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  • James Townsend

St. Patrick School Class of 2020 Celebrates Commencement

On Sunday, St. Patrick School celebrated the class of 2020 with their commencement ceremony.

High School Principal Randy Hodge generously shared a summary of the celebration with the Beacon, as well as the parting words from the class of 2020's salutatorian and valedictorian.

"Saying Goodbye to the Class of 2020" - Randy Hodge

When I began my tenure as administrator of St. Patrick Catholic School, the students from the Class of 2020 were in 1st grade. After 12 years with them, we said goodbye on Sunday, June 14. On that day, they entered a new phase of their lives.

Our goal at St. Patrick is to ensure that when our seniors receive their diplomas on graduation day, they have a rock-solid foundation for a successful life--a life that our Lord has prepared for each one of them. Our goal is that they will continue to serve as living representatives of our school mission statement: We Pray! We Learn! We Achieve!

While many events were similar to those of other classes that have come before them at St. Patrick High School, this class had a unique and memorable experience to say the least. The year started off like any normal school year and included our annual Spirit Week and homecoming celebrations, and our football team made it to the state finals with a trip to the Superior Dome in Marquette. Our school year continued to proceed without incident as any regular school year. The Class of 2020 had a great senior trip to Boyne Mountain Resort in February and were looking forward to winding down the school year with prom, senior banquet, graduation Mass, and commencement on the horizon.

Suddenly, the rug was pulled out from underneath them. School was closed for three weeks beginning on March 13 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This eventually led to the cancellation of the remainder of in-person classes and all extracurricular activities for the remainder of the school year. The many traditions and events we take for granted were now looking like they might not happen. Instead, new events were created to give everyone an opportunity to recognize them for all they worked for and achieved.

We had pictures of each student posted on the window of our school, videos of and for the Class of 2020 made, and an awesome parade through our town. Finally, graduation Mass and commencement arrived, albeit with limited attendance and taking place in a tent instead of the church and school gymnasium.

Graduation began with Mass celebrated by our pastor, Reverend Michael Alber, who provided inspiring words during his homily. After Mass, it was time for our first outdoor and live streamed commencement in school history. I began by sharing the major achievements of the Class of 2020 which included the following:

  • 13 of the 26 students are members of the National Honor Society.

  • 17 were recognized as CMAC Scholar Athletes, meaning they had at least a 3.4 GPA and lettered in at least two sports, one of which was in their senior year.

  • Twenty-five out of the 26 have plans to go on to some form of higher education. One is joining the National Evangelization Team (N.E.T.) for a year or two.

  • One is discerning her vocation as a religious sister, and one is planning to attend seminary.

  • Two have signed a National Letter of Intent to participate in college volleyball.

  • Twelve are graduating with honors (3.79 GPA or higher) with six having a weighted 4.0 GPA or higher. Twenty-three have a GPA of 3.5 or higher.

Bishop David Walkowiak opened our commencement ceremony with prayer and Fr. Mike followed with some thoughts about the Class of 2020. Salutatorian Jeffrey Davlin and valedictorians Tyler Coyne and Bret Weller addressed their classmates, talking about the family atmosphere of St. Patrick School, sharing accomplishments, memories, good times together, and all the possibilities for a great future. Following the speeches, the graduates were called forward to receive their diplomas from Bishop Walkowiak. One by one, they turned their tassel, and the Class of 2020 joined a group of more than 2,200 living Shamrock alumni around the world.

Fr. Mike closed the ceremony with prayer and the Class of 2020 processed out of the tent and into the future. They followed our annual Shamrock tradition of getting a post-graduation class picture on the steps in front of the school gym, and finally, they ended their high school career with the annual tossing of mortar boards (caps). It was an official ending to a great school career by a great group of students.

They are leaving with a rock-solid foundation of values, knowledge, wisdom, and faith. I can say with the utmost certainty that they prayed, they learned, and yes, without a doubt, they achieved. May God bless every one of them and their future endeavors as they move to the next phase of their lives.

