“Honey, see the kid who just turned into that row of seats? The one with the glasses? I’m pretty sure that’s ours.”
“Honey — I don’t know — that might be him. Mom, what do you think?”
“These children are moving too fast! I don’t even know which one you’re pointing at.”
Even parents were second-guessing themselves as they tried to spot their child in the processional of Shenendehowa High School graduates at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center on Thursday afternoon. Not that the lighting was poor or the view obscured — they say there’s no bad seat in the house at SPAC. But the sheer size of this graduating class, at 700 students, gave the impression of a sea of green-and-white gowns.
Shen knew how to run a smooth operation. Parents said they were impressed by the student processional, which moved with the kind of disciplined efficiency only possible after a thorough rehearsal.
After the entry processional — and before the valedictorian or salutatorian were introduced — Principal Donald Flynt presented one diploma. He walked to the front row of the amphitheater, where the family of Hunter Cronin sat. Cronin would have been wearing a graduation gown next to his classmates if not for a fatal accident May 22. On his way to school, while navigating a sharp turn, the 18-year-old lost control of his car.
His family was visibly emotional as Flynt handed them an honorary diploma.
Shared memories of Cronin lent a certain sobriety to the graduation ceremony. When senior class president Christina Capobianco took the podium, she spoke of the “sweet and sour moments” that characterized the past year for the seniors. The class’ solidarity after Cronin’s death, she said, “reinforced our commitment” to staying strong, but wouldn’t stop them from missing him.
“Hunter was a vivacious young man who positively impacted everyone who knew him,” Capobianco said.
Capobianco touched on the “sweet moments” of their senior year, too, and even created some new “moments” onstage. Her personality was on full display when she instructed students to “start cheering wildly,” turned around and snapped a selfie with her classmates in the background. Now she could tell people who hadn’t been at graduation that she’d gotten a standing ovation, she explained.
Soon after, Flynt delivered his remarks. He was half-smiling as he warned that “the world will give you a slow, steady, IV drip of humiliation.” It’s impossible to be the richest or the most powerful person around, he told the graduating class, so don’t define “greatness” as “winning.”
Shen’s superintendent of schools, L. Oliver Robinson, told students to instead follow Maya Angelou’s advice: “Love life. Engage in it. Give it all you’ve got. Love it with a passion because life truly does give back, many times over, what you put into it.”
In keeping with tradition, the senior class treasurer, Sarah Phillips, and secretary, Brittany Reed, presented a gift to the incoming freshman class at Shen — a new art case. They challenged that class “to submit works that illustrate the free spirit and inclusiveness of Hunter Cronin.”
“Hunter always wore tie-dye shirts, and he was always happy,” said Raynee Kirkpatrick, a classmate and friend.
Shen’s commencement also featured the graduation of Matthew Hardy, one of two survivors of a December 2012 Northway car crash that killed two other Shen students. Hardy and Shaker High School student Bailey Wind survived, but Shen seniors Chris Stewart and Deanna Rivers died.
After the ceremony, the great lawn at SPAC swirled with motion as graduates said goodbye and looked for family members.
Julianna Klein, one of the graduates, described her last four years in three words: “family, acceptance and diversity.” After clocking a 400-meter dash in 59 seconds, she was recruited by Binghamton University, where she hopes to study English.
Earlier in the morning at SPAC, 496 students graduated during Saratoga Springs High School’s ceremony. The graduating class included a 91-year-old World War II veteran, Thomas V. Smith Sr.