SHRUB OAK, N.Y. – Grades can be overrated, said Lakeland High School’s most academically successful student.

Before continuing their education in the fall at 110 public and private colleges or universities across 16 states (see page 6), valedictorian Adrianna DeSantis, in her commence speech Saturday, reminded the 242 other graduates from the Class of 2018 that there is more to life than the numbers on their transcript.

“You are the accumulation of the memories and experiences you have had over these last four years and throughout your life,” Adrianna said. “And you are the young adults ready to conquer the future.”

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Adrianna, vice president of the Spanish Honor Society and a member of the National Honor Society, said she was proud to represent the Class of 2018 on stage at the Westchester County Center.

“I am grateful to have gone to a high school with such a diverse student body and to have had the opportunity to become friends with students from different backgrounds and with different interests,” she said.

In the fall, Adrianna will major in neuroscience with a minor in leadership studies as well as pre-med at Christopher Newport University in Virginia. She hopes to become a doctor of osteopathic medicine.

During her speech, Adrianna thanked her teachers for helping her graduate at the top of her class, particularly economics teacher Michael Schaper, math teacher Lori Miller, science teacher Michael Lillis and science teacher Travis Richter. Were it not for Richter teaching her his lessons every day after school, “I would have been lost.”

“The teachers are always ready to give us life lessons, to give advice on school, sports, clubs, anything, and to teach us that a little work goes a long way,” Adrianna said. “They stay after school longer than required to help that last student understand how electrons change energy levels or how proteins fold.”

Nothing can be achieved without a strong support system, she said, noting that Lakeland administrators and teachers would offer poignant life lessons as well as educational lessons.

“I think that the most important thing that we have learned over the last four years is that finding a support network of people who care about you is essential for success,” Adrianna said.

Academics, however, were just the first 6 hours of the day. Many students, she said, spent the next 3 hours after-school with a club or sports team. A member of the Lakeland track and soccer teams, Adrianna thanked her coaches for pushing her that extra mile.

“As we move away from this family, we must always keep them in our hearts and continue to create a net of people who care and support us as we have found at Lakeland,” Adrianna said.

After thanking Principal Chris Cummings and the vice principals, Christian Mercurio and Alfonse Davino, Adrianna turned her attention to the parents and relatives “who drove us everywhere before we got our licenses, who pushed us to study for tests, who came to watch our activities, who took us to college visits, who encouraged us to do our best, and who loved us the whole way through.”

She finished her speech with a quote about challenges: “Challenges are what make life interesting. Overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.”

“We are all going to face challenges in our lives,” Adrianna said. “These will inevitably be not only personal but also global as the world as we know it is constantly changing before our eyes. We are the generation of transformations, so be the change you want to see in the world.”