Wantagh’s Class of 2023 is Ready to Shine and Soar

Wantagh’s Class of 2023 is Ready to Shine and Soar

The scoreboard in the Wantagh High School gymnasium on June 23 may have suggested the Warriors were down 20 to 23, with 20:23 left to go in the game. But it was actually lit up to honor the Class of 2023, as 221 graduates received their diplomas during the evening ceremony.

The scoreboard served as the backdrop for the ceremony that also featured a special tribute to World War II veterans. Five veterans received honorary diplomas for their service and sacrifice. Four of the men were paired with Wantagh students for the Soaring Valor trip in April, sponsored by the Gary Sinise Foundation, which included a tour of the National World War II Museum in New Orleans. 

Principal Dr. Paul Guzzone said that several veterans expressed a desire to see the Wantagh students graduate after forming close bonds on the trip. The Nassau County Police Department provided a pipe and drum band for the recognition. 

With heroes from “the greatest generation” in attendance, Dr. Guzzone reflected on what it means to be a Warrior. Characteristics include courage, bravery, discipline and selflessness. Meeting the World War II veterans in April showed that Warriors also display compassion and humility, and have a positive outlook on life. 

“They were the Warriors that our world needed at the time to protect our way of life for future generations, such as ourselves,” Dr. Guzzone said. Addressing the Class of 2023 he added, “As you leave Wantagh High School, understand that your time as a Warrior is not ending, in fact, it is just beginning. The truth is that your time as part of the Wantagh schools has been your basic training.”

Superintendent John McNamara said that World War II was a defining moment for a generation, and the pandemic will be that moment for this year’s graduates, as it significantly changed their high school careers. 

“All of our graduates have persevered through a global pandemic to achieve their high school diplomas,” he said, before providing some important life lessons based on quotes from the popular show, “Ted Lasso.”

Board of Education President Laura Reich also noted that this class showed the Warrior spirit with their strength and resiliency, noting that they had to deal with challenges brought by the pandemic. 

“You supported and lifted each other up in darker moments, and cheered on celebrated each other in brighter ones,” she said. “Each of your individual successes are a true testament to your character, from academics to music to art to drama to athletics. This class has excelled in all areas and made the district and the Wantagh community proud.”

Student speakers included Class of 2023 co-presidents Lily Sloves and Nicole Tobia, valedictorian Katherine Killian and salutatorian Nora Toscano. In addition to reflecting on high school and the values instilled in them while growing up in Wantagh, Lily and Nicole said how grateful they were for the Soaring Valor experience and meeting the veterans.

Nora reflected on childhood, the “unguarded and honest” friendships that were formed and the hopes and dreams they developed. Now, she said, is time to “go get more” for those simple, bright-faced kids. 

“Let’s go be the people they’d be proud to turn into,” she said.

Katherine said the graduates are ready to move beyond their small town and experience life on their own terms. She thanked her teachers, parents and friends for the knowledge they have imparted along the way and for the inspiration they have provided.  

“We are all ready,” Katherine said. “Class of 2023, it’s our time to shine.”