46 Spartans graduate at inspirational ceremony

  • students prepare to walk across the stage at graduation

Hugs, smiles and tears filled the tent on the Great Lawn at S.S. Seward Institute as 46 Spartans recessed to the sound of “Humble and Kind” after their graduation June 29. The bond between classmates was unmistakable as they celebrated one final milestone together, their families, teachers and community coming out in full force to support them.

“Amidst all the challenges, you, the class of 2024, have persevered with resilience,” said Superintendent Lisamarie Spindler. “You’ve navigated through uncharted waters, adapting to every twist and turn with grace and determination.”

Spindler left the class with three lessons she’s learned this year through her new beginning as Florida’s superintendent as they start their new beginning: “never be afraid to ask questions, you can’t do it alone, and setting goals is paramount.” 

Rob Andrade, Board of Education President, encouraged seniors to “continue to use your talents to help people and do good in this world because you are the leaders of tomorrow.”

Valedictorian Derrick You and salutatorian Ryan Lempka each received a medallion representing their accomplishment.

You shared, “The end of the beginning is now here and all of us are looking to pursue our goals and aspirations.” He added, “I firmly believe that everyone here is going to reach their goals in the future.”

“We have had so many amazing opportunities over the past four years, including the senior trips, pep rallies and sports events, that have brought us all together,” said Lempka. “It is those memories that will live on with us and be the way we remember our time here at S.S. Seward.” 

This year’s graduating class decided to do something special for teachers and staff. Each student personally invited someone who made an impact throughout their education and presented them with a tassel during the ceremony. This new, student driven staff recognition highlights the passion and dedication of Florida staff and how the lessons seniors learned from them will continue to reverberate as they continue on their journey.

Gratitude was a major theme in Melissa Cutrona’s remarks. The senior class president thanked the class adviser, Dominick Pascullo for “always putting in the extra steps to make everything that much better for us,” as well as art teacher and varsity cheer coach Francesca Allen for her “support every step of the way… She played a huge role in the person I am.” Cutrona also thanked her family and reminded her classmates to do the same.

11 students also received awards during the ceremony. Chase Barton, Elianna Forde, Milo Janata and Joseph Melody were awarded the S.S. Seward Alumni Association Scholarships. The association also awarded students entering military branches: Brennon McGoldrick, Nicholas Perez, Maria Garcia, Colin Lopez and Anthony Luca. Derrick You and Melissa Cutrona both received scholarships from American Legion Post 1250. These represent a portion of the $48,600 awarded to the senior class this year. Other scholarships were presented at Senior Recognition Night June 18.

“Seeing that so many organizations want to support us and the school was really awesome and I’m so grateful,” shared Perez, who will be joining the Air Force. He added, “I hope future Seward students don’t get caught up in stress and know that they’ll get through. High school goes by quick and next thing you know you’ll be moving on to what’s next. Enjoy this part of the journey.”

Brook Irizarry shared that Florida taught her “how to be a stronger, more independent person.” Her favorite part of the journey was “when we went to the state championships for softball. It was the first time we won sections in 13 years and it was so special to share that memory with the team.”

Principal Michael Maesano spoke about a battle that the Spartans of ancient Greece won despite being wildly outnumbered. “It’s a famous moment and so applicable to who you all are… Small, mighty, a class of Spartans, ready to take on the world and whatever it brings.”  

Instilling in students the importance of humility and kindness throughout his speech, Maesano concluded, “No matter what this world throws at you, pick up that shield and defend the values that you have been raised to project into the world around you.”