By John L. Carkeet IV – Special to the Florida Catholic
Friends and loved ones gathered at St. Joseph Parish in Bradenton June 17, 2020 to honor the Class of 2020. The graduation Mass and ceremony marked the first official occasion where students, faculty and families could meet face-to-face since March 13.
“This is the first time we have shared the same space since classes were suspended from the (COVID-19) Pandemic,” said Deborah Suddarth, principal at St. Joseph Catholic School. “I’m grateful we could make this happen in a safe and special manner.”
With facemasks mandatory and social distancing strictly enforced, 20 eighth grade graduates and their families were given the opportunity to celebrate the next chapter in their life’s journey under one roof.
Before the pandemic, all St. Joseph students would have been invited to attend the graduation, Suddarth explained. “One of this year’s graduates told me she would watch her older peers walk down the aisle and receive their diplomas year after year, and she couldn’t wait for the day it would be her turn… That’s when I knew we had to do our best to make this day special for the Class of 2020.”
The celebration opened with a Mass celebrated by Parish Administrator Father Rafal Ligenza. “One of the customary things to say during graduation is ‘believe in yourselves,’” Father Ligenza added. “If you only put faith in yourself, you will wind up disappointed. Believe in God instead. He will take care of you… You will succeed if you trust in the Lord.”
Mass was followed by a ceremony that recognized the achievements and accolades of the graduates. Joshua P. Ogline received several awards including highest honors in sports, science, religion and language arts.
“But I’m most proud of the St. Joseph Spirit Award,” said Joshua, who also served as the School’s Student Council President. “It recognizes the time and effort our school dedicated to service projects. It recognizes how we incorporated our faith by working together and having fun in everything we did.”
A luncheon followed the ceremony, giving graduates and their families something that most people once took for granted: authentic, in person communication.
“This is a mature class blessed with a supportive network of families,” Suddarth said. “They put the needs of others before their own, and they took every opportunity to lead by example… Although this may be the last time we meet as a group, it will not be the last we’ve heard of the Class of 2020.”
Catholic Schools pride themselves in providing students with a well-rounded faith-filled education all with a little fun in the mix.
It should come as no surprise that when it came to the eighth-grade graduation ceremonies and events recognizing these students, fun affairs complete with caps and gowns were organized.
For example, St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton, where a formal graduation is tentatively planned for July, it was decided that a socially distanced parade would be a good way to honor the eighth graders.
On May 21, 2020, with Bradenton Police, Manatee County Sheriff’s Office and Manatee County Fire Rescue vehicles in the lead, the sirens and honking horns of dozens of vehicles brought smiles from the students and their proud parents. Alumni, schoolmates, teachers, community members and family members were invited to participate. Vehicles were decorated with messages recognizing the school, students and teachers alike. Several vehicles were covered in balloons or had colorful writing on windows, while others had cheering adults and children waving signs.
As the vehicles passed the students, with their family, stood about 10 feet apart along the fence line, next to a sign with their formal class portrait. The eighth graders reciprocated by waving and cheering when they saw their schoolmates and teachers with whom they have been apart these past two months.
Principal Deborah Suddarth said the parade was a huge success and was pleased with the turnout of supporters. “You feel bad for these students to have lost out on some of the best parts of being an eighth grader. This was a gift to them because they truly were a special group of students that made St. Joseph Catholic School a great place. We are going to miss them.
A few days earlier, St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers held a drive-thru graduation which began as a tailgate party in the school parking lot on May 20, 2020. Once the official ceremony began, the vehicles worked their way through the parking lot and before exiting onto Heitman Street, across from the main entrance to the school, the vehicles stopped, and each new graduate was presented with their diploma.
Other Diocesan elementary schools did variations of graduations and recognitions. Graduations at St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral, and St. Martha Catholic School and St. Mary Academy in Sarasota, were held in the parking lot, with only students coming forward and receiving their diplomas.
Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School was the first to have a graduation ceremony that was closest to what would have been expected pre-pandemic. The biggest difference in the event inside the Cathedral was that there was no Mass and the ceremony May 22, 2020 was limited to immediate family only.
