St. Mary Star of the Sea School’s graduation ceremony was a bittersweet affair on Friday. For the six graduates who are moving on to high school, it was a rite of passage to be celebrated with pomp and circumstance, prayers, and cake.
For the school’s remaining 105 students, faculty and staff, it was the end of an era as the ceremony also marked the 120-year-old school’s .
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Eighth-grade homeroom teacher, New London native Megan Gaffney struggled to keep her tears at bay as she hugged her students for the last
time. “I’m so happy for them but it’s sad that they will be the last class that graduates,” she said.
“It’s very sad,” agreed Angela Rivera, whose 14-year-old son Anthony was among the graduates.
“I have so many wonderful memories of our school,” said salutatorian Saverio Orlando in his opening speech. “St. Mary School has taught me a great deal over the years. We are a loving and caring community, and we have been taught to be accepting of others regardless of where they are from, or what language they speak. We accept them because they become part of our family.”
Many members of the school’s extended but tight-knit family have been following the news of the school’s fight to stay open. Valedictorian Claudia Cruz said she’d been hearing from people scattered far and wide via Facebook.
Earlier this week, graduates of the class of 1984 stopped by for a final tour and were duly impressed to see how far their alma mater had come, praising the science, technology, engineering and math program and the program that was launched just this year.
As it stands now, however, the Norwich diocese has made the decision to close the financially-struggling school and nothing short of a miracle can save it.
“We were the total package,” said Principal Anne Tortora. “It’s unfortunate to see a school like ours close. It’s a great school.”
Tortora now has the sad task of closing up the school with only her “critters” - the school’s pet hamsters, guinea pigs, fish and hermit crabs - for company over the summer.
After that, she said, she’d like to dedicate herself to researching ways to keep other schools from closing. “Especially schools like ours that are geared to the poor and underserved,” she said.
Those sentiments were echoed by Cruz in her final message to her fellow students.
“My prayer is that you might just be the people we need to make sure that schools such as ours will never again face the possibility of closing. You can be that difference in our world,” she said. “Wherever your paths lead you, your home will always be within the heart of St. Mary Star of the Sea. The building is the shell, but the people who have come before you are its heart. The faculty and staff…they are its heart, too. When you think of them…when you think of us…you will be home.”
St. Mary Star of the Sea School’s Class of 2012
- Melanie Aguilar, Stella Maris Scholar
- Claudia Cruz, Valedictorian and Stella Maris Scholar
- Saverio Orlando, Salutatorian and Stella Maris Scholar
- Claritza Liranzo
- Anthony Rivera
- Josue Vasquez
Melanie Aguilar: Reading – Next in Merit; Handwriting – Excellence; Citizenship – Next in Merit
Claudia Cruz: Sneider Book Award & Scholarship; Religion – Excellence; Reading – Excellence; Language Arts – Excellence; Mathematics –Excellence; Science –Excellence; Social Studies – Excellence; Vocabulary – Excellence; Handwriting – Next in Merit
Claritza Liranzo: Citizenship – Excellence
Saverio Orlando: Religion – Next in Merit; Vocabulary – Next in Merit
Josue Vasquez: Science – Next in Merit