CROTON-ON-HUDSON, N.Y. – A class of 139 Croton-Harmon High School seniors waved goodbye and thanked the district most of them have called home since beginning their educational journeys.
"The bond that we share is one we will never share with another group of people for the rest of our lives," said Class President Jolie Glickman. One high school, one middle school and one elementary school make up Croton-Harmon School District. Many students have attended class with the same group of peers for their entire lives.
Valedictorian Gabriella Whelan echoed the sentiment, adding "A considerable portion of us" had been together "since kindergarten."
The ceremony was held in a huge white tent, large enough to accommodate the hundreds who gathered to celebrate the seniors' departure from high school. The day was one of the hottest of 2012 so far, with heat indexes topping 100.
Nearly all attending periodically dabbed sweat from their brows, and, at times, tears. Graduating seniors raced to greet their parents after the ceremony, and to free themselves from polyester caps and gowns.
"A time like this, it's just really special to be here," said Croton-Harmon School Board member Andrea Furey. She said aside from faculty, administration, parents and many family members in attendance, alumni, former teachers, community theater members, neighbors and friends also attended the walk-up ceremony.
In some cases, teachers shared between buildings have taught some students through their entire academic career, such as district strings teacher Sara O'Brien. "It's amazing, it goes by so quickly," said O'Brien. Although this is O'Brien's second high school graduation, she's been with the district 12 years and it's the first class she has taught from kindergarten through graduation.
"Sometimes I look at them and I see their little selves. It makes me cry," she said. "People don't realize the connections teachers have with them."
"I have moments when it's real, but most of the time it’s still something that seems far in the future, even though it's a few months away," said graduate Annika Van Ells, 18, about going on to college. Van Ells will work at the Croton Free Library through the summer.