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Class of 2024 Graduation

Commencement Ceremony

Warwick Graduates 335 During Class of 2024 Commencement Ceremony

Warwick Valley High School graduated 335 students during the Class of 2024 Commencement Ceremony, held this morning, Saturday, June 29.

Warwick Valley High School Principal Georgianna Diopoulos welcomed families and friends and told everyone that for many of these students, she was their middle school principal way back in sixth grade.

“To my Class of 2024, I stand before you humbled. I have had the unique opportunity as an educator, your principal, to be actively involved in your education since you were in the sixth grade,” she said. “That’s a long time. I have watched you tackle challenges, figure out how to thrive during a pandemic, conquer your fears, fight for what you believe in and the best part of it all, I got to watch you grow up. You are all tremendous. Your resilience and ability to adapt and move forward despite the circumstances is to be commended. You are a truly incredible group of young people, and it has been an honor to have been a part of your educational journey.”

Ms. Diopoulos introduced the Class of 2024 salutatorian, Ava Gell. Ava began her address asking the class and audience to join her in picturing a 5-year-old version of themselves, saying that she was going to picture herself, “sitting right there in the grass,” and tell “Little Ava” what she thought she needed to hear. She talked about the big changes that were coming, the new things to learn, all of the new people to meet. She urged everyone to pay special attention to the people who see you, who meet you with kindness, and to strive all the time to put kindness out into the world. To close, Ava said the biggest piece of advice she could give her classmates was to be open to love.

“You will learn what it’s like to love and be loved. You will plunge to the greatest depths and soar to the highest heights. You will hope that maybe things happen, and then have experiences that defy even your wildest dreams,” she said, and she reassured those feeling apprehension about their future. “Remember the first day of kindergarten… How the chairs that were once our size can’t hold us anymore, and how the future that once seemed distant is right here in our hands, and how everything kind of works out that way – that one day, you’ll look around and notice that it’s all not so scary anymore.”

Next, Board of Education President Keith Parsons addressed the students. He asked the students to reflect on the journey that has led them to this moment.

“Your accomplishments have shaped the legacy of the Warwick Valley Central School District, and for that we are all immensely proud,” he said. “In the face of unprecedented challenges, this class has demonstrated remarkable adaptability and you’ve learned not just from the textbooks but from the world around you. You’ve shown us the power of unity, empathy and strength that comes from supporting one another. Remember, because these qualities will serve you well as you step into the wider world. And as you move forward, never forget the lessons learned here, both inside and outside of the classroom. Cherish the friendships that have been forged, the mentors who have guided you, and the countless experiences that have shaped your character.”

Melina Garby, the Class of 2024 valedictorian, was next to address her peers. Melina told her classmates that they are all extraordinary people.

“When I look out upon my fellow classmates, I see hundreds of brilliant and diversely talented young adults who have all learned, adapted, and persevered throughout their uniquely prosperous high school careers,” she said. “I see a group of people with an unlimited amount of potential to excel in countless ways moving forward. More significantly, in this same crowd, I find the faces of the people with whom I had the pleasure of enriching my childhood. I see the kind and supportive souls who have characterized my early chapters of life.”

She also talked about how she’ll soon be missing her family and the close-knit Warwick community.

“A community as beautiful, safe, and close-knit as Warwick is such a special place to grow up in, and I think that is what is going to make this transition so difficult for many of us,” she said. “But when I get emotional thinking about leaving my childhood home, the people I hold so close to my heart, and the programs that shaped me into the person I am today, I am reminded of a quote from Winnie the Pooh that has stuck with me since the first time I heard it, and this quote is: ‘How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.’”

Abigail Gatdula, elected as this year’s senior speaker, thanked her fellow classmates for making her high school career what is, as of today, one big happy memory. She reminisced about their shared time attending WVHS – what she referenced as the “Greatest Place on Earth” – and reflected on what it means to be a Wildcat. She encouraged her peers to live their lives to the fullest, and to step into the world to show everyone how great a Wildcat can be.

“Rather than follow the paths of those before us, we will instead exceed their footsteps because we are not just cats, we are Wildcats,” she said. “If you want to become a professional athlete, you are a Wildcat, you can do that! If you want to start a business, you are a Wildcat, you can do that! If you want to change the world, you are a Wildcat, you can do that! You can do anything you put your mind to, because you are a Wildcat!”

Superintendent of Schools Dr. David Leach addressed the class, laughing to the students about how well they did during their school careers at conjuring up snow days with various rituals and how he had become known as the “snow guy.”

He then used that story to give the students some advice. “In our fast-paced world, it’s easy to get caught up in deadlines, the pursuit of success, and constant information. You can find yourself buried in your phone, watching TikTok or texting away. But true fulfillment often lies in quiet, unhurried moments,” he said. “Take time to appreciate the beauty around you in Warwick. Whether it’s a stunning sunset, birds chirping, or friends’ laughter, these moments bring immense joy and tranquility. As you move forward, take breaks from your busy schedules to enjoy a walk in nature, a good book, or a heartfelt conversation.”

The last speaker of the morning was Class of 2024 President Paxton Honerkamp, who encouraged his classmates to look back at their freshman year and their pandemic-era selves. He asked them to embrace just how much adversity the class has shared and overcome together, all of which has made them the strong, capable, resilient, intelligent and caring group of people they are today. Paxton used his address to encourage the Class of 2024 to throw themselves into their passions and pursuits.

“If you can’t take a risk, you’ll never smell the roses. In other words, success cannot be achieved without the willingness to apply yourself, and the courage to take a leap of faith,” he said. “And each time you fail? Well, failure is nothing more than a reflection of the courage you had to take a bet on yourself. So take a bet on yourself, for every single person in attendance today is bound to fail again at some point in their lives, it’s part of being human, but if you treat each failure as a speed bump rather than a roadblock, you will find yourself a more sharpened and confident person, more able to adjust and adapt to the inevitable tribulations of life.”

Finally, it was time for the students to receive their diplomas, and WVHS guidance counselors Mary Fox, Colleen Amideneau, Danielle DeStaso, Julie Sekelsky and Ruth Trovato presented the Class of 2024. This was followed by the official acceptance of the graduates by Dr. Leach.

Thank you to the high school band, under the direction of Megan Shafer, and the Meistersingers, under the direction of Noreen Hanson, for their musical contributions to today’s ceremony.

You can see the entire WVHS Class of 2024 Commencement Ceremony and see photo galleries below.


Livestream & Playback

The broadcast will begin a few moments prior to the beginning of the ceremony at 10:00 am.
The commencement video will remain available for viewing on the WVCSD YouTube Channel.

Commencement Galleries

View galleries of hi-resolution pictures from before, during and after graduation:

Last updated: Wednesday, June 26 2024