In photos: Commencement 2016
In a commencement ceremony packed with stellar student musical performances
and words of wisdom and pride, the 343 members of the Niskayuna High School
Class of 2016 were encouraged on June 23 to dream big, give back and tackle
life's challenges with the same grace and poise they showed throughout high
The school's 58th Annual Commencement Exercises took place at Schenectady’s Proctors Theatre. Senior Class President Noah Chaskin welcomed his classmates and assembled guests and, in his remarks, likened the students’ elementary, middle and high school years to the opening three chapters of a book.
"Moving forward in our lives, we are going to diverge. Some onto college, some onto work, some taking a gap year, some going into the military," said Chaskin, who is entering the U.S. Naval Academy. "But remember, just like in a book, the people we've met and the experiences we've had in the first three chapters will continue to affect our lives later on."
In a speech that drew upon the words and spirit of the late Muhammed Ali, Chaskin urged his classmates to remember that time is the most precious resource of all.
"Dream big, but tackle each challenge one step at a time. You will get to the top of the mountain eventually, but it is each step that matters," he said. "It will take courage and perseverance at times to follow your heart, but in the end it will always make you happier."
In keeping with Niskayuna tradition, the ceremony was punctuated by a wide-range of musical performances from members of the graduating class.
Anthony Tangredi performed a solo version of Dire Straits' "Tunnel of Love" and Min Gon Kim, Noah G. Daviero, and James C. Stagnitti Jr. performed "And Legions Will Rise" on violin, clarinet, and marimbas.
An ensemble of 11 graduates presented an a Capella version of the Beatles' classic, "In My Life," and another group of seven performed a full-band version of Frank Sinatra's "My Way" with Ethan Schalekamp on vocals.
Class officers presented the class gift: donations to several causes, including Autism Speaks, the Bernard & Millie Duker Children's Hospital at Albany Medical Center, the high school's Veterans Display Project, and Equinox, along with a custom-made steel bench to the high school that will be located outside of the pool.
The program also included the ceremonial passing of the school flag – a gift of the Class of 1987 – from Chaskin to John Hess, president of the incoming senior class. In remarks to graduates that mixed the humorous with the heartfelt, Hess noted that going to school for so many years with the had enriched the lives of underclassmen.
"It will be hard to see you go off to college, but we can do so knowing that your future holds great things," Hess said. "To each and every one of you, thank you."
Board of Education President Patricia Lanotte welcomed U.S. Air Force Colonel Dr. Daniel Shoor, a 1983 graduate and decorated Air Force surgeon, into the Niskayuna High School Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame induction takes place as part of graduation each year.
Shoor is currently chief of medical modernization at Randolph Air Force Base in Texas, leading research and development initiatives to enhance the future technological capabilities for air education training and command. He issued a dual challenge to graduates: Go into the world and gain perspective and find a way to give back to others.
"Niskayuna has grown you to have such potential," Shoor said. "Invest that back and I am sure it will pay dividends for both you and generations to come."
Shoor also thanked Niskayuna teachers and staff members for their important role in his success. This included his father a physical education teacher and coach in the district who was present on Thursday.
Niskayuna High School Principal John Rickert and Superintendent Cosimo Tangorra, Jr. formally presented the graduates to their teachers, families, friends and special guests prior to the distribution of their diplomas.
"I congratulate the Class of 2016 and recognize their grace, poise and wisdom," Dr. Tangorra said earlier in his remarks to students. "It is my hope that you take these attributes with you, and nurture them as you go forth and gain all of the knowledge and enlightenment that you can garner. This community, this country needs you."