The Diocese of Venice Catholic school 2020 graduating class, whether seniors in high school or eighth graders finishing up elementary school, are soon departing their respective schools in a way like no other. Not with a huge celebration and graduation but with fond wishes and prayer through a computer screen.
To make this end of year special for the 2020 graduates, each Diocesan school made a special effort to reach out to their graduates, delivering lawn signs, cap and gowns and gift baskets, all as a sign to show these students that their time in school made an impact, in particular on the faculty and staff.
St. Mary Academy in Sarasota not only delivered a cap and gown but offered sweet treats from the Purple Belle Ice Cream Truck which was there to sweeten the moment. At the Donahue Catholic Academy of Ave Maria, signs of the graduating seniors lined the street in front of the school. During the delivery to his students, Donahue Catholic Academy Principal Dr. Dan Guernsey played the bagpipes for each.
The gift baskets to the eighth graders from St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School in Naples included a note from their homeroom teacher, which read in part: “Congratulations on graduating from SES! We are so glad you came to SES. You have helped make this one of the Best 8th grade classes. It has been a pleasure to teach you and I am really going to miss you.”
While the graduates are missing out on some time-honored traditions such as dances, field days, trips, sports and academic awards, as well as graduations, the special, in-person deliveries from teachers and principals helped lessen the disappointment of the students as they transition on to the next phase of their life.
For the graduates of the high schools, contingency plans to offer a proper in-person graduation are in place, but some are two months away and will only take place if the health and safety of all can be guaranteed.
That is some consolation to make up for the lost months of in-class instruction and building of lasting friendships before moving on with their lives. This experience is being viewed by many as a bonding experience, something that unites the 2020 group for having overcome an actual pandemic to graduate.
In addition to the lawn signs, each school made an effort to post information about their graduates online and through social media. For Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota, Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers, St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples and the Donahue Catholic Academy of Ave Maria, the postings have included personal, academic and sports achievements as well as their plans for the future – university, military, first responders, and a few becoming professional athletes.
The photos shared with the high school postings were taken before the outbreak of the pandemic and subsequent suspension of in-classroom instruction. The images show happy young men and women with their entire future before them. Their future is still there and as bright as ever as they leave with a quality Christ-filled education from a Diocese of Venice Catholic high school and each student is prepared and ready to face the next challenge.
The eight graders have also been receiving social media attention. In addition, the schools shared some background, favorite memories and reflections of the students.
So, when the last exam was taken, through distance learning online, instead of a party atmosphere with hugs, slaps on the back and fond farewells; this year it was a quick good-bye and a click of a button as the computer is disconnected, ending years of a quality faith-forming education.
There is little doubt that in the future the 2020 Catholic school graduates will be able to look back fondly upon a most unusual and memorable final year of school.
Deacon Franckel Fils Aime graduated from St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach on May 7, 2020, while Seminarian Jacob Gywnn graduated May 5, 2020, from St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami. Deacon Fils Aime will soon be ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Venice while Gwynn will be given a pastoral assignment at a Parish within the Diocese for the summer. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, both graduations were low-key events with minimal participation and no family present.
In a time of social distancing the traditional May Crownings have taken on a different form this year. St. Joseph Catholic School students Wesley and Cecilia were able to honor Mary on May 2, 2020, for an unofficial May Crowning at the St. Bernard Catholic Church grotto in Holmes Beach. On May 10, 2020, Father Robert Dziedziak, Pastor of St. Mary, Star of the Sea Parish on Longboat Key, led a May Crowning prayer service in the Parish prayer garden with the faithful able to be present while still maintaining appropriate social distancing.
Retreat Center offering online Preached Retreats
During the current health crisis, many people who would like to make a retreat must remain at home for an extended period of time. As long as the crisis lasts, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center in Venice will offer online 3-day, 5-day, and 8-day retreats based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. Like Father Lanteri, we can all use this time for our spiritual growth.
In these online retreats. Father Mark Yavarone, OMV, or Father Lino Estradilla, OMV, trained spiritual directors, will meet with you for an hour each day via a link provided to you, to help you to pray and to recognize how God is speaking. You should already have a Bible and journal available for your use. Participants will be emailed any additional materials needed as the retreat unfolds.
