Pearl River High School Class of 2012 Valedictorian Jack Mikuszewski joked about hearing rumors that he would not give a speech at Thursday's graduation ceremony on the high school football field.
"I want to thank the rumors that I would not give this speech today," Mikuszewski said. "They helped me realize this was an opportunity, not an obligation. (Pearl River High School Principal William) Furdon called me into his office during the last week to see if I was giving the speech because he also heard the rumors. I was proud to say I am. As scared as I am to be up here speaking, I know it's a lot better than the regret I would feel never having done it."
With those words, Mikuszewski joined the rest of the Class of 2012 in celebrating Pearl River High School's 106th Commencement Ceremony.
"It is with great joy that I send you off with a personal message from me to you, albeit one borrowed from Dr. Martin Luther King," Furdon said. "I hope you will think of this message when you are unsure of your next step in life or whenever you doubt you will be able to create for yourself the life that you want. When that happens, you only have to take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole staircase. Just take the first step."
Pearl River Senior Class President Adrienne Ammirati also spoke of taking next steps, challenging her classmates to make sure each part of their lives would be better than the next rather than allow high school to be the best time of their lives.
Senior Class Salutatorian Samuel Berry spoke to his classmates of broadening horizons, but also taking Pearl River with them.
"I know that as we all go off to the next phase, some of us will have a.... holy crap moment when we realize how different the world is," Berry said. "And as you leave Pearl River, bring a little something with you to show the world the kind of close-knit family this community is. We are always there for each other, ready to rally behind a cause or to help someone up, so I plan on bringing that selflessness with me."
Just as all of the students, family, friends, faculty and administrators present had to overcome temperatures in the upper 90s, Mikuszewski overcame his concerns about public speaking and used the experience to give his classmates a message.
"I know most of you here know as little about me as I know about you, but in a nutshell, I'm a pretty quiet kid," Mikuszewski said. "Giving a speech in front of this many people is about as far out of my comfort zone as I have ever ventured, but I know it's probably the best thing for me. None of us graduates are going to be able to stay in the comfort zones we have created over the past five years. We are going to find new comfort zones and I know this will only expand our freedoms and our happiness. While stepping outside our comfort zone may sound scary, you never know what joys you may find on the other side.
"At this point in the speech, I can confirm mine is not public speaking, but hey, at least I tried."
Highlights from the comments by Mikuszewski, Berry, Ammirati and Furdon are attached to this report, as is the full list of Pearl River's graduating seniors.
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