THORNWOOD, N.Y. -- Success comes more smoothly once you realize you can overcome obstacles, Principal Keith Schenker told the 152 members of the Class of 2016 at the Westlake High School graduation ceremony Friday.
Speakers included valedictorian Will Sweeny who is going to Princeton, and salutatorian Michael DiNardo headed to Syracuse.
In his address, Schenker said the success of people like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates or LeBron James is not like lightning strikes — random and with no warning.
"They all started out like you but their secret is tenacity. Once you realize you can overcome obstacles, the rest is easier," Schenker said. "This class has great resilience. You should marry that with hard work and the drive to succeed. And when you fall, and you will, get back up and try harder."
In his remarks, Assistant Principal Bruce Ferguson who is retiring after 14 years to join the U.S. Coast Guard said, "I leave Westlake to go alone into a profession that I am not certain I'll be successful and there is a possibility that I'll fail. But my opportunity is here in front of me and I'm willing to take that risk. I'm just like you."
Sweeny said his classmates have demonstrated the ability to accomplish incredible things in the here and now.
"We have the opportunity to grab hold of life and to begin to focus on our education rather than simply on our schooling," Sweeny said.