The cost, which has been significantly discounter, will be as follows: 3-day online retreat, $132.23; 5-day online retreat, $203.98; and 8-day online retreat, $306.48.
All information will be confidential, and password protected. If you would like to make an online retreat, please email Denise Riley at Riley@OLPH-RETREAT.organd a code will be provided for your online registration. You will need to fill out an application for approval. Please allow 7 days to arrange from your completed application until the beginning of your retreat.
Scam Alert targeting parishioners
It has once again been brought to the attention of the Diocese of Venice that parishioners have received text/email messages from people pretending to be priests and requesting donations in the form of gift cards and/or wire transfers. The messages often greet the person by name and have the priests name in the closing signature of the message; this is a well-crafted and targeted attack on the Church across the country which has hit our Diocese again. These text/email messages are ‘spoofed’ fakes that should not be responded to or taken seriously by anyone. The best defense against this sort of scam is to raise awareness in the community and not respond or open any worrying attachments. It is Diocesan policy that no priest or staff within the Diocese request donations in the form of gift cards, PayPal, MoneyGram, etc.
There is already an established process in place on how parishioners can make donations and participate in the life of the Parish. Whenever a parishioner is worried about any request for money from the parish or a priest, they should immediately call their parish and under no circumstances should they respond to these scam requests.
Year of St. Joseph resources online
On the Solemnity of St. Joseph, March 19, Bishop Frank J. Dewane consecrated the Diocese of Venice to the care and protection of Saint Joseph in the context of the Coronavirus and announced a “Year of St. Joseph” beginning March 19, 2020 through March 19, 2021. St. Joseph is the Patron Saint of the Universal Church, fathers, workers and the sick and dying. A number of resources, including a Novena to St. Joseph, have been made available on the Diocesan website – www.dioceseofvenice.org.
Bradenton Food Pantry
The St. Joseph Parish Food Pantry, 2704 33rd Ave. W., Bradenton, is open and distributing food from 9 a.m. to noon Monday-Friday, 5-7 p.m. Wednesdays, following all social distancing protocols. Cars will be directed through the parking lot and trunks will be loaded by volunteers in protective gloves and masks. Call 941-756-3732 if you have any questions. You do not need to be a regular client to receive food. To make a donation of money or food, please visit https://www.stjoepantry.com/.
Venice Catholic School Community project
Jennifer Falestiny, Curriculum Coordinator at the Diocese of the Venice, created the Camillus Project, a STREAM (science, technology, religion, engineering, arts and mathematics) oriented campaign to print and deliver face shields and ear savers to those serving on the front lines of the coronavirus crisis. Named after the patron saint of hospitals, nurses and the sick, the design files were shared to each school with 3D printer in hopes of being to deliver these shields to local medical professionals.
The graduating seniors at the Catholic high schools in the Diocese of Venice have experienced a turbulent final few months before they head off to college in the fall.
The coronavirus pandemic forced their Spring Break to be spoiled, then when they returned from two weeks away from the classroom, they didn’t physically return to their respective campus for in-classroom learning but instead began distance learning.
For the senior classes at Cardinal Mooney in Sarasota, Bishop Verot in Fort Myers, St. John Neumann in Naples, and the Donahue Academy in Ave Maria, some of the best parts of being a senior – prom, senior class trips, awards banquets, Baccalaureate Mass and finally graduation – were impacted.
These events were first postponed when it was hoped that in-class schooling could resume in early May, and then cancelled when it was announced that distance learning would continue through the end of the academic year.
While it seemed that all hope was lost that the seniors would miss out on everything, the respective school leaders have been working behind-the-scenes to find alternative, albeit tentative, solutions.
Diocese of Venice Interim Superintendent of Schools Ben Hopper, who is also Principal at Cardinal Mooney, explained that each school is working on a plan to hold traditional graduation events – Baccalaureate Mass, awards banquet, graduation, and possibly even prom – sometime in July.
“Although the Class of 2020 had many of its events postponed or canceled this spring, we wanted to acknowledge all of their hard work for the past four years, and we believe that they will be stronger for having to deal with so much change,” Hopper said. “We have been working behind the scenes trying to make sure that we can all celebrate their graduation at a later date.”