Speech from Valedictorian Tyler Coyne

Wow, it is absolutely crazy to be with everyone again. I’ve been with all of you guys for over half my life, it just feels weird to be apart for a few months. The weird thing is or maybe even the sad thing, is that this feeling of being apart during this quarantine will become the new normal in a few months. We’ll leave and go become bigger and greater people than we all already are. Some people I may never see until one of the girl's texts me and says I have to plan a class reunion. We still have graduation parties and the next few months to act like nothing is going to change so that is what I plan to do. Everyone here has become and brother or sister to me. I look back on the days and I remember all the plays we did or all the events that were set up by the school. I still remember that I played Pontius Pilot and King Herod in two of our plays. I don’t know what you guys had against me, but I swear I was always the bad guy. Then a few years later we had the unforgettable moment when Zach spelled container Y-O-G-U-R-T on our spelling test. Middle School kind of flew by for me. I do not remember anything that happened. I don’t know about everyone else but maybe it's just because I wanted to forget that embarrassing point in my life that everyone goes through. The only thing that could possibly stick in my mind from that time was when Jake made fun of the apple by calling it a pear and then a minute later Sam threw that same apple so hard it broke into 20 different pieces. Then high school happened and all I have to say is that it has been a rollercoaster. High school is crazy and there is a lot of ups and downs but the best thing about our class is that we stuck it out with only a few fights here and there. I am certain that I have become closer friends with every single one of you from my experience here at St. Pats. Sports have been a journey all together. I can’t even group it together with everything else. It all started when I made a fadeaway three to tie PW in 7th grade, just to get smacked in overtime. No, I’m just kidding. I got to watch my best friends win a state title in football and then cheer on the girls by doing stupid stuff in the student section every week. It was great. And then senior year, I know I joined a little late to the party, but I cannot wait to tell my kids that we were state finalist in football and that we definitely 100% barely lost the final game on a last second 50 yard field goal by the other team that we will not speak of. I cannot believe everything that has happened during these years at St. Pats. The memories here with this little class will last a lifetime. Especially every time we tried that stupid pyramid at school section. I would like to apologize to all the people at the bottom of said pyramid. Middle row was hard enough, and you guys deserve more respect. I would like to end this with a quote from our good friend John Green, shout-out Mrs. Sanborn. “Every year, many, many stupid people graduate from college. And if they can do it, so can you.” From this quote, all I have to say is follow your dreams and work hard until you accomplish them. Truly, anything is possible. If you need me just shoot me a text or something. I mean its 2020, contacting people is pretty easy and I’ll be there for all of you. I love every single one of you guys and thank you for an amazing 12 years.

Speech from Valedictorian Bret Weller

Good afternoon everyone!

Welcome to the graduation of the Class of 2020. After an uncertain end of the year, we have finally made it. This is a great moment for all of us, and I’m proud of our community, school, and class for getting through such tough times. I’d like to thank Mr. Hodge, Father Mike, and all of the staff and faculty at St. Pat’s for giving me this opportunity to speak before you all today. I also want to thank my parents, Jon and Leslie Weller, as well as all the other parents of my classmates for encouraging and guiding me and my fellow classmates on our educational journeys. In the wise words of NBA all-star Kevin Durant, You’re the real MVPs.

My whole academic career can be summed up in one word. Future. And no, I am not talking about the Grammy award-winning rapper. By future, I mean what’s to come. My whole life, even in middle school, I have been trying hard at school. I focus so much on it because, in my head, I needed to get good grades in order to get scholarships, acceptance into colleges, jobs, etc. I needed to be an all-star in school because I wanted to have a bright future. Academics, to me, were the only key to success. Obviously, there are so many more ways to be successful, and as important as academics are, they are not for everyone, and they do not make a person. For me, they were pretty much top of the totem pole, because I was so worried about my future.

Then this year happened. I’m not sure about any of my classmates, but coming into senior year, I wanted it to fly by. I was still gonna focus on my academics, but other than that, I wanted out. I had a bad case of senioritis. Unfortunately, my dreams of flying through senior year became a reality. On a Wednesday in March, I played my last ever varsity sports game, a district basketball game against Webberville. The next day, I heard some chatter about the Coronavirus, and I’m not gonna lie to you all, I cracked some jokes. I didn’t think anything of it. Next thing you know, school was online until further notice, and for the senior class, it was pretty much guaranteed we would never have another class inside that building. At first, I wasn’t so upset. I thought it would be over in a couple of weeks and I basically was getting a mini-vacation from school. As you know, that was the furthest thing from what actually happened.

