By Genevieve Kotz
On a warm Saturday evening, the 79 members of the class of 2014 walked across the grassy lawn of Sag Harbor’s Pierson High School to receive their diplomas.
The ceremony began as the graduates—girls in white, boys in black—proceeded down the hill and to their seats as the band played “Pomp and Circumstance.”
Hundreds of people filled audience, either sitting in seats reserved for families or sitting on the lawn under the shade of trees.
Salutatorian Marley Holder was the first to address the crowd. She began her speech by noting how her fellow students made her work extremely hard to obtain her position as salutatorian. In her speech, she applauded her classmates’ work ethic and character.
“Most of my classmates and I have known each other since kindergarten and being in such a small school, we’ve gotten to know each other pretty well,” she said.
She went on to describe how character, something each member of her graduating class exemplified, is defined by the way one deals with the challenges one faces.
“I want us to face our obstacles with honesty and courage,” She said. “I want us to strive for goals we think are far beyond our reach, and I especially want each of us to remember the importance of preserving good character as we achieve these goals.”
Valedictorian Cole Severance also had a similar theme in his speech. He began by noting the hard work he and his classmates had put in and the accomplishments they achieved. He advised his classmates to be themselves, comparing life to prom, which he said was one of the most memorable moments from high school.
“The more you let go and be yourself, the happier you will be,” Cole said. He noted that the future is difficult to predict and that no one really knows where he or she will be in 10 years.
“If we all continue to be ourselves and to pursue the things that genuinely interest us, we will find our callings and lead fulfilling lives,” he said.
Before Cole finished, however, he explained how he wanted to remember graduation forever, before pulling out a smartphone to snap the perfect “selfie” with first his peers and then the audience.
Principal Jeff Nichols then awarded the Principal’s Award to Aaron J. Schiavoni, noting that the decision to give the award to Aaron was unanimous among the faculty. Mr. Nichols then handed out a slew of other awards, including community scholarships such as the Lance Corporal Jordan C. Haerter United States Marine Scholarship and the Sag Harbor Fire Department Scholarship.
Following the awards, Kevin O’Connor took the podium to give the 2014 commencement address. Mr. O’Connor, who is the president of the Bridgehampton National Bank, urged the students to be passionate about the decisions they make, noting that the common trait of all the successful people he knows is the passion they have for their craft.
“Passion motivates you, passion makes you work harder, passion inspires others,” Mr. O’Connor explained, “Passion makes you successful.”
Before concluding, he noted how many people were pessimistic about the future of the country, but he said he believed that this generation has the potential to be the next greatest generation.
“Please go out and seize this opportunity, build on the successes you’ve had, become the leaders this country needs, have the vision of the success,” he said, “and the passion to achieve it.”
Following his speech, the students thanked several teachers who had helped them the most throughout their high school careers. The senior members of the chorus then gave a rendition of the song “Keep Holding On.”
Before the diplomas were distributed, interim Superintendent Dr. Carl Bonuso gave a few remarks to the class. In his talk, he compared the school to a cathedral, as the center of a community, built by and for the community. The school, he said, will always be there for them.
“What kind of cathedrals will you build? What kind of cathedrals will you be?” He asked the students.
The ceremony concluded with the awarding of diplomas. After singing the alma mater, the students filed down the aisle. In a Pierson tradition, they ran up the hill to the school, throwing their caps in the air before being joined by their families and friends.