Dates for events for Cardinal Mooney and Bishop Verot seniors have been tentatively announced, while the Neumann and Donahue Academy events are still in the planning stages. Everything being planned for July is in the preliminary stages and will be conducted following all state and CDC health and safety guidelines. Of course, the events are all subject to postponement based upon health and safety conditions at the time.
In the meantime, the schools are celebrating their seniors in special ways.
On April 17, there was a Bishop Verot Live event for Seniors in which the school turned on the Stadium lights for 20 minutes and had a video with pictures and shout outs to the Class of 2020.
Cardinal Mooney “planted” graduation signs in the yards of graduating seniors, letting them know Mooney is proud of their achievements since schools will conclude the academic year with virtual instruction. The Mooney Class of 2020 comprises 133 students living in Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte, and DeSoto counties.
Bishop Verot delivered personalized signs to every senior, along with their caps and gowns, on April 24. Neuman was scheduled to do so on April 30.
The Catholic Community Foundation of Southwest Florida awarded four outstanding Diocese of Venice Catholic high school graduates with the 2019 Frank & Florence Coseglia Scholarship. The winners were recognized for their academic standing, service to their Parish and school, as well as an essay on what their Catholic Education has meant to them.
The scholarship recipients are Samuel Berjarano of Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers; Scholastica Egwakhide of St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples; Christopher Twargoski of Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota; and Olivia Burke of Donahue Academy in Ave Maria.
The Catholic Community Foundation Coseglia Scholarship was established in 2012 to fulfill the dreams of Frank and Florence Coseglia. The Coseglias wanted to provide financial support to deserving Catholic high school graduates pursuing degrees at accredited colleges or universities, and they wanted that financial support to last far beyond their lifetimes. For these reasons, the Coseglias chose to create a Catholic Legacy by establishing an endowed scholarship fund with the Catholic Community Foundation of Southwest Florida.
The winners were nominated by their high schools and approved by the Catholic Community Foundation Board of Directors. Each will receive a one-time scholarship of $1,117 toward the cost of their college/university studies. This is the eighth year the Catholic Community Foundation Coseglia Scholarship has been awarded.
Egwakhide, who will be studying to become a nurse at Regis College, wrote in her essay that: “I believe that a Catholic education changed my life for the better and helped me to come to a better understanding of myself. This scholarship will enable me to continue my search in life and give me the opportunity to continue my Catholic education at Regis College in the fall.”
With plans to study computer science at the University of Central Florida, Berjarano wrote: “I have been blessed to be raised in a Catholic family where faith plays an important role in our lives. By receiving the Coseglia Scholarship, I would be given a ticket to my own future; a way to attend university without worrying about needing to get into debt just to pursue my goals.”
Catholic Community Foundation Executive Director Michael Morse said the Coseglia Scholarship is a wonderful example of how one family chose to support the good works of the Catholic Church by investing in the education of our youth.
Those interested in learning how to set up an annual scholarship in their name, or the name of a loved one, should contact the Catholic Community Foundation at 941-441-1124.
During the final two weeks of May, 330 Diocese of Venice Catholic High School students graduated, moving on in their personal journey, prepared for college, and a life of purpose.
The Catholic Schools of the Diocese of Venice foster an education centered in Christ, rooted in the Gospel, and alive in the Faith; leaving with an impressive record of Christian service as well as academic and athletic excellence.
The future engineers, doctors, teachers, priests and leaders of tomorrow received their diplomas from Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota; St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples; Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers and the Donahue Academy in Ave Maria.
Some 98 percent of the graduates are going on to some of the greatest institutes of high learning across the country. These graduates also earned an impressive $32 million is scholarships and represent some of the best and brightest in Southwest Florida.
A large percentage of the graduates are going on to study at Catholic colleges and universities, while others will be continuing their studies at Ivy League schools, with one accepting an appointment to the U.S. Air Force Academy. The exceptions are either entering the workforce or military, and two are going on mission trips.
