On Friday, June 24, under sunny skies with the temperature approaching 90 degrees, 443 Kingston High School seniors of the Class of 2022 gathered at Dietz Stadium to collect their diplomas. Perhaps to overcompensate for the COVID-19 restrictions imposed on the commencement exercises of the previous years, the graduation ceremony was thrown open to any who wished to attend, without tickets. The stadium was therefore overflowing with family and friends of the graduates, as well as other well-wishers, and more would-be attendees were being turned away to seek parking on Uptown Kingston streets after the parking lot was filled to capacity.
Following introductory remarks by principal Vincent DeCicco, a welcome from Class of ’22 president Gabriel Spader and an address by Student Government president Jade Williams segued into the Salutatory Address from Julianne Louie and the Valedictory Address from Julie Chen. Besides the usual exhortations to make the most of their young lives and their educations, the evening’s speeches repeatedly mentioned the peculiar challenge that the members of this graduation class had faced in spending most of their high school years taking classes remotely or masked and seated six feet apart due to the pandemic.
The Commencement Address was delivered by John Crews, who served as class advisor to the Class of ’22 and is also retiring this year as a classroom teacher. While lamenting the momentum lost during COVID, he promised the graduates, “Educational reform is coming!” Looking back over his professional career, as well as the positive influences from his own schooling that had shaped his success, Crews urged the graduates not to make the same mistakes he had made. “In the 1980s, I was following the money; I wasn’t following my life,” he said. “Happiness has to be nurtured, not pursued.”
As Kingston School District board president James Shaughnessy Jr. declared the assembled graduates eligible to be awarded their diplomas, he noted that academic success ought not to be measured solely based on the number of students going on to four-year colleges. The previous year, he said, while only about a third of KHS grads opted for four-year institutions, more than three-quarters were “going on to higher ed,” with many taking advantage of the cost savings of starting off at a community college. He also praised the option of acquiring skills that would lead to well-paying work by learning a trade through BOCES.
Among the Class of 2022, eight students qualified for the New York State Seal of Biliteracy. Collegiate Program participants numbered 25. Ninety seniors qualified for the National Honor Society. Diplomas were awarded summa cum laude to 74 students, magna cum laude to 38 and cum laude to 49.
Following the ritual of handing out the diplomas, administrative advisor Christina Bartley sent the graduates off with their official Class Farewell, offering them one last bit of counsel that echoed Crews’ words earlier in the program: “Don’t forget to be present in your life, so you can fully appreciate your story.” Bartley then gave the grads their official permission to shift their tassels from right to left, signifying the end of their high school years.
Mortarboards, many of them decorated with paint, glitter, beads or flowers, were tossed gleefully into the air. To the strains of “Daylight” by Maroon 5 as their recessional, the members of the KHS Class of ’22 took their victory lap around Dietz Stadium, waving to their well-wishers. An end had come, and a beginning.