Gray skies and continuous rain couldn't dampen the spirits of 27 graduating seniors at Bishop Ryan Catholic School Sunday afternoon.
The graduates filed into Bishop Ryan's gym two at a time to the familiar music of "Pomp and Circumstance" played by the Bishop Ryan Concert Band. After the national anthem, invocation and faculty introductions, diplomas were conferred, with each student receiving a rousing round of applause when they took the stage to receive something they had been working their entire lives for.
Abbey Steckler and Zachary Wald were co-valedictorians, while Thomas Burke was salutatorian. Each gave a short speech to their fellow students, with Steckler breaking the ice.
Graduates of Bishop Ryan Catholic School receive their diplomas Sunday afternoon.
In addition to being co-valedictorian, Steckler also received the Monsignor John W. Hogan Award, given to a senior with outstanding character. She remembered seven years ago when they started at Bishop Ryan, and started to grow up.
"From then on, whether we liked it or not, this school became the focus of our lives," Steckler said.
From classes to field trips to hanging out with friends, Steckler said all those experiences helped shape her and her classmates into the people they are today.
An important part of every graduate's journey through Bishop Ryan is their relationship to God. Steckler said while they might have grumbled about and even slept through religion classes at times, they were incredibly important. She said those were the classes that gave them the strength to choose right over wrong.
Wald said the ceremony was the beginning of the rest of their lives.
"We are here now to celebrate our achievements from high school," Wald said.
He said they should cherish their memories from Bishop Ryan, and have much to look forward to in the future.
He noted that God offers forgiveness and mercy, and said they should thank those who impacted their lives. Wald then thanked his classmates, stating every one had a positive impact on his life, even if they didn't realize it.
Wald ended his remarks by stating that the future starts today, not tomorrow.
Thomas Burke said it can be easy to get caught up in all the technology available today, which he then emphasized by pulling out his smartphone for a quick look, to the laughter of his classmates. He credits Bishop Ryan with helping to keep its students grounded in what really matters.
"I believe that our education at Bishop Ryan has given us the values, the knowledge and the social conscience to make a difference in the world," Burke said.
He thanked the teachers, and especially the parents, for all their help and support over the years.
"We would not be where we are today without their guidance," Burke said.
While marketers might call them the millennial generation, Burke said they should instead consider themselves the human generation, remembering their Christian roots and thinking about the needs of others.
"We've been given the tools to make a difference for our generation, so let's use them to help those in need," Burke said.