During the May 24 Baccalaureate Mass for Bishop Verot Catholic High School at St. John XXIII Parish in Fort Myers, Bishop Frank J. Dewane commended the graduates for their accomplishment by expressing his confidence that they will reflect the good that the Lord calls forth from them as they go out into the world.
“What you celebrate today is not an end, but you step forward in your life,” Bishop Dewane added. “Go forward! Find your path. Walk in that journey of faith, of maturing and of becoming more that man or woman of God you are called to be.”
Bishop Dewane also took time to thank the parents for having the confidence to send their children to a Catholic high school knowing that doing so is a sacrifice for them. He also thanked the faculty and staff for their commitment to providing a safe and supportive environment for the students in their charge.
The Bishop Verot graduation was May 25 at the high school. The Baccalaureate Mass for Cardinal Mooney was May 16 at Incarnation Parish and the graduation May 17 at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Center in Sarasota. The St. John Neumann Baccalaureate Mass was May 22 at St. Elizabeth Seton Parish in Naples and the graduation at the high school on May 23. The Donahue Baccalaureate Mass and graduation were both May 31 at Ave Maria Parish.
Congratulations to Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School Class of 2019. They are now high school graduates who leave their time with a Diocesan Catholic education that has prepared them well for their journey into adulthood.
The commencement exercises were held May 17 at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Center in Sarasota. Valedictorian Lorca Looney Stainton and Salutatorian Sam Dillion Koscho both spoke during the commencement, sharing words of wisdom and reflecting upon the benefits of their Catholic education.
The Commencement Address was given by Dr. Janina Morusiewicz Krajewski, Mooney Class of 1994, who owns a veterinary hospital in Palmetto.
The 102 graduates earned a combined $9.5 million in scholarships with all of the students going on to some of the finest college and universities in the country.
The students participated in a May 15 Baccalaureate Mass at Incarnation Parish in Sarasota, which was celebrated by priests of the Diocese, with Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda, Archbishop of St. Paul-Minneapolis and uncle of two of the graduates, as the main celebrant. Mooney Chaplain Father Eric Scanlan delivered the homily and said the students were taught to learn that the Catholic Faith is “a Faith that calls us to love our God above all things and our neighbor as oneself. A Faith that sees God in all that is good and true and beautiful.”
Father Scanlan also encouraged the graduate to believe as they go forward that Christ will do everything He can to deliver them to fulfillment and true happiness. “To do this, you need to stay close to Him. Stay close to Him in the years to come. All he wants is you; your heart, and whatever comes, if you are with Him – all will be well.”
The most inspiring moment of the graduation was when Jaelen Childs received his diploma. It was on Jan. 31 when the baseball player was critically injured in a traffic crash not far from the high school. The baseball player has struggled to recover from a shattered left femur and pelvis as well as internal injuries and received a great deal of support from the school and classmate which helped him to persevere and to be at the commencement.
Childs is still recovering from his injuries and was in a wheelchair on stage during the ceremony. After each of the other students were presented their diplomas, Assistant Principal Stefan Gates called out his name. With the aid of crutches, he walked across the stage to a standing ovation to receive his high school diploma.
In the past month 349 students graduated from four Diocesan schools leaving for the next phase in their lives, armed with a Catholic Education and are leaving behind a legacy that will not be soon forgotten.
Names like Katrina Winkler, Jack Koscho, Isabella McDivitt, Daniel Martin, Channel Wooley, Emma Milbert, Clare Williams, Claire Guernsey, Joseph Dauphinais, are just some of a many that excelled in areas of academics, athletics and service. The combined college scholarship offers for all graduates at Diocesan Catholic High Schools was $26.8 million.
Included here are few of the top academic, athletic and service oriented graduates from Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School, Sarasota; St. John Neumann Catholic High School, Naples; Bishop Verot Catholic High School, Fort Myers; Rhodora J. Donahue Academy, Ave Maria.
Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School
Valedictorian: Katrina Winkler
University of Florida
President of the Mooney Medical Club and National Honor Society; leader of the senior class; Photography Club; Year Book Club; senior captain soccer; volunteered to coach a recreational under eight-year-old soccer team as a sophomore in high school and with Miracle League Club of Manasota.
