It was a sea of caps and gowns at Queens College on Wednesday morning as 409 students graduating from Long Island City High School anxiously waited to receive their diplomas. Though the 87th commencement exercise would be the school’s last, the mood remained light and celebratory.
“We finally made it!” said valedictorian Xi Xi Hu, as she addressed her fellow graduates. “We thought this day would never come. Now look at us, sitting proudly in this auditorium, dressed in our Sunday best under our caps and gowns.”
LICHS is one of seven Queens high schools being closed by the city this year. It will be restructured and open again in September under a new name, Global Scholars Academies of Long Island City, with many staff changes.
Hu said the students owed their success to parents, teachers and friends who helped them along on their academic journey. “Teachers, you always had faith in us when we doubted ourselves,” Hu said. “You always encouraged us to try again when we failed. You were always there when we needed a hand.”
She added that friends made the high school experience exciting and compared them to the vivid colors in a picture book. And she said parents would provide the necessary support to assist their children’s move to the next chapter in their lives.
“Follow the feeling within you that is trying to come out,” Hu advised. “Don’t hesitate. Take risks. You will not know the outcome unless you try.”
Principal Maria Mamo-Vacacela said even though the graduates are leaving, they will always be part of the LICHS family, and she asked them to join hands in a sign of unity.
“We were absolutely resilient, enduring, supportive, tenacious,” she said. “We fought like family members do from time to time, but we developed a love of learning, a love of self, a love of each other, a love of family, friends and community.”
Mamo-Vacacela said as principal she made it clear to her students that they should never tell her they couldn’t do something, because she wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. “The word ‘can’t’ is a very dirty four-letter word,” she said. “We don’t accept ‘can’t.’”