Palm Beach Central High School’s Class of 2019 celebrated their successes, marking their graduation milestone on Tuesday, May 21 at the South Florida Fairgrounds Expo Center.
The ceremony saluted some 750 graduates with a commencement message from Superintendent Dr. Donald E. Fennoy II. Wellington Mayor Anne Gerwig and other members of the Wellington Village Council were on hand for the celebration, as was School Board Member Marcia Andrews, among other school district officials.
The valedictory address was presented by Coby Farhi with the salutatorian’s message by Duc Tran. Student Government Association President Jessica Elpedes led the Pledge of Allegiance, while Senior Class President Hasan Khan led the Ceremony of the Tassel, where the graduates move the tassel on their cap from right to left.
While the audience waited patiently, the Palm Beach Central High School band warmed up the crowd, filling the room with big band ensembles. Families applauded more than once as they waited for the graduates to come into the expo center hall in single file. Later, the Senior Ensemble sang the national anthem.
Principal Eric Lundman was on hand to address the new graduates.
“Today your teachers, family and friends are gathered for the sole purpose to recognize you as a graduate at Palm Beach Central High School,” he said. “Ninety-one percent of you will be attending a post-secondary school. You will receive $10 million in scholarships. Many of you will be graduating with your AICE [Advanced International Certificate of Education] diploma today. Twenty will be entering the military. You have logged thousands of community service hours and raised more than $100,000 for charity this year alone.”
Farhi’s valedictorian speech began by thanking his parents.
“Thank you for molding me into the person I am today,” he said. “I truly couldn’t have gotten to where I am without your love and support. Thanks for being such a great little brother, Zac, and an even better best friend. And to the esteemed faculty of Palm Beach Central, thank you for guiding me along my academic journey for the past four years.”
Farhi quoted writer Oscar Wilde, who once said, “Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.”
“For the past 13 years, this quote has held true,” Farhi said. “In today’s society, with the abundance of social media and the overwhelming amounts of information available on the internet, it has been extremely hard for us to form our own opinions and create our own identity. Throughout our lives, we have been defined by our looks, our skills and our personalities. While we have been able to decide on some aspects of our identities, quite often we have found ourselves being defined by others’ perceptions of who we are.”
He urged his fellow graduates to break free of stereotypes and create their own unique personalities.
“Every single one of us has been stereotyped at one point in high school. Whether we were considered a jock, a band geek or a bookworm, we have allowed others to define who we are,” Farhi said. “I urge you to take this next step in your life to discover who you really are. Moving past high school and into the real world, there won’t be anyone who has the power to define you; there won’t be anyone who can influence who you truly are. You will determine who you are. Only you have the power to define your true identity.”
Tran’s speech focused on using time wisely.
“When I was given the instructions about this speech, I was told it had to be within two minutes,” he said. “How could I change someone’s life in two minutes? In reality, two minutes could make a lifetime of difference. With two minutes, you could score that winning point, finally figure out that problem on your exam or simply just talk to someone who needs it.”
The key is not to waste the time.
“You see, time is yet another scarce resource that has increasing cost. In a blink of an eye, the hourglass will dwindle,” Tran said. “However, it is not about how much time you have left, but how you use it. Indeed, when you start your journey today, know that it is better to make mistakes, than to make nothing at all.”
After the ceremony, the graduates met their families in the courtyard of the expo center. Cheers, hugs and photos were taken among the crowded entryway. The graduates still had their caps on while they held their coveted high school diplomas.