MAHOPAC, N.Y. - When commencement ceremonies are held later this month, Mahopac High School will honor the memory of Jake Santoriella, a Class of 2020 member who lost his life to leukemia two years ago.
Jake Santoriella’s twin brother, Chase, had approached school officials with the idea of reading his brother’s name along with other 2020 graduates during the ceremony, but several sources claim the district told him that his brother did not meet certain criteria to have that happen. However, school officials said they were more than willing to do something but were waiting to meet with family members before deciding what action to take.
School officials tried to set up the family meeting last week, but not all could attend until Monday (June 1).
Before that meeting could take place, an online petition was set up at Change.org, urging school officials to include Jake Santoriella’s name in the ceremony. The petition garnered nearly 9,000 signatures in just a few days. However, school officials emphasize that they had already begun working with the family to pay tribute to Jake before the petition was set up.
According to a district spokesperson, high school principal Dr. Matthew Lawrence will pay tribute to Jake in his opening remarks. Lawrence will meet with Chase Santoriella to discuss how he wants his twin brother to be remembered.
“My brother Jake is and always will be a member of the Class of 2020. After a long-fought battle with childhood cancer, Jake shouldn’t be forgotten,” Chase Santoriella wrote on the online petition page.
Matthew Krycerick, who said he was Jake’s best friend, also wrote on the page that Jake “deserves to be announced at our graduation. He has worked too hard to not get any credit.”
In a letter to district parents, Lawrence wrote, “Historically, the administration of MHS has worked with families to find a mutually acceptable way to honor and remember the deceased as part of the commencement. We recognize that this is a very emotional time for families, and we want to be respectful as to how they would like their loved one recognized. Whether or not the student is remembered at a commencement is very much a family decision.”
Lawrence noted there are variations on how to conduct a remembrance.
“However, all decisions are made mutually between the family and the district in line with our practice,” he wrote.
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