Emotions were high as the Levittown Public Schools celebrated the start to a new beginning, with nostalgia flowing throughout Hofstra University’s David S. Mack Sports and Exhibition Center. Students from General Douglas MacArthur High School and Division Avenue High School successfully checked off one chapter of their lives.
On Saturday, June 22, both institutions graduated their Class of 2019, marking the end of an era for about 500 students in the area.
“Members of the Class of 2019, you are armed with all the necessary skills, traits and characteristics that are paramount for success at the next level,” MacArthur Principal Joseph Sheehan said at the ceremony. “To say it has been an honor to have started our journeys at MacArthur High School together four years ago and be able to witness you develop into the high quality, well-rounded, respected young adults you have become, would be an understatement. ‘General Nation’ is a better place because of you.”
The sentiment was shared during Division Avenue’s ceremony as well.
“The future that awaits you is second to none; you are second to no one,” Principal John Coscia said. “You are graduates of Division Avenue High School. When you dream of achieving something, always remember: Pride, Honor and Commitment.”
To kick off MacArthur’s ceremony, the school’s band performed under the direction of Joseph Romano, with senior band members by his side. The graduates then watched a commemorative video presentation of footage from throughout their senior year as they reminisced on the memories made.
The keynote speaker for MacArthur was James Chenevey Jr., CEO of Earthlite, Inc. and a Levittown Memorial High School graduate. During his time on stage, he discussed his experiences growing up in Levittown, and offered advice on how to achieve happiness in life. Further, he encouraged students to practice being patient, be open to other ideas and cultures, always look to help others, express gratitude every day, seek leadership opportunities and network.
Valedictorian Saajid Chowdhury, Salutatorian Hannah Kilmetis and Class President Richard Neri III each addressed their peers throughout. The trio praised the Class of 2019, emphasizing their support systems and shared lessons that they have learned.
The Division Avenue program kicked off with Assistant Principal Jaclyn Guidice opening the ceremony and introducing Student Council President Madison Gillis, who recited the Pledge of Allegiance and was one of the first Athlete of the Week students the Tribune profiled, as Daniella Roselli did it in sign language. Senior members of the concert choir, directed by Alison Sellars, performed the National Anthem before Coscia addressed the graduates.
The Division Avenue High School Symphony Orchestra, along with senior orchestra members, performed “Smooth” by Itaal Shur, Rob Thomas and Santana during the ceremony, conducted by Mark Martufi.
Thomas Hutchinson, Division Avenue High School’s valedictorian from the Class of 1990, served as the keynote speaker. Hutchinson spoke about his experience at Division Avenue High School and the mark that Levittown left on him. He compared life to baseball, as he was on the team in high school, and swapped his graduation cap for a Division Avenue baseball cap during his speech.
Hutchinson shared some advice with the graduates as they prepared to embark on the next chapter of their lives. He told students that progress equals happiness, to find your why and feed it daily, be grateful, always leave your mark and to believe.
“As you go through life, please look for opportunities to learn something new,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Tonie MacDonald said at the Division Avenue graduation. “If you’re planning on attending college, attack your classes with wonder and joy. Have fun. If you’re going into a place of work, be the best you can be at your job.”
Valedictorian Sean Wolf, Salutatorian Michael Adams and class President Jenna Horan addressed the Class of 2019 during the ceremony.
Levittown Board of Education President Peggy Marenghi proudly presented both senior classes to the crowd before the conferring of diplomas.
Loved ones cheered as students were recognized one by one on stage. After tossing their blue caps high, the graduates exited the ceremony ready to take on the next chapter of their lives.
The following are some of the top storylines out of the two high schools in 2019:
• The district made major security upgrades this year, including bulletproof glass vestibules at district schools.
• Students and staff from both Division Avenue and MacArthur showcased a pilot program in select high school classrooms that swapped standard desks and classroom setups for circular tables, stools and whiteboard desks.
• Air Force Technical Sergeant Kelvin Rodriguez surprised his son, freshman Amani Rodriguez at Division, after returning home from a seven-month deployment on Feb. 5.
• Division Avenue students engaged in an Islanders Floorball unit with the help of the New York Islanders. The school received about 30 jerseys, 14 hockey sticks and two goals, which were donated by the team as part of their Islanders Floorball Program.
• MacArthur senior Kimberly Mestizo was recognized as a President’s Volunteer Service Award recipient for her exemplary volunteer service.
• The Gerald R. Claps Career and Technical Center SkillsUSA Club took home 11 medals during the Area VI SkillsUSA Regional Competition at Suffolk County Community College in March.
• Division senior Sylvia Meyers had her writing piece featured in HBO’s Inspiration Room, an exhibit in New York City.
• Juniors Leah Draluck and Julia Gizzo were presented with the Rensselaer Medal Award for academic excellence in math and science.
• Juniors Guo (Raymond) Yuan Li, Elizabeth Mintz and Samantha Leon from MacArthur were recognized with a citation from elected officials and the Jewish Community Relations Council of Long Island for their efforts in building bridges across communities and creating a more civil society.
• The Pin to Win Wrestling Parent’s Club at Division Avenue created the first annual Color Run, in which supporters walked around the school’s track with plenty of paint powder to go around for everyone. About 175 people showed up to the event.