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Casey Li’s Graduation Speech at South


SpeechCasey_071515AI want to start by sharing with you a story my dad told me and my
sister Jenny a few months ago at the dinner table.

It’s about a fisherman.

Every day, he wakes up, catches fish and goes home early. He plays guitar, drinks some beer and then goes to sleep.

One day, a businessman comes
to his village. He sees the fisherman at work and says, “You know what you should do? Make a profit, buy
a few boats and start your own
company. Then, move out of this village into a city and run your expanding business.”

The fisherman replies, “And then what?”

He says, “After about 20 years, you’ll issue an IPO and start making millions of dollars.”

The man says, “OK, then what?”

The businessman replies, “With all your money, you’ll be able to retire to a small village. Then, every day you can wake up, go fishing, drink beer and play guitar.”

Today, it feels like we have our entire lives ahead of us. We’re already thinking about our futures. If we get through college, we might see the world, have nice careers, have kids, get our kids through college and then count down the days until we retire. We may want to make an impact or change the world for the better.

The point of the story isn’t that we shouldn’t work hard and set goals for ourselves. What the story does show, though, is that sometimes the things we spend our entire lives trying to obtain are already right in front of us. We say that if we can just accomplish the next thing, if we can just get into a good college or get a good job—if we can fulfill our next goal, reach the next step, we’ll finally be happy with where we are. But, let’s not waste the time we have trying to finally earn happiness, or success, when we can learn to find it at every step along the way.

Today, we have family members who have come to support and celebrate us. And, if you look to your left and your right you’ll see some of your closest friends by your side. Let’s value our relationships today, and also our high school experiences, the ways in which we’ve grown and the things we’ve already overcome, so that in the time we have, we’re able to cherish and enjoy life to the fullest.

Today is about us. We still have a long way to go, but today we celebrate how far we’ve already come. It’s my honor to say to the Class of 2015—Congratulations!

Thank you.

Nadine Hakim’s North Graduation Speech



A jumble of ambition, a pang of fear, a sprinkle of nervousness with a side of excitement—this knot in my stomach is indefinable, but certainly familiar. It was there the first day of freshman year, a blurry, rainy day, and I am sure I was not the only freshman with an uncomfortable knot in my stomach as we scurried into North High’s unfamiliar walls over four years ago. It was there when fourth place in Battle crushed weeks of hard work our sophomore year and again when we experienced the same aching as members of the Junior Tribe and the Senior Street surpassing low expectations. It was there and kept us standing on the edge of the soccer bleachers during the thrilling playoff penalty kick shootout. And it was there even when Mr. Kaplan’s “Doogh” shower during Spirit Week made us laugh so hard that our stomachs hurt. But, what is it, this knot?

Searching for an answer, I considered Harry Potter, despite being a Potter newbie. One night, a wandering Harry experiences a similar ache inside him when he stumbles upon his reflection in an ancient mirror. Rather than seeing just the room behind him, Harry encounters his late parents, whom he’d never known, but always longed to have met. Entranced, Harry brings Ron Weasley to see his parents in the mirror as well. However, Ron only sees himself, older, good-looking, and successful. So, exactly what does this magical mirror reflect?

Here is a hint: The happiest person in the world would look in the mirror and see a reflection of himself or herself, exactly as is. The mirror’s enchantment is that it shows the most desperate desires of a person’s heart. However, viewing the most desperate desires of a person’s heart drives men mad. We are maddened by a reality that may be unrealistic. We are paralyzed by our own misconception of how life should unfold. We keeping looking into the mirror for answers, rather than living in those moments that tie those familiar knots in our stomachs. We keep focusing too much on what will be reflected, and maybe not enough on who we are. The best way to have that reflection gladden us, rather than madden us, is to live lives of meaning.

