Rye Neck High School celebrated the Class of 2020 with a special drive-in ceremony at Rye Playland on June 18. The socially distanced event featured remarks by valedictorian Grace West and salutatorian Heonjae Lee, as well as video presentations that looked back at some of the students’ most memorable experiences throughout their educational journey.
Principal Tina Wilson welcomed the guests and praised the students for their ability to persevere, and remain engaged and motivated despite being challenged – individually, as a family unit, as a school community and as a society – by the pandemic.
“While we might be separated by the metal and glass your cars are made of, I am beyond elated to be physically in the same location as all of you,” Wilson said. “Even with digital communication tools that have enabled us to remain connected, I am certain we all realized just how much we missed and craved face-to-face human interaction.”
As they move into the next phase of their lives, Wilson encouraged the students to embrace the positive rather than the negative aspects of any situation. She assured them they possess the necessary skills to successfully pivot in the face of future challenges.
In her remarks, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Barbara Ferraro reflected on the students’ creativity, generosity, strength of character and ability to confront each challenge with courage and flexibility.
“Your leadership has been evident during this pandemic,” she said. “Your outreach to help those in need, your support of our district’s younger students and your concern for one another have reinforced the uniqueness of your class, illustrating the power and strength of teamwork and collaboration.”
The graduates also heard from County Executive George Latimer and guest keynote speaker Ryan Pennell, a RNHS Class of 2010 graduate. During her valedictory address, West spoke about the power of gratitude and recognized the people in her life – parents, teachers, coaches, friends – who have inspired her and guided her throughout the years.
“Gratitude is an expression that allows you to recognize things that are good,” she said. “It’s a spotlight that shines on the people that inspire you. As we all go forth to the next chapter in our lives, take a second, a minute, an hour to think about the people that have made you who you are.”
In his salutatory address, Lee reflected on the value of community and their common experiences that have motivated them to pursue their goals. He also recognized his fellow classmates’ outstanding achievements – from taking Advanced Placement courses to delving into their interests, learning the value of teamwork through athletic competitions and games.
“We are a small class – Rye Neck’s smallest in several years – but our achievements are certainly not,” he said. “It has been my greatest honor and privilege to learn, explore and grow alongside my fellow graduates for the past 12 years at Rye Neck. My heart is so full.”
One by one, and after years of hard work and dedication, the students stepped out of their vehicles to take hold of their diplomas and take their first steps as Rye Neck High School alumni.