This year’s Bellport graduation was initially planned to include a parade—a procession of parents and graduates in their cars, then a live-streamed event. However, as guidelines began to ease toward the end of the school year, something unexpected and wonderful happened: parents and guests were able to gather for a typical graduation. A large crowd of spectators watched as graduates sat in rows on the field listening to speeches and eventually rising for the special moment where they could receive their diplomas.
As guests and students were still filing in, a large screen showed clips of elementary school classes congratulating the Class of 2021. Drones were also flown above the event to capture it from different angles.
The first student speaker of the night was Jack Frankie, student council president. He shared an important message.
“To appreciate every aspect of life, both in school and out, you don’t truly know how much you appreciate something until it’s gone,” he said. “I would never think that I would miss a packed hallway... or just seeing everyone’s face.”
He also shared the things that his high school has given him like prom, senior field day and their athletic program, and “most importantly, the chance to walk across this very stage to receive our diplomas tonight.”
Frankie, on behalf of the student council, also honored Tim Hogan, the retiring principal of Bellport High School. Hogan’s retirement comes after 42 years at Bellport, time he spent as a high school band director, district music chairperson, and more recently assistant principal and now principal. He thanked the Class of 2021 and all of the classes he worked with during his tenure.
“I am a better person for having known all of you,” he said. He also expressed his assurance that the class is prepared to move forward, and to support them in that effort, he shared two quotes: “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world,” from Nelson Mandela; and “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel,” from Maya Angelou.
Bellport salutatorian Victoria Monte shared her panic over giving a speech, and worried that she would have to twist our reality to keep the mood positive. She overcame that feeling after reading a poem by Morgan Harper Nichols that read, “Let July be July, let August be August.” Though the concept of the poem seemed simple—to let what is exist as it is rather than trying to change it—the line struck a chord with Monte.
“Let July be July—how about let today be today, or let this moment be this moment, nothing more and nothing less. The world around us may be swirling in 100 different directions, but what counts is what is right in front of us,” she said. “Right now, what matters is today, this moment. Today your siblings, your children, your students and friends graduate from high school.”
Class valedictorian Anthony Notartomaso started his speech off by acknowledging that he thinks they may have had enough of looking to the past and the present, so on a potentially more cheerful note, he would like to discuss their future.
“In discussing the future, it is important to address the fear that comes with not knowing what's to come,” he said. “See, if there's any one thing that I personally have taken away from this last year, we never truly know what our future holds, good or bad. It is a mystery to us all, but that mystery doesn't have to make us live in fear, for the future is not completely out of our control. As we've all seen, we can shape our future each and every day. Simple choices and actions in the past have led us here today; likewise, our choices of today will hold our future.”
Congratulations to the Class of 2021.