NEWBURGH – 598 seniors, clad in blue and gold caps and gowns, marched down South Street and onto Academy Field last Thursday for Newburgh Free Academy’s 149th commencement exercises.
Moments earlier, Newburgh Free Academy seniors Cinthia Cordoba and Dulce Chirinos were surprised, and excited, to see their teacher Maria Lastowski waiting when they arrived to their assigned classrooms for graduation.
Lastowski was there to show her support for students she had not only taught, but mentored for several years. "It’s so exciting to see them today, on graduation," she said. The cosmetology teacher had plenty of hugs and well wishes to share with her students.
Cordoba has earned her cosmetology license and will be heading to SUNY Orange to study nursing. Chirinos is working in a salon, saving money to further her education. She wants to pursue a degree in criminal justice in hopes of one day joining the FBI.
Further down the hallway, one of New York State’s top track athletes was also waiting to officially become a graduate of NFA last Thursday. Gianna Frontera, who signed a full-ride scholarship to NC State, will join the wolfpack’s cross country and track and field teams this fall. She could be seen saying good-bye to her fellow Goldback’s, and of course, taking selfies.
NFA standout athlete Donovan Fields, wore his Goldback uniform under his gown for graduation. He will be attending Concord Prep Academy in Concord, NC following graduation.
Now the Class of 2014 would receive some advice to carry them thru life from NFA Executive Principal Matteo Doddo. His five points to the graduates were: 1. Believe in yourself; 2. Find your passion in life; 3. Take control of your life; 4. Create opportunities and live them; and 5. Follow your heart and let it carry you in the direction of your dreams.
Salutatorian Bhavana Patil called the Class of 2014 "the most wicked, bundle of uniqueness." She invited her fellow classmates to become someone who makes a positive difference in the world. "Never forget the importance of humanity and positivity."
Valedictorian Bana Hadid said that it was "time to walk away from all this."
She stated that the Class of 2014 was "Feeling ready to take on life beyond the walls of NFA." She did acknowledge that it was a bitter sweet moment.
"Time to look back, reflect, appreciate and tweet about all that we have done together. The friends we have made, and the experiences we have had," Hadid said.
She closed with advice her mother and father gave her. "You have to work hard for what you want. Don’t expect someone to hand you success on a silver platter."
The valedictorian then turned her back to the Class of 2014, stated, #YOLO (you only live once), and began to take a selfie.