Being surrounded by our teachers, our parents, but most importantly, the Class of 2015, produces another knot, one that arises from an initial fear of stepping outside the comfortable microcosmic world that Great Neck North established for us. But, the knot loosens a little when I realize that the teachers who have empowered our desire to learn and inspired our ability to succeed, have all along been preparing us to enter a new world by arming us with confidence and knowledge to tackle life. It loosens more as I understand that our proud, wet-eyed parents have supplied us with the unconditional support and endless love that everyday teaches us how to love ourselves. And, the knot loosens even more as I see that the relationships we have built as members of the Class of 2015 equipped each of us with irreplaceable lifelong memories: shimming to Waka Waka, cheering on the bleachers.

Our paths have been intertwined for the past four years, yet we sit side by side in our matching blue caps and gowns, unsure if our paths will ever cross again, but also knowing that there will always be common ground to our paths. Bidding farewell to Great Neck North allows us to retain the great memories while still moving forward in our lives. We ambitiously move forward to change the world as adults rather than hold onto the past like children. And even as some details of our high school memories may fade, we will never forget that passionate ache inside our stomachs—nor should we.

Class of 2015, do not get stuck in the fantasy life that your mirror holds. Do not wake up one day when it is too late and realize you forgot to feel that ache in your stomach; realize you forgot to live. These knots are our joys, our sorrows, the moments that make us who we are. These knots bind us together. We live in those knots and those knots live in us.

Christine An’s South Graduation Speech


SpeechAn_071515A“Are you all ready are you ready get set?”

“Are you ready get set are you ready?”

Who still remembers this? And who can believe that we heard these words four years ago?

These unforgettable parting words from Dr. Welsh accompanied us as we made the transition from middle school to high school and they could not be more relevant at this very moment as we make an even bigger leap from high school into college and begin our journeys not only into our professional careers, but also into adulthood.

I distinctly remember one of the most popular questions we were asking high schoolers was the amount of freedom we would be receiving, and it’s funny looking back at it now because I think in college we might start wishing for a little less independence. I mean, suddenly, fresh laundry doesn’t magically appear anymore. There’s no one making sure you got to school because you spent the night (and early morning) finishing a Ko outline or a Graham guide and overslept.

But, I’m not intimidated. In fact, I believe it is not us who aren’t prepared for college, but college who isn’t prepared for us. These past four years, each and every one of us have filled our days with forming invaluable relationships with our peers and mentors, learning about the world around us, exploring our passions, and finding new ones. Great Neck South High School has been incredibly successful in fostering within us an insatiable curiosity and a driving ambition to discover, boldly pushing limits and exploring the unknown. We are future history makers, paving new paths in our respective fields and making, as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow put it, “footprints in the sands of time.”

Are we ready?

Yes, we are.

Let’s go!

Graduation Speech by Ashley Radparvar


SpeechAshley_071515A“I’d like everyone—students, parents, teachers and guests, to picture Great Neck North High. Outline it in your head, note its most defining features, its every crevice. Imagine its students passing in and out of the school’s entrance.

“Most of you pictured the building as picturesque, architecturally strong, historic, peaceful and eventful. You will all note its four large columns, the steps leading up to the school’s entrance, the clock tower, and the trees surrounding its gorgeous facade. You will all remember how strong and beautiful the school looks and feels.

“Now I’d like everyone to imagine the school without just one of its characteristics. Imagine the school had lost one of its columns, forfeited one step, cut down one of its bushes, given up its clock tower, or had swapped its bricks for cement. Is this the same Great Neck North High you’ve always known? Of course not—it’s different, it’s new, it’s incomplete, it’s lost its identity.

“Ladies and gentlemen, the picture of Great Neck North’s structure, its columns, clock tower, steps, bushes, bricks, and all—represent us, the grade that stands before you this morning, the Class of 2015.

“Each one of us is different. While one of us excels at singing and dancing, another makes gigantic strides on the basketball court. When one of us goes to work in the lab every summer morning, the other is working on writing and publishing his first book. The student working on her debate speech will be sitting across from a student working on writing his first musical piece on guitar. The guy sitting on the front lawn practicing his monologue for the school play is just meters away from the girl working her hardest to make the varsity cheerleading squad. It is remarkable how so many different, unique and amazing people can aggregate in one grade, in one community. Even more amazing is that it is our different interests and passions that make us so unique and so united as a grade: without such different people, we would not be who we are today, and who we will become tomorrow. Without our own identities, we would not grow as a grade, learn from each other, or unite as one community.

