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WHS Class of 2024 Graduates!

WHS Class of 2024 Graduates!

After the entrance to the field to Pomp and Circumstance being played by the Westlake Concert Band (directed by Carlo Capano), the Pledge of Allegiance led by Student Council Executive Board President and graduation emcee Alexandra Gjokaj and The Star Spangled Banner sung by The Blendors (directed by Emily Denler), Senior Class President Courtney Williams addressed her classmates. Her speech centered around one of her favorite things, a disco ball. “Individually we shine but together we light up a room. Our individual efforts have come together to make a dazzling whole…We are all separate pieces whose individual brilliance is greatest when we come together.”

WHS Principal Keith Schenker was up next and he took a moment to recognize, celebrate, and say farewell to this year’s retirees Carlo Capano, Anthony Paduano, Claudia Palermo, and Patty Ryan for over 133 years collectively of service to the district. He added special thanks to WHS head custodian Chris Carpenter for his 30 years of dedicated service and especially for the day’s graduation. He also thanks the Education Foundation, WHS PTA, and Westlake Athletic Club, along with parents and families.

In his principal's address he quoted The Office’s Pam Beesly, "There's a lot of beauty in ordinary things, isn't that kind of the point?" and Andy Bernard, “I wish there was a way to know you're in the good old days before you've actually left them.” And shared some lyrics from one of his favorite country singers, Keny Chesney’s Don't Blink, “I turned on the evening news, saw an old man being interviewed, turning a hundred and two today, Asked him what's the secret to life? He looked up from his old pipe, laughed and said, "All I can say is don't blink, just like that you're six years old. And you take a nap. And you wake up and you're twenty-five.”  He shared how he felt sitting through his own son's college graduation just days earlier, “I was struck by the fact that life is a series of ordinary events.” He suggested that the Class of 2024 “Make a note of who had been significant and how they shaped you and be grateful.”

He then quoted Steve Jobs, “You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future,” and closed with some sage words from John Lennon, “Life is what happens while you're busy making other plans.”

Next up was Board of Education trustee Mike Griffin whose first words were, “Surprise Grace!” directed to his own Class of 2024 graduate, his daughter. He said he had received some advice about giving a graduation speech including: don’t do it, keep it short, and if you’re going to do it don’t embarrass yourself. He told the class, “I remember your virtual 8th grade graduation. You have come a long way. I do have a few pieces of advice for you: You don't have to know everything, you're only 17/18. You’re not alone. You have a tremendous support system in Westlake. It's your life and your choice to do what you want and be true to yourself. Finally do not fear failure, everyone up here has failed; it is part of the process.”

Salutatorian Melania Petriccone said, “There are a lot of things I would like to forget about our journey, like that Covid botched our 8th grade year or fearing that AI was going to make ‘The Terminator’ a reality or the time I fell up the stairs between classes. As I approached writing my speech I thought about my idealized self versus my real self.” She closed with a Truman Capote quote, “To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it's about, but the inner music that words make.”

The commencement address was delivered by Science Teacher and department chair, Mary Newell. “Instead of delivering a typical speech, I want to tell you all what I love about you and what I will remember about the Class of 2024: your willingness to show up for the work even when hard and it doesn't go well, your willingness to pitch in and help, your sense of humor, and the scope of your interest.” She left them with a quote by author and humorist Terry Prachet, “Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too.”

Valedictorian Patricia Keating talked about the goal of writing the perfect speech and landed on some advice, including “genuine conversation regardless of brevity or content is vital. Strive for meaningful connections and to make lasting impacts. Do in the moment what will bring you the most joy and try to sometimes focus on what you’re doing rather than always on what is ahead. She left the class with a quote from Eddie Cantor, “Slow down and enjoy life. It's not only the scenery you miss by going too fast - you also miss the sense of where you are going and why.”

The final speaker of the afternoon for the Superintendent’s address and graduation proclamation, was Dr. Peter Giarrizzo, Mount Pleasant’s Superintendent. “Each year it has become my tradition to select a song for each graduating class and frame my remarks around the lyrics to the song. In 1994, Tom Petty released the song, Wildflowers as the title and opening track on his second solo album…Like wildflowers reaching for the sun, you have grown and flourished over the past years. You’ve faced challenges, embraced opportunities, and learned valuable lessons that have prepared you for the future…As you step into the next chapter of your lives, remember to find joy in the journey. Pursue your passions, cherish your relationships, and savor the moments that bring you happiness. In a world that is constantly changing, it is crucial to remain true to who you are. Be confident in your abilities, trust your instincts, and always remember how essential it is to stay rooted in purpose. Finding peace within yourself will allow you to navigate life’s challenges with grace and strength. As you leave here today, know that you carry with you the hopes and dreams of your families, teachers, and the community. I thank your teachers and parents for sticking by you. I’ll speak for all of them and tell you that you didn’t always make it easy for them.  That said, in the end, you have made us all proud.”

Congratulations Westlake High School Class of 2024!

View Slideshows of the Graduates and the Graduation Ceremony!