Sunday, June 28, 2009
Simone Felice Gives Commencement Address
Catskill graduates 'a class of compassion and of concern'
By Susan Campriello
CATSKILL — The 112 Catskill High School students, 98 of whom began their academic career in the Catskill Central School District, were awarded their high school diplomas in front of their parents, friends and teachers Saturday morning.
Simon Felice, of the musical group The Felice Brothers, gave the keynote address before the graduates, their families and their teachers. As a graduate of Catskill High School's Class of 1995, Felice said he had not fully appreciated the education he received in Catskill’s schools until he met a woman who, in the early 1900s, had been denied an education. He asked the graduates to thank their teachers for the gift of a good education.
Felice also reminded the graduates that success is not measured by status or wealth.
“Real success is not how wide your wallet is but how wide your smile is,” he said. “Real success is not what you have but what you give.”
Felice also spoke about living in Palenville and experiencing the Village of Catskill and the Catskill Mountains as a child and young man.
He singled out retiring teacher Edward “Big Ed” Synan as one member of the Catskill community who taught him about nature and life. More recently, he saw Synan leading a Catskill High School running team on a circuit through Olana.
Felice performed “Long May You Run” by Neil Young in honor of Synan.
Salutatorian Judy Lam thanked her mother, the parents and guardians of her classmates and Catskill schools' faculties and staffs for their support through the years.
She said that each student in the Class of 2009, with their random assortment of passions and talents, added a special dimension to the class and the graduation celebration.
“We all not only got along, but cared for and supported each other,” she said. “We are not only former Catskill students and future doctors, lawyers, educators and writers, but people who can appreciate the value of life and every moment we live.”
Valedictorian Kedong Wang, a lover of pop music, the sitcom “Scrubs” and badminton, who will begin studying at Princeton University in the fall, lauded the many contributions to clubs, musical groups and athletic teams by his fellow graduates. He noted the particular camaraderie between his classmates given the challenges they had faced over the last few years.
Wang spoke to the memory and warm smiles of classmates Diana Zamarani and Victor Armstead, who passed away since their class began their high school journey.
“What Diana and Victor had accomplished still live inside every single one of us,” he said. “Diana and Victor will always be there to cheer us on.”
Wang asked his fellow graduates to remember that the debt owed Catskill could only be repaid through good work given to a world in need of nurturing.
“A human being is worthless unless compassion is factored into his life's work,” he said.
Superintendent Kathleen Farrell said the Class of 2009 will be remembered for their community service through fundraisers, their close ties with each other and each student's individual personality.
“This is a class that pays it forward every time,” she said.
She said each student will be remembered for who he or she had become during their years at the school.
“This class, the Class of 2009, is a class of compassion and of concern,” she said.
The ceremony also featured a song performed by Jamed Guildenstern.
Cheers for the class of 2009 could be heard across the Catskill Creek.