Wantagh HS Class of 2020 Graduation Ceremony

Congratulations to Wantagh’s Class of 2020

The Class of 2020 overcame the academic obstacles faced during the COVID-19 pandemic to finally celebrate 232 graduates who have now become alumni of the Wantagh School District. Although the graduates were unable to process to their seats on Lawrence Field on June 12 for the district’s 66th annual commencement exercises, their spirits and memories were encased with joy, an appreciation for family and friends and heartfelt memories of their 13 years as a district student. 

In order to maintain strict CDC guidelines, each graduate previously walked individually onto the field to the cheers of faculty and family to receive their diploma from Principal Carolyn Breivogel and to take a photo with Superintendent of Schools John McNamara and Wantagh Board of Education trustees. The photos were then placed in a virtual format, along with the speakers, for a videotaped graduation aired on June 12.     

“Although this graduation format is not how we planned to celebrate the Class of 2020, we hope that the words and messages within will allow this wonderful class to feel the pride they deserve, knowing that they made a difference over the past four years in Wantagh High School,” Ms. Breivogel said. “We are certain that they will continue to make their positive mark in the future. Personally, I am honored to be in their company, as I too move on from my home of 34 years. We will all forever be Warriors and forever be Black and Gold.”

Superintendent of Schools John McNamara acknowledged that the graduates had a much grander vision of their graduation celebration but noted that the class is resilient. “The Class of 2020 is our great hope to get back to that sense of normalcy,” Mr. McNamara said. “All of you will play a critical role in how we restart, reshape our world after this defining event.”

Student Government Organization co-presidents Kaitlin Steingruebner and Juliet Watstein led viewers in the Pledge of Allegiance. Senior class co-president John Sileo then spoke of the importance of connections as he stated, “It’s important now more than ever to connect with each other even if we’re physically apart. Additionally, Juliet, who is also senior class co-president, reflected on the fact that quarantine and social distancing have provided the opportunity to “pause,” “think about the state of society,” “soak in the moment” and “be in the moment” to eventually affect change.

Board of Education President Elizabeth Guber, in her address to the Class of 2020, said that individuals are not only judged by their IQ but their emotional quotient or EQ, which will help them develop empathy to solve problems. “The events in your life do not define you. It is about how you overcome them,” Ms. Guber said. “You have grown in a world that changed more rapidly than any other time in history, but you see beyond borders and you seek what is genuine and good.”

Valedictorian Travis Minutoli reflected on the class’ newfound appreciation of the school community and for traditional senior class graduation activities that were canceled during the pandemic. “These events have not only spurred a newly consolidated unity amongst us that will last forever but have also given us the capability to appreciate the time that we have doing the things that we love,” Travis said. And to the underclassmen, he advised, “Never take for granted a second you have within these walls because you never know when the unimaginable can strike.”

Salutatorian Athena Yao reminded everyone that no one really has the answers when it comes to explaining why bad things happen. Life is like a work of art, she said, and circumstances beyond control will “color all over our sketches, our expectations and outlines and plans for what the future will look like. And that’s okay.” She also said graduation is not defined by a ceremony or the last three months of a four-year journey. “It is defined by the way in which we’ve tackled challenges as they came and by our courage to take the next step, to move forward and create the masterpieces of our lives.”   

Director of Guidance Frank Muzio also gave a heartfelt thank you from the school community to Ms. Breivogel and Assistant Principal James Brown whose impending retirements close a chapter in their roles at Wantagh High School.   

Photos of each of the graduates then flashed onto the screen as their name was called. Mr. McNamara and Ms. Guber certified that the seniors had met the requirements for graduation, marking them becoming alumni of the Wantagh School District. The Board of Education and administration and faculty extend best wishes of happiness and success to the Class of 2020.