Salutatorian: Douglas Polk
University of Notre Dame
AP Scholar with Distinction; National Merit Scholarship Letter of Commendation for his high achieving score; Mooney Medical Club, football co-captain; vice president student government organization; volunteer of the Miracle League Club of Manasota serving as a buddy assisting mentally and physically challenged children and adults allowing them the opportunity to play competitive baseball.
Top Athlete: Jack Koscho
Carnegie Mellon University
AP Scholar with the honors award; University of Notre Dame Book award recipient; maintained a 4.0 throughout high school; senior football quarterback; treasurer of NHS; volunteer as after-school peer tutor mentor and assisted teaching young children with autism how to surf.
Top Athlete: Kaitlynn Beckmann
Basketball, senior captain; track and field; volunteer for the St. Martha Catholic School Girls basketball summer camp program as a counselor to organize and oversee drills, games, and exercises; volunteer for the Manasota Miracle League.
Service: Isabella McDevitt
Varsity soccer, junior and senior captain; Mooney Medical Club; St. Vincent De Paul Community Service club; Earned more than 1,000 hours of community service credit, primarily in developing Sarasota Chapter of Pivotal Directions to bring her peers at Cardinal Mooney High School to help people in Riverton, Jamaica where the community exists in the middle of a landfill surrounded by garbage and debris. Related service included awareness, fundraising, trip planning and other related work.
Service: Lucas Richter
University of North Florida Honors College
Intern for U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan; several community service-based boards including the Boys and Girls Club of Sarasota and the Sarasota Human Services Advisory Council; political debate club president; and co-editor of yearbook.
St. John Neumann Catholic High School
Valedictorian: Daniel Martin
National Honors Society; Student Council; Preserving and Researching Ocean Wildlife (PROW); Key Club; Mu Alpa Theta; FGCU Math competitions; Moody Mega Math Competition; 18 AP and 10 honors courses; AP National Scholar; AP Scholar with Distinction; track & field; cross country; tennis, swimming, National Hispanic Recognition Program.
Salutatorian: Andrew Myers
University of Michigan
National Honors Society; Student Council; Salesian Leadership Retreat, Mu Alpha Theta; Scholar Bowl; Peer Ministry; YACHT Club; 12 AP and 10 honors courses; AP Scholar with Distinction; golf captain; soccer; tennis captain.
Top Athlete: Chris “Tank” Kimble
Football offensive linemen; first team All-District, First Team All Naples Daily News, 2nd Team All-State; Track & Field captain, 5th in state for Shot Put and Discus; Honors Band; Beta Club.
Top Athlete: Chanel Whooley
Track & Field captain, high jump, 100m and relays, 1st Team All-Area Track, District Champion high jump, 5th place in state for high jump; volleyball; soccer; basketball; Beta Club; YACHT Club; Band/Honors Band; Jazz Band; Honors Choir; Peer Ministry; 10 honors and 2 AP classes.
Service: Emma Milbert
University of South Florida
Student Council; National Youth Leadership Conference; Salesian Leadership Retreat; Beta Club; Ladies of the Mother Frances DeSales Auxiliary to the Homeless; Art Club; volleyball; cheerleading, soccer captain; tennis, Service included: Vacation Bible School; Altar Serving; St. Elizabeth Seton Parish Knights of Columbus functions; Von Liebig Art Center Camp Counselor; Habitat for Humanity; and Neumann Immokalee Service Trip.
Bishop Verot Catholic High School
Summa Cum Laude: Isabella Rodriguez
University of Notre Dame
13 AP and 16 honors classes; Activities: NHS; Life Hacks Club; Academic Quiz Team; Model UN; National Merit Scholarship Program Commended Student; National Hispanic Recognition Program Scholar; Florida Bright Futures Academic Scholarship; SWFL Community Foundation Thomson Memorial Scholarship.
Summa Cum Laude: Esaan Azizi
University of Florida
13 AP and 17 honors classes; French Club; Mu Alpha Theta Math Honor Society; Life Hacks Club, NHS; Catholics in Action; Academic Quiz Team; WHO (We Help Others) Club, National Hispanic Recognition Program Scholar, Florida Bright Futures Academic Scholarship, Regis College Presidential Catholic Scholarship, Resident Grant & Sisters of St. Joseph Merit Scholarship, University of Florida Presidential Scholarship.
