COLUMBIA—The 65 students who graduated from Cardinal Newman School on May 29 were sent into their post-high school lives with words of encouragement and admonitions to face challenges and give something back to their communities.
The ceremony, held at Township Auditorium in Columbia, began with a special prayer by Sister Julia Marie Hutchison, SND, superintendent of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Charleston, who is stepping down at the end of June.
Sister Julia, Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone, principal Jacqualine Kasprowski, and assistant principal Michael C. Bolchoz conferred diplomas.
Salutatorian Leila Marie Herdari praised the accomplishments and talents of her classmates, and reflected on the lessons Cardinal Newman offered them.
Herdari said members of the senior class met on a Sunday about two weeks before graduation to plant flowers in the shape of the year 2010. They chose periwinkles because the small blue blossoms represent “early friendships and good memories.”
“When we gathered to plant the flowers it began to rain, but it stopped long enough for us to get everything done,” she said. “I took that as a sign we were always meant to do this. These flowers are a humble reminder that we will grow, but our roots will always be in Cardinal Newman.”
The commencement speaker was Alex Pigeon, a 1991 graduate who is now vice president of an international business development, Major League Baseball Advanced Media, LP, which is the interactive media and Internet arm of Major League Baseball.
He encouraged the graduates to make learning a lifetime commitment, and said the hard work it takes to obtain a high school diploma should be applied through college and as they pursue other goals.
He talked about challenges he faced while on Cardinal Newman football and basketball teams, and said even making a free throw during the last seconds of an important game can help a student prepare for challenges in life.
“My motto was please dare me, tell me I can’t do something, and I will prove you wrong,” Pigeon said. “There will be doubters throughout your career. Use that negative energy they present to prove people wrong. … Regardless of what you will be doing in life, challenge yourselves and learn to face your fears. That will only make you stronger.”
He gave nine suggestions for how to live a fuller and richer life based on his experience, which included travel, volunteering, and having mentors in personal and professional life.
Valedictorian Emily Elizabeth Learner reflected on a quote from Mother Teresa, who said we cannot do great things, only small things with great love.
“In life, even if we can’t do great things, love does make a difference,” Learner said. “Let us always meet each other with a smile, never fail to say ‘Have a nice day’ when we leave a store, and to thank those who have helped us. Let us remember that material wealth, while enjoyable, will not buy us true joy. The best success is measured in love … each one of you has a light inside you. Seeing this goodness was a highlight for me in my years at Cardinal Newman. I saw Christ in you,” she said.
After the diplomas were handed out, Bishop Guglielmone asked the graduates to reflect on their high school years.
“When you ask yourself ‘what are these gifts that have come to me,’ I think you will see they are manifold,” the bishop said. “This has been more than an academic endeavor. You’ve been gifted with the opportunity to live in a Catholic community, a community that cares, gives and loves. Take these gifts forward and make the world a better place because you have traveled through it.”