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St. Al graduates 37 students

The Class of 2018 at St. Aloysius High School couldn’t contain their excitement.

As soon as they returned to their seats from receiving their diplomas, and with remarks from the Most Rev. Bishop Joseph Kopacz and the final benediction to go, their hats began to fly.

One-by-one, more than half of the 37 graduates tossed their caps into the air for a moment of premature celebration that after four years of hard work, high school was over and the next phase of their lives had officially begun.

“They are an amazing group of young people,” said Buddy Strickland, the principal of St. Al. “Their commitment was to make a difference and I think every one of them takes that seriously whether it is making a big difference in a lot of lives or making a difference in one life. I think they will live out that mantra.”

Following Kopacz’s remarks and a prayer by Rev. Tom Lalor, the pastor of St. Paul Catholic Church, the celebration began anew as the class triumphantly tossed their caps in the air to cheers from their gathered family and friends.

“In our world, there is certainly a place as we know at St. Al where the whole person has been developed,” Kopacz said. “Faith and reason, religion and science, goodness, community and also as one confirmation candidate wrote this year, ‘my mind has been extended. Now I know I need to extend my heart and my hands to others.’”

Salutatorian Adrienne Eckstein gave the welcome address during the commencement ceremony. She will attend the U.S. Air Force Academy next year in hopes of becoming an Air Force pilot.     

“When we were little, we heard about Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, Amelia Earhart, the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, or Michael Phelps, who won eight gold medals at the Olympics,” Eskstein said. “I used to think that to have a story worth telling, one had to be the first, the fastest or the fittest, but as I sat at senior retreat listening to teachers, I began to realize one doesn’t have to be rich or famous to have a story worth telling. The world isn’t made up of celebrities, but rather regular everyday people each seeking to live their best lives.”

St. Al’s valedictorian for the Class of 2018 was Ryan Jarratt. He was also the school’s STAR student this year and he will attend Mississippi State University on a full-ride presidential scholarship and be a member of the honors college.

“It is time to say goodbye. Goodbye to this school, goodbye to the faculty, goodbye to our friends and for many of us, goodbye to this town we grew up in,” Jarratt said. “Our journey thus far has been filled with achievements, a few missteps and a lot of happiness…Parents and teachers have laid the foundation and helped to instill our values. Now is our opportunity to test ourselves and the best part of this new adventure is that nobody knows with any certainty where it is going to take us.”

During the ceremony, Jarratt was also recognized as a recipient of the Bishop Joseph Brunini Memorial Award along with classmate Sarah Thomas. Jarratt, who amassed more than 1,400 community service hours, received the class’s service award, Thomas received the spirit award and Connor Clark received the leadership award during the ceremony. From among the winners of the service, spirit and leadership winner, Thomas was selected as the recipient of the $1,000 Robert K. Foley Scholarship.

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