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Goretti valedictorian tells classmates to do right thing

May 30, 2009|By MARIE GILBERT

As Ed Gainnes watched his grandson line up for St. Maria Goretti High School's graduation, he imparted a few words of wisdom.

"Today, most of these kids probably aren't thinking about the great education they received or some of the friendships they'll leave behind," he said. "They're just happy to be out of high school."

But fast forward 20 years from now, he said, and this will be a special time in their lives.

On Saturday afternoon, 45 students walked into St. Ann Catholic Church as seniors and walked out as graduates of the class of 2009.

"This is a time of transition," said the Rev. Larry Rock, celebrant of the Baccalaureate Mass that preceded the school's 54th annual commencement. "Congratulations are definitely in order. You've come to a point in your lives where you're moving on from high school. This is an exciting time, indeed."

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Jay Heefner, the school's guidance counselor, told the students that in August 2008, "you began the first of many lasts" -- the last homecoming, the last Mid-Atlantic Invitational Tournament (MAIT), the last theatrical production, the last prom.

"Today, as a Goretti student, this is the last day, period," he said. "Now, you form a bond forever as part of the legacy of Goretti."

The valedictorian was Jacquelyn Gallo, who encouraged her fellow graduates to "do the right thing. For doing the right thing is your only reward, and you need no other reason."

Gallo challenged the class to "become the people we want to become. It's easy to be apathetic, to make popular decisions instead of moral ones. Our generation needs people with powerful convictions."

Gallo said Saturday was an extremely emotional day for her.

"I feel sad that a chapter in my life is ending," she said. "But I'm also happy and excited. We have our entire lives ahead of us. Today, it seems anything is possible."

Following the presentation of diplomas, Charles Mades was honored as the recipient of the Distinguished Alumnus Award.

Receiving the Pro Deo et Patria (For God and Country) Award was Maria Espiridion. The award is given each year to the one student in the senior class who, through character, words and actions, represents the values on which the school was founded.

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