Thousands of residents packed the front lawn of John Adams High School on Monday to celebrate the graduation of a class that has faced more than the normal triumphs and trials that inevitably accompany adolescence.
Just a little more than a month ago, students and administrators were worried the city could close down the Ozone Park school because the state had placed the institution on its “persistently low-achieving list.” However, city officials announced in mid-May they would not shutter one of Queens’ largest high schools, and graduates said they were thrilled they would have an alma mater to where they could return.
“There were people saying this school was going to close, but because of the faith your staff and faculty had in you, this school will be open for many, many years to come,” said Pat McCabe, chief of staff to state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach). “Take that lesson into your life — anything is possible if you believe in yourself and work hard.”
Students echoed McCabe’s sentiments, saying they had learned how to persevere through the all-nighters spent studying for tests and the seemingly never-ending homework and reached their ultimate goal — graduation.
“It has been a stressful four years of high school, but here we are, holding our heads up high,” said Vanessa Guerrero, the senior class president.
Valedictorian Valisha Nardeo and salutatorian William Gangaram said despite the hard work, they loved their time at John Adams.
“Senior year has been so much fun with prom, our barbeque and now graduation,” Nardeo said. “We’ve grown to enjoy each other’s company, and I hope we sense a unity in the John Adams class of 2011.”
Numerous students received awards during the ceremony for their hard work, and Mark Weidler, publisher of the Queens Chronicle, presented a $250 check to Lovashni Khalikaprasad, the school’s top journalism student.
Principal Grace Zwillenberg wished her graduates luck as they embark on the newest chapter of their lives.
“I hope as you’ve made your way through John Adams, you’ve acquired knowledge that will last a lifetime,” she said.
Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) stressed the importance of family and being proud of one’s roots.
“Of all the people I’ve met, I can honestly tell you the people in my life who are important to me are anything but famous, and the sacrifices my family made is very much a part of who I am today,” said Ulrich, who noted he grew up in Ozone Park with a single mother and grandparents who taught him “honesty, integrity and to work hard.”
JetBlue Chief Financial Officer Ed Barnes urged students to take time to pursue what they love.
“You’ll be working the rest of your life, so now’s the time to suck life into your lungs,” he said. “Take time off to travel. Investigate your passions. Delay as long as possible your entry into the work force. This is not an invitation to be a bum, it’s an invitation to enjoy life.”