Uplifting Ceremony for Bridgehampton's Class of 2017

The graduating members of the class of 2017 at Bridgehampton High School received their diplomas in a ceremony on Sunday. Bastienne Schmidt photos

Under a large tent on the back lawn of the Bridgehampton School, 14 seniors dressed in black and yellow robes and caps -- the school's colors -- graduated in a ceremony that was as uplifting as Sunday afternoon's blue skies. As the graduates were announced one by one, several danced their way down the aisle to take their place on stage.

Lois Favre, the school's superintendent, referred to the graduating seniors as her "worker bees in our beehive," a nod to the school's Killer Bees mascot and their legendary boys basketball team. As a testament to the tightly knit school community, Dr. Favre relayed a personal anecdote about each graduate, some of whom she first met when they were in fifth grade, when she first came to the school.

Also in attendance were members of Bridgehampton's class of 1967, commemorating their own graduation 50 years ago. Dr. Favre recalled world events of 1967 and the challenges of the time — civil unrest, racism, and sexism — noting that half a century later, the world is still gripped by the same issues. On a lighter note, she quipped, "1967 was also a time when miniskirts first arrived on the scene. Some days, they still seem to be on the scene in the Bridgehampton hallways, right girls?"

Nia Dawson, the class salutatorian, a Bridgehampton student since prekindergarten, gave an emotional speech, calling the school, "one big family in endless ways." She thanked her father for giving her a sense of humor and her passion for basketball. In the fall, Nia will attend the State University at New Paltz, where she will play basketball. Her mother, she said, was such a vocal supporter at all her games, that she often wore a T-shirt that read, "I Can't Keep Calm. I'm Nia Dawson's Mom."

The class valedictorian was Max Cheng, a graduate of the Hayground School, who joined Bridgehampton in ninth grade. Delivering an eloquent speech, Max called Bridgehampton "a wildly unique town." He highlighted the inequality of a hamlet where the average household income is $100,000, yet half of the school's student population lives below the poverty line.

"Some residents here have everything and others have nothing." Above all, Max said that he was deeply proud of belonging to a school that has broken down barriers of racism and classism. He left his classmates with words from two of his favorite celebrities: Issac Hayes and Spike Lee, who made famous the lines, "Do your thing" and "Do the right thing," respectively. This fall, Max will attend the Macaulay Honors College at Hunter College in New York City.

Max Cheng, the class valedictorian, spoke of the stark financial inequalities in Bridgehampton and of how proud he is of his school.
Elijah Jackson danced down the aisle after receiving his diploma.