2011-07-08 / Columnists

It’s My Turn

By Marty Nislick

June 27, 2011 – Today, in the school auditorium, the one hundred sixty-ninth and final commencement exercise of Far Rockaway High School was held. The 2011 class is comprised of just 16 students who attended the ceremony and who received diplomas.

Prior to the start of the ceremony, the students, all resplendent in their caps, gowns and mortar boards (red for the boys, white for girls), were congregating and taking snapshots of one another in the vestibule adjacent to the entrance to the auditorium. One of the students was tasked with distributing corsages to the girls and red scarves imprinted with FRHS insignia that were worn by all.

Karla Rivera, who had graduated earlier in January, came back to attend today’s graduation. She had subsequently taken and passed the regents exams which now qualified her to receive a Regent’s Diploma. Karla’s ambition is to go on to college and become a lawyer.

Latia Denson is one of the two students selected to receive a scholarship prize in the amount of $1,000 given by the FRHS Alumni Association. Latia will be pursuing a career in the field of Criminal Justice. She will start classes in the fall.

Prior to the ceremony, Latia was not aware that she would be getting any award. When told, she was elated and said, “Thank you FRHS Alumni for your very generous gift. I assure you that it will be put to good use.” Unfortunately, Tiara Edmonds, the other student selected to receive a FRHS Alumni Scholarship award, was not in attendance today.

The actual ceremony started at 9:00 a.m. The sixteen students, divided into two rows, danced to recorded music down the two center aisles of the auditorium and settled into their seats on the stage.

The assistant principal, Tuwanna Williams-Gray, who organized and orchestrated today’s event, opened the proceedings with the singing of the “Star Spangled Banner” and “Lift Every Voice.” Ms. Gray then presented awards to many of the students.

Principal Denise Hallett was then called to the podium to deliver her remarks to the assembled.

She spoke about the importance of this particular graduation ceremony since it was the last one ever to be held by Far Rockaway High School. She talked about the legacy of the school, mentioning the three distinguished Nobel Prize winners who were graduates and the many alumni that had gone on to successful careers in the fields of medicine, law and business.

It had been decided that the theme of this graduation would be titled “The Final Frontier.” Reference was made to the famous Star Trek series. Ms. Hallett challenged the students to act courageously and “boldly go where no man has gone before.”

At this point Ms. Hallett told the audience that members of the FRHS Alumni, Marty Nislick (1962), Barbara Tashoff Saber (1963) and Robert Shapiro (1955), were here to honor students from the last graduating class. Marty Nislick was then called to the podium.

Nislick went on to say, “On behalf of the FRHS Alumni Association, led by Skip Weinstock and Carol Marston, I have the honor of awarding scholarship prizes to two graduates from the class of 2011, Latia Denson and Tiara Edmonds.

In some small way we hope that this gesture will help preserve a part of the great legacy of Far Rockaway High School.

I would like to say to all of the graduates, even though our great school is now closing, all of you will now and forever be a part of our family. We are counting on you to succeed to the best of your abilities and to represent us and our school proudly.”

The ceremony, which lasted fortysix minutes, concluded soon thereafter with the students exiting the auditorium by way of the two center aisles from which they originally entered.

The finality of the closing of Far Rockaway High School will leave a wound in the hearts of many who walked its halls.

But, all of its alumni can be assured that today’s final graduation ceremony was conducted flawlessly with grace and dignity and a remembrance of its great past, a legacy for the final graduating class of 2011.

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