Top Athlete: Tayli Filla
University of South Florida
Softball, co -captain, shortstop, part of 2016 4A State Championship Team, 1st Team All-Area Fort Myers News-Press. Career .394 batting average, .485 on base percentage, 119 hits, 72 RBI’s, 107 runs.
Top Athlete: Joseph Mera
Football, defensive end, co-captain, 4A Defensive Player of the Year, All-Area Honorable Mention & Rotary South All-Star; basketball forward; weightlifting; and Track & Field. Career 141 tackles, 17.6 tackles for loss, five forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
Service: Mallory Volz
University of Miami
Summa Cum Laude and with an Honors Diploma as a member of Scholars Academy; Catholic Athletes for Christ; Spanish NHS; Mu Alpha Theta Math Honor Society, Pre-Med Club, NHS, Student Ambassador, Softball. Service work: with the Scholars Academy and National Honors Society assisted or directed numerous activities in support of the Salvation: volunteer at HealthPark Medical Center; Camp Leader Softball Summer Camp; City of Palms Basketball Tournament Concession; Freshman Retreat; Activities Assistant Volunteer, Gulf Coast Retirement Village.
Service: David Thompson
University of Notre Dame
Summa Cum Laude and with an Honors Diploma as a member of our Scholars Academy; NHS; Student Ambassador; Chess Club; Cross Country; Track & Field. Volunteer Service:
Feed The Homeless, assistant; AFCAAM of Catholic Charities, tutoring; City of Palms Basketball Tournament Volunteer; Special Olympics Volunteer, Assistant Athlete – personally led two athletes to a total of three gold medals and one silver medal over the course of two years in Special Olympics.
Rhodora J. Donahue Academy
Valedictorian: Clare Williams
University of Notre Dame
Graduate of distinction for academic performance, a number of clubs and sports and co-captain of varsity basketball; National Merit Scholarship Finalist; National Honor Society; completed 23-page thesis on the economic implications and ethics of planned obsolescence and the consumer mindset.
Salutatorian: Claire Guernsey
Graduates of distinction with broad academic achievement, service, and involvement in various types of activities; acting in Shakespeare; volunteering in Immokalee; coaching middle school basketball.
Top Athlete: Kaila Joyce
John Carrol University
Summa cum laude graduate; basketball, volleyball, and softball; Shakespeare productions.
Top Athlete: Kenneth Longley
Ave Maria University
Graduate of distinction for outstanding athletics. football captain, basketball and baseball; men’s acapella group, and lead role of Shakespeare production.
Service: Joseph Dauphinais
An exemplary model of service during his tenure: mission trip in 2016 to Nicaragua interacting with Nicaraguan youth and give them joy; volunteered in Naples coaching a little league baseball team; played in multiple varsity sports and received multiple awards throughout his years in high school.
The final group of Diocesan Catholic High School graduates for 2018 received their diplomas and ceremoniously commenced the next chapter in their lives.
The graduates of the Rhodora J. Donahue Academy in Ave Maria first took part in a Baccalaureate Mass celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane and other priests in the Ave Maria Parish Church.
During the Mass, Bishop Dewane noted that each had been given a gift of a Catholic Education that has fundamentally formed who they are as men and women of God. With a support system of parents, faculty and staff of the Academy, the Parish and the Diocese, the graduates are part of something much greater than themselves and as a result will never be alone in the world.
The graduation ceremony immediately followed the Baccalaureate Mass. Each of the 15 graduates will be going on to college. The group combined to earn $4.05 million in scholarship offers.
Valedictory Address was given by Clare Marie Williams who spoke about the blessings she received by being able to go to a Catholic School. The opportunity provided her with the chance to grow in her faith and gives her great comfort in the knowledge that she is supported by her family, friends, and the Lord. in all that she does.
The diplomas were presented by Academy Principal Dr. Dan Guernsey; Father Cory Mayer, Ave Maria Parish Pastor; and Dr. Kristy Swol, Diocese of Venice Director of Edcuation.