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Archbishop graduates and families enjoy outdoor ceremony

Fri, Jun 5th 2020 10:40 am

By KATE DAY SAGER Olean Times Herald

OLEAN — The rain held off as the handful of graduates of Archbishop Walsh Academy had one final time to gather and say goodbye during Thursday’s outdoor baccalaureate graduation ceremony at the campus.

Thomas Manko, principal and school president, said the five graduates had an opportunity to run through the ceremony Wednesday to ensure it flowed smoothly in front of families, friends and fellow undergraduates who gathered in vehicles in the parking lot of the school.

Manko asked those who exited their vehicles to watch the event to wear masks and maintain social distancing. The event included music and other amenities to add to the celebration.

“That we can do this outside just makes all the difference,” Manko said before the ceremony. “Our size works to our advantage … and (it’s nice) that they are just able to be with their friends one more time.”

Parents who were grateful for the ceremony included Bruce and Carole Laverty of Olean, whose son, Matthew Kirkwood, was among the graduates.

“This is special and (the graduates) had a little party before,” Carole Laverty said. “We’re going to go out to eat tomorrow.”

Rich and Liselle Esposito of Shinglehouse, Pa., whose son, Marcus, was named valedictorian, said they, too, were happy for the outdoor event.

“This versus doing nothing or doing it virtually — this is great,” Rich Esposito said. “We’ve got family here, but a couple of them couldn’t be here because of lockdown. My side of the family lives in Hudson Valley, so they’re not here. They’re older folks and just didn’t want to risk it.”

Liselle Esposito said those family members, however, were able to watch the celebration on Facebook live provided by the school.

Shelly and Bruce Schapp of Randolph were at the event to honor their twin grandchildren, Zane and Zaya Maybee.

“We wouldn’t miss it,” Shelley Schapp remarked, noting several family members were in attendance.

Dr. Jill Owens of Bradford, Pa. was at the event with family members to honor her son, R.J. Owens, who was among the graduates. Also in attendance was R.J.’s dad, Jim, as well as his aunt, Jody Murphy, and others.

“It’s nice that they’re doing something” in the way of a ceremony, Jill Owens said while watching from her vehicle.

During his address to the graduates, Manko said the graduates have done well this year, especially during the past three months when the campus was closed and students participated in distance learning due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“You were persistent, class, you never gave up,” Manko said. “You tried different ways to learn and problem-solve, especially over the past three months.”

During his valedictorian address, Esposito told his fellow graduates that whether they “have a good day or not, the choice is yours.

“Life is not about holding the grains of sand in your hand, which is an impossible task, but enjoying the feel of each grain as it sifts through your fingers,” he advised. “Everyday, every grain is another gift to be enjoyed.”

(Contact reporter Kate Day Sager at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter, @OTHKate)




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