“In this year’s Super Bowl, Katy Perry was backed by shark dancers. While the right shark knew all his moves perfectly to Katy Perry’s song, the left shark ad libbed his own moves, was totally out of sync with the right shark and was not in tune with the beat. Yet who was the most memorable and who was the happiest? The left shark. He wasn’t memorable because he knew the dance forwards and backwards, but because he brought his own personal touch to something he was dictated to do. He was different and unique in his own way, for that he is memorable.

“Today, our unique and united grade will have to diverge onto different paths. Tomorrow, you won’t be walking into Great Neck North as a student, but as an alumnus who has made a mark on the school. And in just a couple of months, you may not even be in Great Neck, but in a different location, a different state, maybe a different country, away from the school that had a part in shaping you into who you are today.

“Look at the people sitting next to you, look at yourself, notice how much you have grown as a person, with your own goals, your own accomplishments, your own feelings, your own ideas, your own actions, your own words, your own identity.

So, in the coming months of packing, and panicking, and nostalgia, remember to never stop being who you are meant to be. Remember, no matter what surprises the future holds, to be true to your own identity, your own passions. Never fear what others may think of you and never fear what is to come, because as long as you keep your identity, you will always be a part of something great. And when we are encouraged to explore our interests even further, delve in the depths of our souls, and find out what we were truly meant to accomplish in life, we must remember to never fear the future and to never question ourselves in our endeavors and in our search for our own identities.

“I’d like to close off with one of my favorite quotations from Dr. David Baltimore, Nobel Prize-winning scientist and alumnus of the school, whom I had the honor of interviewing at the beginning of this year. He says, “My advice is to find out what you enjoy and do it. It certainly worked for me.”

“Congratulations to the Class of 2015 and the best of wishes for the accomplishments that are to come.”

New Student Internet Policy

SchoolInternet_061715ANow older (high school students) in the Great Neck School District will be permitted a more age-appropriate
use of the Internet. [Read more…]

Bryce’s Graduation Poem

SpeechBryce_071515AOn the occasion of his graduation from South High School . . . [Read more…]

School Board Is Reinstalled

SchoolBoard_071515BAs reelected Great Neck School District Board of Eduction officers Barbara Berkowitz and Donald Ashkenase were again sworn in to office, [Read more…]

A Poem Saluting GN North High

Graduating Great Neck North High School

By Chloe Cristian

[Read more…]

More Great Neck Grad Awards

ALC-graduates 2014The Class of 2015 valedictorians and salutatorians for Great Neck North High School and Great Neck South High School were featured in a previous issue of this newspaper.

Other significant graduation awards include Barstow and Scott Moss. A look at the winners of these awards follows.

Barstow Awards

Valedictorian Jessy Lin and Salutatorian Daniel Hanover from North High, and covaledictorian Sherry Yang and Maxwell Nettler from South High are this year’s Barstow Award winners. (North’s valedictorian and salutatorian are traditionally their school’s Barstow Award recipients).

The coveted Frederic Duclos Barstow Award was established in 1962 by Françoise and William Barstow in memory of their only son who died of pneumonia at age 35. The Barstows were prominent Great Neck residents after whom Barstow Road is named. Recipients of the annual Barstow Awards must be in the top 10 percent of their class and be “outstanding in leadership, citizenship, scholarship and service.” Each recipient receives a monetary prize.

Jessy Lin, Daniel Hanover and Sherry Yang, as the high academic achievers of their classes, were previously featured in this newspaper.

Maxwell Nettler was an Advanced Placement Scholar with Honor (earning perfect scores on his four exams) and a National Merit Commended Student. He was Model Congress President, DECA Vice President and an officer of Amnesty International. Maxwell served as assistant section editor and columnist for The Southerner, the school newspaper; played tennis for four years, both JV and Varsity; and was a four-year member of the Concert Band and Symphonic Band, playing drums. He will attend the University of Pennsylvania in the fall.

