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Classmates pay tribute to Melissa at SWR’s Class of 2019 graduation

06/29/2019 7:20 AM |

When fellow classmates heard that Katlynn McGivney had been named salutatorian of Shoreham-Wading River High School’s Class of 2019, she said their reaction was generally the same: First, a congratulations, followed by a request for a shoutout in her commencement speech.

On the softball field in the far distance from where Katlynn spoke Friday night during the 43rd annual commencement ceremony, one teammate in particular always would pester her for a shoutout, she said.

Katlynn and Melissa Marchese were two of the top players on the softball team, both signed to play at the college level next year. And at practices Melissa would always playfully remind Katlynn to mention her name in the speech.

“So Mel, here it is,” Katlynn said, her voice quivering as she fought back tears. “I wish you could be here with us. I know how excited you were to graduate. Just know, you’ll always be in my heart and I’m doing this for you. I love you, Mel.”

More than two weeks after a devastating tragedy left the Shoreham-Wading River community reeling, students in the Class of 2019 gathered to receive their diplomas Friday night and remember their fallen classmate. Amid the sea of seats, one was left unfilled.

A moment of silence was held for Melissa, who would have graduated with an advanced regents diploma. She died following a car crash in Shoreham June 13. She was 18.

Both Katlynn and valedictorian Mahdi Rashidzada honored Melissa in their speeches, sharing messages of hope and love.

In his remarks, Mahdi said: “To Melissa, you are missed, but not gone. Your memory lives on in the hearts of those whose lives you’ve changed.”

Following the reading of 188 names and the distribution of diplomas, Melissa Marchese’s name was read. A grand round of applause reverberated across Thomas Cutinella Memorial Field. Administrators handed Melissa’s sister, Heather, an honorary diploma as staff, faculty and Melissa’s peers embraced members of the Marchese family.

Superintendent Gerard Poole said in an interview after the ceremony, “It’s been a sad few weeks, but the strength of this community and the students in the high school — they supported each other. We’re really glad to have had a moment and an opportunity to recognize Melissa. She did everything that she needed to do to graduate at a high level from high school.”

In his closing remarks, Mahdi reminded his colleagues: “Yes, tomorrow is promising, but it’s not guaranteed.”

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