For the Marist graduating Class of 2011, this has been a miracle year – for a number of reasons.
From the moment the graduates, dressed in blue gowns, marched into the gym on June 4 to the processional of “Pomp and Circumstance,” to the moment they left again to the playing of “Pachelbel Canon,” they seemed to glow with a mood of success, as proud family members crowded the aisle to catch a glimpse of the graduates as they passed.
Their job was obvious, but so was their doubt, as members of the 54th graduating class from Marist seemed to realize for the first time that this would likely be the last time they would be here together as a class.
“Passion is a force. Sometimes it is an uncontrollable force, which infuses our life with meaning, joy, even anger.” – Marlon Medrano
They leave a legacy behind – a mark in time – from blood drives to sports success, to a garden planted, or to the glorious sounds of the school choir. In many ways, this was a miraculous class, marked most significantly by the ability of the school, staff, and students to overcome adversity over the last year, seeing Brother Stephen Schlitte, the man who served as principal, leave last June, only to have his replacement, Brother Donnell Neary, leave due to health concerns by mid-year.
For Alice J. Miesnik, who stepped up from assistant vice principal for academics at Marist High School to become acting principal, this was her first graduating class, and one that will likely remain fixed in her memory for years to come.
Serving in her usual role as Master of Ceremonies for this year’s graduation on June 4, Miesnik broke down in tears halfway through her speech, raising applause in the gym full of parents moved by the moment.
Miesnik dismissed her emotional outbreak with a wave of her hand, “I would have been disappointed if I hadn’t cried.”
This was an unusual year also because both top students, valedictorian Marlon Medrano and salutatorian Adelene Jane Sapal, are siblings of former Marist High School graduates.
His father gave him a love for knowledge
Medrano is the third of his family to graduate from Marist High School, and is being followed by his sister Jasmine, currently a sophomore at Marist.
Medrano is an avid soccer player who has competed in a New York league since he was 11 years old, and was awarded scholarships for both his academic and sports achievements at Marist. He has chosen to attend John Hopkins University in Maryland.
“His scholarship is so substantial that his parents will end up paying less to send him to John Hopkins than they did to send him to Marist High School,” Miesnik said.
Medrano encouraged his classmates to pursue life with a passion, but not to cheat themselves by being solely materialistic.
“Passion is a force. Sometimes it is an uncontrollable force, which infuses our life with meaning, joy, even anger,” he said. “It brings commitment and determination.”
Medrano spoke of his father’s passion to better himself, despite being one of 10 siblings born on the outskirts of El Salvador, and becoming the only one to finish grammar school and later high school, before fleeing the war-torn nation for new hopes in America.
Working low paying jobs, Medrano’s father managed to attend school and learn new crafts that allowed him to eventually purchase one of the companies he worked for.
Medrano said his father passed down to him and his siblings his love of education.
Sapal called this a miracle year
“Jane, our salutatorian, is preceded by her sister, Joy, a graduate of 2008, not just an older sister, but according to Jane, the person who has been most influential in her life. Joy served as inspiration and role model,” Miesnik said.
Sapal will follow her sister to Rutgers University’s New Brunswick campus, although she will major in English rather than pre-med as her sister did.
Sapal not only excelled in academics, but sports as well, serving as captain of the Marist High School tennis team.
Sapal, in her address to the graduating class, talked about miracles – about miracles in history such as the historic evacuation of Allied troops from Dunkirk during World War II, to the miracle in her own life, which allowed her to overcome a speech impediment. She made reference to the film The King’s Speech, in which a historic figure overcame similar obstacles.
“If you said to me five years ago that I would be standing here on the stage in front of hundreds of people delivering a speech, I would have said ‘impossible,’ ” Sapal said.
She said human determination can lead to miracles.
“We are here today because we never gave up,” she said.
A record setting class
This was a record-setting class as far as academic scholarships were concerned. The 1,162 graduating students received more than $6.2 million in total scholarships, grants, and financial aid, a figure larger than any previous class’s earnings.
Marjorie Martinez, who was fourth in her graduating class, received more than $400,000 in scholarships. Marlon Medrano, this year’s valedictorian, and Jonathan Candelaria both received more than $300,000 each in scholarships.
Craig Carbone, assistant principal for students, said that these students have been accepted to some of the most prestigious colleges in the country, including St. John’s University, John Hopkins University, Rutgers University, Boston University, University of Miami, University of Alabama, and others.
This class’s top 10 students were Medrano, Sapal, Luwin Changco, Martinez, Roger Arias, Apryl Chanco, Dominique Hijos, Kathryn Mercadeo, Jonathan Candelaria, and March Labaguis.
While the ceremony singled out the highest achievers of the Class of 2011, Miesnik said all of the graduates were worthy of distinction.
“Each worked hard over the last four years, not only to prepare for college, but to prepare themselves for entrance into the world,” she said.
Vice Principal Carbone said that while the class is graduating together, each will take a different path through life.
“Regardless of the path you choose to take, you have been given the keys to a successful future,” he said. “My advice to you is that you try these keys in every door you can.”
Al Sullivan may be reached at email@example.com.