Welcome to the Class of 2016 graduation ceremony. My name is Adir Vegon. Actually no, it is not. My legal name is, ready, Tamir Vegon Abakasiss. When I was born, my Israeli parents named me Tamir. After my bris-milah, my parents decided to change my name to Adir, but all legal documents were written as Tamir. My dad’s last name is Abakasiss and my mom’s maiden name is Vegon. My mother’s dad, who passed away last February, is a Holocaust survivor and he is the only survivor with his family name. Therefore, we wanted to keep his last name as part of our identities. Now, I will not say that my dad was completely OK with this, but he is no hater, and for my whole life I have self-identified as Adir Vegon. In this matter, I grasped my identity. I tell you this story not to share my entire life history, but to remind everyone here that, to a great extent, you have the option and right to choose to define your own identity. It may be a last name, a profession, a dream or even a school. Race, gender, religion do not matter. Seven billion people in this world and no two sets of personalities match. For the Class of 2016, we have grown into hundreds of identities. Learning about and appreciating each other through this journey are two of the most fascinating events of the human experience.
But we are all part of a collective identity as well, of many groups and clubs, and yes, even classes. Let’s take it back to 2009: when Club Penguin was today’s Facebook, when people rang doorbells instead of the “I’m here” text, and when certain girls in our grade starting thinking about marriage. This is when the Class of 2016 first met. Friendships were being made, cliques were forming and minds were mending. Our six-year roller coaster had just begun. Although we were only 12 years old, each of us had our own unique personalities, but we were also trying to figure out our place in the class. Each student helped contribute to the flow of the middle school. 2012 came, and this was the first time our whole class completed something together: middle school graduation. Freshmen year of high school was scary, but we made it through. Foreign to “Kaplan’s Kingdom,” we each tried to find ourselves in this school, to merge our individual identities with the larger one. The stereotypical high school spectrum consisted of jocks, actors, athletes, nerds, etc.; however, we were not your stereotypical class. United and strong, our class was able to form a grade so diverse and brilliant. I mean, when we were freshmen, we beat the sophomores at Battle of the Classes, something rare and legendary.
During our high school career, we learned about each other and ourselves. Whether it was learning that any more than four people to a library table is a criminal offense, learning that there is no logical way to pass an AP Environmental exam or learning that coming to school after 8:05 requires you to park all the way in Manhasset, we learned something new and fascinating every single day, something new about our own world and something new about ourselves.
Now we finally get to the year of 2016. Senior life. Over the course of four long years, we have all learned to stick together no matter what. We laugh together, cry together, we are together. Behind me sitting are 270 beautiful, courageous identities about to take on the journey of which graduating marks the beginning. We are finished walking through the halls knowing most people and, by now, we’ve already completed the task of reaching out and making long-lasting relationships during high school. In the next four years, for many of us, we will have to leave this school with a new mindset that is set out to learn. Who knows what the next four years will bring?
Settings change, but identities remain. 2020 comes and you will think of this graduation and reflect on how much you’ve learned here and, hopefully, you’ll appreciate all the different people you’ve met, and the life you’ve lived at Great Neck North High School. Then, it’s year 2030. Some of us will be doctors, lawyers, teachers, traveling the word, single, married, pregnant, but, we will never forget this day, this day when we were forever cemented as the Class of 2016. This is a bittersweet moment of completion and relief, of goodbyes and new adventures. We have no idea what life is ahead of us, the people we will meet, the places we will go, and the only way to know this is to learn new things but never forget the identities we’ve created for ourselves as individuals but also as members of the Class of 2016.
Thank you. Congratulations. And Class of 2016—stay lit!
Read the complete graduation speeches from the Great Neck North Class of 2016: Adir Vegon, Graelin Mandel, Isabelle Sehati and from Great Neck South: Annabelle Golden, Annie Yang, Emily Bae, Haley Roach, Lance Kim and Michael Shen.
Learn about the 2016 valedictorians and salutatorians here.
See who the 2016 Great Neck North graduates are here.
Find out who graduated from Great Neck South here.
For a list of The Village School graduates, click here.