Graduation day dawned bright and sunny, with some humidity in the air to remind everyone we are in Florida!
The students arrived early to practice the Propers for the Vigil of Pentecost, while the servers readied themselves for Mass. During Mass Fr. Duverger gave a sermon centered on gratitude and mercy – virtues which the students had demonstrated throughout the school year and would continue to do so from the example of Father’s words.
After processing from the church, everyone was able to enjoy a beautiful cake decorated in honor of the graduates. Before proceding to the outdoor "auditorium" for the distributionof certificates and diplomas, the students eagerly gathered their costumes and props that would be needed for the entertainment following.
While singing the school song of prayer to St. Thomas More, the students and the teachers processed to their places before the stage where Fathers Vernoy, Duverger, and Settimo, Mr. Sauer, and the guest speaker, Dr. Soha, were anticipating the ceremony.
Dr. Soha is vice-postulator for the cause of cannonization of the Florida Martyrs, whose sanctity of life created the theme of the school year. She addressed the students, particularly the two graduates, and related the story of two young female saints: St. Jacinta of Fatima and Antonia, one of the Florida Martyrs. The two graduates were STMA's first students to have completed from kindergarten their nine school years at the Academy – nine years which Dr. Soha noted could be their nine year novena prayer. Speaking of the mercy and charity displayed by these two saints, Dr. Soha encouraged the students to proceed courageously following their example. She asked the students questions during the speech, such as what prayer is and what must be done to gain heaven. Dr. Soha offered the graduates a book on the Florida Martyrs.
Following the Commencement Address, the Principal granted grade completion certificates as well as awards ranging from most avid reader to best historian, to master thespian and excellent Latin scholar. From an anonymous benefactor the Principal gifted beautiful leather bound Holy Bibles to the graduates and included the encouragement to read a little every day.
Entertainment followed opening with the 8th graders’ recitation of O Captain, My Captain by Walt Whitman, and the talented performances continued through the classes with insects, hats and ties, sickness, elephants, pigs and wolves, and a 5th-8th grade skit from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, where their dramatic talents were once again portrayed. Beautiful songs concluded the entertainment, including two songs in French which the children pronounced quite well.
Out of gratitude to the teachers the vice-principal presented each with a bouquet of flowers, beginning with Miss Emily Erlendson. Miss Erlendson joined St. Thomas More Academy this past year to begin her teaching career. She taught the 3rd and 4th grades.
Mrs. Monica Massett taught 1st and 2nd grades for two years. She will not be returning as the homeroom teacher in the Fall and will be truly missed.
Miss Mary Ranieri joined the St. Thomas More Academy family this school year as the Teacher’s Aide for the Kindergarten class. She has also been a valuable substitute teacher for all grades and the art teacher. She will not be returning in the Fall and will be sorely missed.
Mrs. Margie Simonton, intrepid Math and Geography teacher for the 5th- 6th graders and invaluable sewing help and teacher, received a beautiful bouquet in gratitude for her dedication.
Two teachers were specially thanked with unique gifts for their years of work and dedication: Miss Rita Angele and Mrs. Julie LoPresti.
Miss Rita Angele has been at the Academy for the past five years.
She began as the 5th-6th grade homeroom teacher, then took on the 5th through 8th grades. Not only has she taught the four older grades, but she has also expanded the drama department of the school, directing two play for each of the five years. Miss Angele also took charge of the music department, which included preparing the students for and directing them during Academy Sunday Masses. As Mr. Sauer noted, she has helped the students with upwards of fifty Masses. Her work over the years has included numerous fundraisers, preparing the students for the National Latin Exam, and organizing field trips and the class trips to Washington D.C. and Tallahassee. Her work is greatly appreciated and she will be missed. She received a charm bracelet with a thank you charm and the drama masks charm.
Mrs. Julie LoPresti has been a cornerstone of St. Thomas More Academy from day one.
She has been teaching the Kindergartners for the past nine years, providing them with the building blocks for their future. Her dedication has known no bounds, including teaching reading, cursive handwriting, and mathematics to all of the five-year-olds who have crossed her threshold. She was truly the “Mother-Teacher” of the school from the beginning. Words cannot express the gratitude felt by the priests, faculty, and families for the love and education she has given over the nine years of St. Thomas More Academy. She will be truly missed. The students were able to offer her a scrapbook containing memories from all of the years and testimonials from students, parents, teachers, and priests.
As the summer vacation began, Fr. Duverger reminded students and their families of the importance of reading to continue the development of their minds throughout the summer months. St. Thomas More Academy wishes everyone a wonderful summer vacation, looking forward to the Fall and new beginnings.