UPPER PROVIDENCE — The auditorium was jam-packed Wednesday morning as 203 members of the Pope John Paul II High School Class of 2019 filed in to receive their diplomas.

The soon-to-be graduates marched in to resounding applause and the familiar strains of “Pomp and Circumstance,” with the boys sporting black robes and the girls wearing white robes, striding up onto the stage to be seated for a ceremony that kicked off with the senior members of the Rhapsody Show Choir leading everyone in a rendition of the National Anthem.

Following an invocation by Christopher Allen and opening words by Principal Rev. Brian Kean noted in his opening remarks that  

Salutatorian Zachary Murtaugh and valedictorian Thomas Heibeck gave impassioned speeches about owing their future direction to their years at Pope John Paul II.

In her keynote address, Sister Maureen Lawrence McDermott, superintendent of Secondary Schools for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, said that she is not easily impressed but that the accomplishments of the class of 2019 left her in awe.

“Wow is all I can say,” she told the graduates.

Guidance director Megan Sullivan noted that 97 percent of the Class of 2019 will be continuing their education at colleges and universities as close as Ursinus College and as far away as Waseda University in Japan.

“Some of the schools graduates will be attending include Alvernia University, Appalachian State University, Auburn University, Bennington College, Clemson University, Drexel University, Dickinson College, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Immaculata University, Kutztown University, Lafayette College, Lehigh University, Michigan State University, Oberlin College of Arts and Sciences, Pennsylvania State University, Pepperdine University, Rowan University, Rutgers University, Saint Joseph’s University, Savannah College of Art and Design, Texas A& M University, Thaddeus Stevens University, The Catholic University of America, The University of Notre Dame,” Sullivan added.

“Sitting before you are future business leaders, educators, doctors, lawyers, military professionals, nurses, performers, politicians, writers, and many with opportunities not yet discovered. They will be studying such majors as: Accounting, business administration, digital media, education, engineering, finance, graphic design, health sciences, history, kinesiology, marketing, nursing, political science, physical therapy, psychology, and more.”

Sullivan further pointed out that 143 members of the Class of 2019 were awarded 694 scholarships and grants totaling “31 million, 257 thousand, 920 dollars and 19 cents. Two members of the Class of 2019 will be serving our beautiful country as they join the United States Coast Guard and the United States Marine Corps,” Sullivan said.

In his closing remarks, school President Jason Bozzone invited  “an international student from our graduating Class of 2019” to help him out, he said.

“Ms. JiSoo Park. JiSoo is from South Korea and she, like many of her international classmates, have culturally enriched our school with their global perspective.

From the first day she arrived she jumped right into the American culture involving herself in Robotics, Mathletes, Tennis, Community Service Corps, International Club, the student ambassador program and Pantheron … just to name a few. I remember when I first met JiSoo during my first year at PJP,” Bozzone recalled. “It was at the tennis courts. She was with her host parents and introduced herself as Lina- her American name. I asked what her God-given name was and she said, JiSoo. That day I promised that I would always call her by her family name. JiSoo has truly embraced the PJP experience that transcends friendships both here and abroad.”

While the girl’s parents could not be at the ceremony, Bozzone said they were watching the proceedings from South Korea through the live stream feed.

“The good news, JiSoo is supported today by her American Host parents, Mr. and Mrs. Sugars. They have provided the care and love necessary for JiSoo to have a memorable high school experience,” he added, asking Mr. and Mrs. Sugars to stand up in the audience.

The couple drove JiSoo to Villanova University four days a week to fulfill her diocesan scholar requirements, Bozzone told the crowd.

“They hosted a Thanksgiving meal where both international and domestic students attended; they took JiSoo to visit colleges in Florida, Virginia and Pennsylvania. They even traveled to South Korea last summer to visit JiSoo’s parents and family members to ensure that their daughter was in loving hands. These are just a handful of things JiSoo’s host parents did and continue to do, to support JiSoo in her pursuit to successfully complete high school and to excel in higher education. But the greatest attribute that Mr. and Mrs. Sugars provide JiSoo and what JiSoo has provided her host parents is unconditional love, respect and gratitude for one another, their families and all who come into contact with them.

This is just one family’s example of the many examples each and every one of our PJP families do each and every day. You provide the support and care for your student as well as their friends/classmates. This is what makes PJP such a special, caring, loving and nurturing place,” Bozzone said, adding that JiSoo would be attending Lehigh University, working on a double major in Computer Science/Business and Finance.

Finally, after acknowledging the rich legacy behind Pope John Paul II with St. Matthew’s, St. Patrick's,  Bishop  Kenrick, Archbishop Kennedy and Kennedy-Kenrick, Bozzone said he was going to do his best to leave the Class of 2019 with some reflective thoughts to remember the sustainable impact they will have as they enter the next chapter of their  lives.

“Graduates, just four years ago, many of you were here in this auditorium with your family attending New Student Convocation. On that day we welcomed you and your families with open arms and caring hearts into the PJP community knowing that our Patron Saint Pope John Paul would always be at your side. As you look back upon your high school years you can identify the many times our dedicated faculty challenged, yet supported you in your learning, development and growth. Your teachers have left an indelible mark on your lives forever.”

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