in the conventional sense of the word,” she said. “However, that doesn’t mean that we won’t be successful. I know we all have the potential to be great.”

Norton told the seniors, “Don’t wait for second chances. I hope to see all of you do great things.”

Principal John Fidler said the Class of 2013 demonstrated “so much excellence in so many areas.” Whether as all-state athletes, Special Olympics and Relay for Life volunteers, or as high-achieving scholars, the current class has left its mark, he said. “Many of the jobs that you will fill have not been created yet,” he said. Urging the students to go out and make their mark on the world, he added, “Be sure to come back and tell us about it.”

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