My classmates and I missed out on so much. Many of us didn’t get to play our final sports seasons or go to prom. We never again got to hear a rant from Mrs. Sandborn, watch a random Shakespeare movie for Ms. Bennett’s class, stare at Mr. Smith’s turtles while he lectures, listen to Mr. Osborne go off about rockets, have Mr. Austen remind us for the 1 millionth time that he is from Canada, and witness the everyday crazy life of Mr. Rockey. As boring and normal as those things sound, they’re definitely missed. Being normal is missed.

So why did I just tell you guys all of that? It’s because I have some advice for the kids still in school, college students, parents, and even older people. Yeah, that’s right even old people. My advice is this; as important as it is to have a stable future ahead of you and to study hard and work hard, sometimes it is even more important to take a break and smell the roses. Take a chill pill and relax. Rapper and entertainer Snoop Dogg once said “When I’m no longer rapping, I want to open up an ice cream parlor and call myself Scoop Dogg.” That has nothing to do with this speech, but that’s the point. Sometimes you need to take a break, have some fun, and live in the present. Peace out SPS, gone too soon, but never forgotten.

Speech from Salutatorian Jeffrey Davlin

Thank you, Mr. Hodge, for the opportunity to speak, I actually wasn’t expecting to be able to. I knew that Ty and Bret were ahead of me, so I figured that one would be Val and the other Sal, but lo and behold they ended up tying, and here we are. Here we are: the end of this journey we call high school. I’m so happy that we can be HERE, at one of my favorite places in this whole, wide, big, beautiful world. And I’m so happy WE can be here, all of us, something I did not think was going to be able to happen. I mean, I don’t know about you guys, but I sort of thought graduation this year would be a kind of “drive up to the school, your diploma’s waiting outside, grab it and go” kind of thing. But this, this is incredible. We have a lot to be thankful for.

You guys know that I started going to St. Pats in 3rd grade, and I wasn’t too excited about it. I had friends where I was and now, all of a sudden, I was changing schools. But one memory I have is of a lady telling my dad and me, “oh, you’ll love it at St. Pats. It’s one big family up there.” At that point, I thought that maybe it wouldn’t be so bad, but I never expected how right she would be. St. Pats really is a family. You know that the role of families is to guide us, form us, mold us into the people we are meant to be. The purpose of schools is to be an extension of this, to supplement the education of our primary teachers, our parents. It seems like a lot of schools today focus on making their kids into successful students, successful athletes, successful artists, successful members of society in general. These are great goals, and these schools often succeed. But what it seems like many schools have forgotten and St. Pats has retained is that familial nature of education. Everyone here, from Fr. Mike to Mr. Hodge to Mrs. Sandborn who sometimes feels more like a grandma than a teacher understands that success is a byproduct of character, that good people naturally have success in what they pursue. This doesn’t mean that this success comes easily, but the people that St. Pats puts out are the kind of people who will work at anything until they’ve got it. Instead of focusing so much on success, we have been formed to be good, and to trust that success will follow. This is how I think St. Pats is a family.

But there’s something still deeper here as well. That’s how I think St. Pats is a family, but I KNOW St. Pats is a family because of you guys: my fellow graduates. If this school was just a school, then you would be just my classmates. But you’re not, you’re my brothers and sisters, and I love you guys a lot. And so, because you are more than my classmates, you’re my siblings, St. Pats is more than a school, it's a family. I know this and you guys know it too.

So, this might seem like kind of a depressing speech to you guys. What good is it to expound upon the virtues of St. Patrick when we’re graduating? It’s like , “Jeff you jerk, you’re just drawing attention to how awesome the thing is that we’re losing today.”. I said the same thing to myself as I was writing this speech. Because, after all, that’s why we’re actually here today. We are graduating, and that’s both an exciting and a scary thing.

Here’s the thing, guys. You graduate from high schools. You graduate from colleges. You don't graduate from families. That stays the same, no matter what. And for us today, that means that, no matter what, you will always have brothers and sisters that love you. No matter what, Mrs. Sandborn will always be our awesome grandma. And no matter what, this place will always be home.

Love you guys.

Salve Regina

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