2024 Senior Sunset Is a Time for Reflection

The mood wasn’t quite as heavy as the air on this humid Tuesday evening because these high school seniors know what’s coming. But even then, they’re not quite sure what to expect.

Part of that is because they’ve never been high school seniors before. But the bigger part is that because they’re high school seniors about to graduate, every step they take for the next few days and years will be steps in a new direction.

So yes, the range of emotions is wild.

Indeed, the steps that the Class of 2024 at Ruben A. Cirillo High School took to the elementary school playground for their Senior Sunset were familiar steps. Plenty in this group of 59 have attended Gananda schools since kindergarten, so there was no difficulty in finding their way here.

And despite the aggressive heat, the comfort of familiar surroundings was a soothing reminder that eased any of the underlying uncertainties rooted in the change that is coming.

“I feel like it’s really going to hit me once I hit the stage,” senior Reese Davis said of the June 29 graduation ceremony. “Certain things have hit me, like the last chorus concert but those are just parts of it. So I feel like walking across the stage will finally be that final OK, I did it.”

Of the 59 graduates for Gananda this year, 45 have plans for college including Princeton, Syracuse, John Carroll, RIT, Penn State, West Virginia and Ithaca. Valedictorian Andrew Pitolaj and Salutatorian Meah Prutzman head a group of talented academics as well. Thirteen students finished their Gananda career with grade-point averages of 95% or better and six of those students received Distinguished Scholar status for achieving a 95% GPA in every high school marking period.

Several more Gananda students are heading directly into the workforce in large part due to the vocational training they received at BOCES and another has military plans.

It’s a testament to the diversity of skill sets the students are bringing out of Gananda and into the world. And as exciting as these prospects are, the uncertainty — at least for now — is never far.

“It feels so weird to not have to go back to classes at Gananda,” said Leah Mandarano. “When I walk the stage, it might be a little emotional because I have friends that are not graduating with me but I don’t think its going to hit me until my first day of college when I am at a new school and not at Gananda.”

The Senior Sunset is the final gathering for this group until graduation rehearsal and then, the actual ceremony. So reflection of lessons learned at Gananda come naturally.

“Be open to more people and try to gain more connections with certain people,” Davis said about advice she would give to her fourth-grade self. “In our class especially, get to know them better … I still have my small social circle now but to think if I made  those choices earlier on, it could have been more.”

For Mandarano, patience is the advice she would offer her fourth-grade self. Especially in the social setting.

“I was so worried about that when I was younger and I said ‘you need to find a friend’ and I would force myself into groups,” she said. “So I would want to go back and tell myself I was so much better letting things happen and being alone until I found the right people.”

Whether it’s Gananda athletes being recognized as league All-Stars, students being awarded more than $35,000 in scholarships from Dollars for Scholars, or others heading into the workforce, the Gananda foundation is forever. And casual discussions with the Class of 2024 reveal quickly just how solid that foundation is.

Being #GanandaProud are among the lessons students learn throughout all levels of the district. Being PROUD means Practicing Self Control, Respect, Outstanding, Unit and Driven. These are the qualities of students who help the school community thrive for not just themselves, but every student.

And now it’s time for these students to help make the world thrive for everyone, including themselves.