Decked in a green cap and gown, Harry Ramos couldn’t hold back tears as he reminisced on his past four years at Bishop McGann-Mercy High School.
The recent graduate, who had tossed his cap only minutes earlier, was celebrating with his social studies teacher, Dianne Scanlon, who choked back tears as well.
The two were sharing a bittersweet moment — pride at Harry and his classmates’ achievement, but sadness as it marked the final graduating class for the East End’s only Catholic high school.
“We wanted it to be about them because we wanted them to have their special moment to shine,” Ms. Scanlon said of the Class of 2018. “It was a little bit overshadowed. I’ve been here 12 years and I’ve never, ever worked in a place like this. Where there’s a feeling of community, a feeling of love. You could feel it in that room tonight.”
The class of 90 students heard speeches from their valedictorian and salutatorian — Olivia Valle and Isabella Sorgi — reminding them that although the school will not remain, what they have learned and who they have met at Mercy will always be with them.
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The Diocese of Rockville Centre announced in March that the school would close at the end of the 2017-18 year. At the time it cited decreasing enrollment and rising costs as two factors contributing to the decision.
Prior to reading the list of graduates, Dean of Students Charles Bender broke from script and took a minute to speak to the students.
“I love this place and I love you guys,” he said. He was met with cheers, applause and choruses of “I love you too.”
Students, their families and faculty celebrated an early afternoon Mass before the graduation ceremony began at 5 p.m. In between, the graduating seniors adorned their caps and gowns with tassels and took their last selfies together in Mercy’s halls.
The stage that students strode across to accept their diplomas was decorated with a sign that read “Monarchs Forever 1956-2018.”
Many students agreed they were excited to be graduating, but felt sadness about the inability for them to return to the school to visit former teachers when home on college breaks.
“It feels really good,” Sarah Dern said. “It also feels kind of surreal. It’ll hit me later … it feels unbelievable to be honest. It feels like [the school] will still go on for years and years.”
Sarah was also the recipient of the Catherine McAuley Christian Leadership Award – one of two awards that the recipient was surprised with during the ceremony. The other was the Bishop McGann “Serve the Lord with Gladness” Award, which went to Robert Halversen.
Teachers Ann Corrao, who taught French at Mercy for 13 years, and Sandy Bertolotti, who taught Latin for 32 years, described the evening as tough, but one of the most beautiful graduations during their tenure.
Although everyone’s time at Mercy has come to a close, the spirit of the school will never be forgotten.
“Unfortunately this graduation is not just about the Class of 2018. It is for everyone who is losing their home base,” Olivia said in her speech. “It is not just a goodbye for seniors. It is a goodbye for everyone who has ever bled green and gold. We are the underdogs, but we know how to win. Even if there’s no building to drive past, or football game to go watch, we will turn to each other and we will always be able to feel the presence of Mercy.”
Photos by Nicole Smith