Scott Moss Award

The recipient of the Scott D. Moss Memorial Award, given at South High School, is Ji Ann Greenberg. This award was established in 1977, in memory of Scott, who was an outstanding South student until his death from cancer. The award is given to a graduating senior who exemplifies the “service, concern, interest, and ability of Scott Moss.”

Ji Ann Greenberg is an Advanced Placement Scholar, a National Spanish Exam bronze medalist and a recipient of an Outstanding Physical Education Award, Nassau Zone, New York State Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance. She was captain of cross country and winter and spring track teams and president of the Girls Varsity Club and Gay Straight Alliance. Ji Ann was a student representative to the Building Curriculum Group and a member of student government, Key Club and Midnight Run Club. She played trumpet and baritone horn in Jazz Band and also plays piano. She plans to attend the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign.ALC-graduates 2014

Fire Award for Great Neck Teacher

FASNYAward_061715APaul E. Ziring has served in many roles since he began teaching in Great Neck in 1992 and his selection by the Fireman’s Association of the State of New York as “Teacher of the Year” is the latest in a long line of satisfying moments for the school district’s special education outdoor education program coordinator.

Ziring, who lives in Mineola, was nominated by the Nassau County Firefighters Museum & Education Center in Garden City and is just the 11th recipient of the award given by the 92,000-member state organization that was founded in 1872.

“I didn’t even know I was nominated,” said Ziring. “I’m honored and humbled by it.”

“I love what I do,” he volunteered. “I can’t put it any other way. I love looking at what the kids need and the experiences that they need and what they don’t always necessarily get or get the opportunity to have. If I can provide a new experience, a learning experience (fire safety) that can save their lives, that’s great,” Ziring added. He especially enjoys staying in touch with many of his former students, one of whom is a New York City firefighter.

Referring to his state award, presented last week in a ceremony at the Firefighters’ Museum, Ziring added, “Bottom line is, all I really intended to do was take a fantastic program that they’re already doing and modify it so that my students know how to keep themselves and their families safe.”

Ziring first began working in Great Neck as a health education teacher after obtaining degrees in psychology, education and administration. He actually started the district’s girls soccer program in 1992 and coached the South Middle girls volleyball team for 13 years. He’s been running the outdoor education program for about 10 years but his work involves a large number of activities that take place indoors, too.

Looking for ways to expand opportunities for his students when the weather wasn’t so cooperative actually led him to his association with fire safety education. “In the winter months we do a lot of museum stuff,” he explained. “I started going to the Cradle of Aviation in Garden City and I looked in there and saw the Firefighters Museum and I was impressed. I brought the kids in there and found that the people at the museum are the most amazing human beings,“ he continued. “They were just taken with our kids. They were so good with the kids.”

Ziring started working with the museum to modify and customize the programs. “They told me that they wanted to form a partnership with the Great Neck School District,” he recalled. “They asked me to create and modify the curriculum to meet the needs of our students.” Great Neck officials quickly agreed to the partnership.

Fire safety educational trips for the 17 groups of youngsters he works with only account for a small portion of the 150 or so trips he arranges yearly for the district’s special needs students. Ziering says that he draws from among 50 or so programs in the metropolitan area including indoor rock climbing, archery, camping, fishing and having the students work with dogs and horses. In fact, district students have started working with DogAbility in Hicksville. “It’s about working and connecting with dogs and their handlers,” Ziring explained. “Most of the dogs are therapy and service dogs.”

The museum’s executive director, Alana Petrocelli, nominated Ziring for state recognition. Petrocelli’s organization has also given Ziering its Badge of Courage Humanitarian Award.

In her letter to the state association she wrote, “Paul created, honed, retooled and virtually perfected the fire safety curriculum to provide students with the training to stay safe in the event of a home or other fire.”