Great Neck North High School’s commencement ceremony on Thursday was filled with accolades, inspiration, self-reflection and a 300-person group selfie.
The ceremony, which was held at Hofstra University, was kicked off by a speech titled “Who We Are” from senior class President Melody Yazdan. She began by thanking all of the teachers, staff and families for their tireless work, not only throughout the coronavirus pandemic, but for the past four years of high school. Yazdan gave a special shoutout to class adviser Daniel Moriarty.
“I’d like to thank our teachers … who worked tirelessly to adjust their curriculum to meet the needs of their students,” Yazdan said. “A special thank you to Mr. Moriarty for accepting the role of class adviser for the past four years. We’ve been through it all with you, and we couldn’t have asked for someone better to experience it with.”
Yazdan reflected on some of the memorable moments and accomplishments over the past four years, ranging from winning Battle of the Classes in junior year, to the success of the varsity boys soccer team, named county co-champions this year.
“No matter what we do, where we are, or who we become, we will always have these years to share these memories,” Yazdan said. “These great experiences are ours forever.”
She concluded her speech by taking a selfie on stage, including the entire graduating class.
Class valedictorian Mina Nabavian, who was also the recipient of the school’s Alan L. Gleitsman Award, said she entered the halls of Great Neck North anticipating a high school experience similar to the one in Disney’s “High School Musical.” Desperately trying to find the school’s Troy Bolton and Sharpay Evans, Nabavian said, she realized that the Hollywood stereotypes wouldn’t be found in a high school nestled in the Great Neck peninsula.
“The movie put each character into a simplified box labeled by exactly what it could and could not be,” Nabavian said. “But as I got to know my peers through spirit week, club fair and classes, I realized that the kids in my grade found ways to stretch beyond any box that someone put them in.”
Nabavian said the class of 2021’s story is “anything but a romanticized plot,” touting the diversity throughout Great Neck. She also said the class was able to make the best out of every situation thrown at it, including the coronavirus pandemic.
Members of the graduating class also recognized North High Principal Dan Holtzman, who began his tenure as the head of the school the same year the class of 2021 began high school. Holtzman spoke on some of the challenges the North High community faced over the past year, lauding everyone involved for making it through a global pandemic, able to have an in-person graduation.
“This class will forever be unique and hold a special place for me,” Holtzman said. “Four years ago we entered the hallowed hallways and classrooms of North High together. We got lost together, we laughed together, we went through a global pandemic together, and we worked together to develop a school climate and culture that continues to grow and improve.”
School Superintendent Teresa Prendergast also thanked the entire North High community for efforts in adhering to health and safety guidelines, along with all of the frontline workers for their work in making sure even a partially in-person school year was possible.
“You made sacrifices to protect and to serve our community through your hard work, your determination and your courage,” Prendergast said. “You are a tremendous source of pride to this community and in Great Neck, we will forever be grateful for all that you have done, no matter how difficult the circumstances, to keep us safe.”
Prendergast, the daughter of European immigrants who was born and raised in the Bronx, spoke on the importance of a quality education. She said her parents worked several jobs to create a better life for their three daughters, which ultimately led to Prendergast being the first member of her family to graduate from college.
“I am forever grateful to the love and the support I received from my parents, teachers and loved ones in support of achieving all of my goals, even today,” Prendergast said. “So to my graduates, here is my advice for you. Continue to follow your dreams, and remember, an education is the one thing that can never be taken from you.”