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An Unusual But Energetic Graduation for Class of 2020

Massapequa High School’s Class of 2020 waited an extra month for graduation, so a half-hour delay for rain was nothing for a group who has quickly learned to overcome adversity. The 65th class to graduate from the school came together at TOBAY Beach on July 22 for a ceremony that was anything but ordinary.

An indoor venue wasn’t an option this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so Massapequa partnered with the Town of Oyster Bay to host graduation at the beach. Cars rolled into the parking lot that evening and were set up to face the stage. Large screens on either side showed live feed of the ceremony, and graduates and their families could tune to a local radio station for the audio. While lightning flashed in the distance, the storms mostly stayed away with only a brief rain shower delaying the ceremony’s start.

Brian Conboy, interim principal for the past two years, said that being together was the prevailing sentiment among seniors when seeking their input for graduation. That meant finding an outdoor venue to safely host 570 students. Mr. Conboy said that although the end of their senior year was unusual, he reminded them to reflect on all of their 13 years of school that led to this milestone moment. Don’t look back on the past few months in anger, he said, but instead look forward with hope and promise as well as the knowledge that they can overcome huge challenges.

In a passionate speech, general organization President Alex C., known as the “Voice of the Chiefs” for calling many of Massapequa’s athletic contests, said he has been blessed to have grown up and gone to school in a wonderful, supportive town. Speaking to a crowd sitting in cars, he asked everyone to “give themselves a horn.”

Alex invoked a message of humanity, calling on his fellow graduates to always choose love, help others in need, be problem solvers and serve their community.

“Be an answer to somebody’s prayers,” he said.

Senior Class President Alex L. spoke about how people are often defined by numbers – grades, salaries, sports statistics – but numbers often don’t accurately define a person. He told his fellow graduates never to work for numbers, and never let numbers stop their aspirations. When faced with one-in-a-million odds, he said, “Don’t be afraid to be that one.”

Valedictorian Talia C. and salutatorian Alexa M.’s speeches were pre-recorded and played on the large screens. Alexa said that the pandemic has taught her more about perfection – how hard it is to achieve – and gratitude. She said while this chapter in her life ended in a less than perfect way, she is grateful for the time she had a Massapequa High School and all that she experienced.

Talia noted that the drive-up ceremony at the beach represented a monumental shift in their lives brought on by the pandemic, but graduation still held the same meaning – that they have all achieved successes worthy of celebration. She added that Massapequa High School’s large class is filled with students who have a diverse range of interests and talents, and whose curiosity has them poised to make positive changes in the world.

Mr. Conboy recognized students who will be entering the military, and new high school Principal Barbara Lowell announced the medallion winners in each subject area. Wearing their blue “MHS Class of 2020” masks, graduates came up to the side of the stage in groups. They were announced one by one and allowed to remove their masks for photos as they crossed the stage and picked up a diploma folder from the table. Each student exchanged an elbow bump with Mr. Conboy, the pandemic alternative to the handshake.