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BIG SCREECHER - This graduation I will never forget—Part 1

I must have attended over hundreds of graduation exercises throughout these past 30 years. These started, of course, with my own children’s graduations in District 21, but I have also attended many school graduations as a community leader, distributing Bensonhurst West End Community Council’s (BWECC) Community Service medals and/or BWECC’S Project L.E.A.R.N. medals. Spending 18 years on Community School Board 21, I had to attend four or five graduations each year presenting the school board’s awards in memory of Herb Eisenberg and Abe Cohen. My membership on the Community Education Council these past five years necessitated going to schools to present the CEC21 awards.

So I’m not exaggerating when I say I’ve been to an awful lot of graduation exercises, some of which were stifling, boiling hot, others were totally boring, some grandiose but most were nice and the children…oops, I mean graduates were always beautiful and sparkling. But this year’s graduation at P.S. 128 was the most memorable and one that I will never forget.

I had to stop going to graduations because of my weight, which made it very difficult to attend. I can only walk short distances because of my knees, and I cannot stand for more than a few minutes. To add to my problems, I get short of breath very quickly. One might conclude that I’m not in the best of health, but according to my physicians, my tests show I have the vital stats of a 21-year-old and the lungs of a 13-year-old virgin. Well, that is sort of encouraging, but I actually count each step I take because of the pain and lack of breath.

P.S. 128 dedicated this year’s graduation to its former principal, Mike Miller, who unexpectedly passed away six months ago. He was always the picture of health, a young, virile health guru who not only focused 24/7 on exercise and proper nutrition, but initiated the “Stay Fit” exercise program for the Board of Education and was highly commended for it. When Jane Kraidman, his lifelong partner, instituted a graduation award in his name, I asked her if she could pick me up to go with her. P.S. 128, also known as the Bensonhurst School, is a wonderful school and much of the credit was due to Mike Miller, but parking on 84th Street and 21st Avenue has always been a problem.

So with Jane picking me up and leaving me at the auditorium door, I was able to attend the graduation. The auditorium is not that large and from previous graduations I attended there I knew that the presentations would not be on the stage but in front of it, and there would be no stairs to climb. The front row of the auditorium is abbreviated with space for any handicap wheelchairs. There was a regular chair for me, next to the seats. I sat next to Barrie Feibershon, a veteran teacher who had set up the video slide presentation.

I asked Chris Compolieta, who with Ms. Ricciardi was in charge of the graduation exercises, if he would set a chair for me inside the exit door, where I could sit during the salute to the flag ceremony. As I mentioned earlier, I am unable to stand for any period of time over a minute and must sit. I didn’t want to be conspicuous not standing for the salute to the flag. It worked out well, I removed myself before the ceremony, sat during “The Star Spangled Banner” in the anteroom and when the Colors were retreated, started to return to my seat. With my cane in one hand, I attempted to walk the nine steps inconspicuously…and that’s when it happened. To be continued!

Screech at you next week!

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