Throughout last week’s commencement ceremony at Bishop McGann-Mercy High School, the festivities focused squarely on the Class of 2018. In a way, it felt like any other recent graduation at the Riverhead high school.
Officials were wise to give the graduating seniors their moment, which they earned and deserved. This night was about them, their accomplishments and their futures.
Still, a sense of finality hung over the ceremony. And that began to hit home as valedictorian Olivia Valle eloquently concluded her speech to classmates, faculty and family. The graduating senior, bound for Massachusetts Institute of Technology, noted that this graduation really wasn’t just about the Class of 2018.
“It is for everyone who is losing their home base,” she said. “It is not just a goodbye for seniors. It is a goodbye for everyone who has ever bled green and gold.”
A moment later, Olivia smiled wide and wiped away tears as the audience rose to its feet for a standing ovation. For generations of students across the East End, McGann-Mercy has been so much more than a high school. That’s what makes the impending closing so heartbreaking.
As the doors officially close this spring on the high school, which dates back to 1956 and opened as Mercy High School in a temporary space on Roanoke Avenue, we’re still left to wonder what comes next. Many questions about what will happen to the property or if the school can somehow be saved remain unanswered.
The latest idea was to open an independent Catholic high school on the property to operate as a STREAM school, which stands for science, technology, religion, engineering, art and mathematics. Parents of Mercy students are hoping the Diocese of Rockville Centre will lease the Riverhead property to the independent school.
Even if that idea comes to fruition, it wouldn’t happen in time for this upcoming school year. The reality is that when late August rolls around, there will be no Mercy football players on the practice field, no prospective students touring the facilities at an open house, no faculty preparing their lesson plans. The students who would have made up the Class of 2019 will board buses for St. John the Baptist Diocesan High School in West Islip, or another high school, and begin a new chapter in their education.
But for one night last week, it was a chance to celebrate the Mercy spirit and what it means to be a Monarch.
“We are the underdogs, but we know how to win,” Olivia said.