ELYRIA - Just like the well-rounded education they received in four years of school, the graduating class of 2009 at Elyria Catholic High School were sent out into the world with a well-rounded commencement featuring pearls of wisdom from each other, their principal and a cardiologist who tended to the poor with Mother Teresa.
Sunday afternoon`s commencement in the school`s familiar circular coliseum - the earliest graduation ceremonies to be held among 20 area high schools - saw several hundred parents, siblings, grandparents and others pack sets of bleachers rising up from both sides of the gym floor, where the 121 grads sat, young women in white gowns, young men in dark green robes.
As many in the crowds fanned themselves in the warm, still air, they listened attentively as Dr. Paul A. Wright, a cardiologist and 1972 Notre Dame graduate, spoke of how the things that are so often used to measure a person`s worth and achievements amount to very little in the end.
"We are not judged by the house we live in, the cars we have, the money we make. Rather, we are judged on how we love, and how we serve humanity."
The Youngstown native, who has performed charitable work with missionaries for 17 years, is behind a "Poorest of the Poor" project that last year sent 50,000 pounds of clothing to Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Wright began clothing collections for people in extremely poor countries after meeting famed humanitarian Mother Teresa in the 1990s. Wright exhorted the class to always have respect for the dignity of all people "because God is within that humanity."
Families, faculty and students applauded and laughed as they listened to pre-recorded words of each student, who stood as their voice came over the gym`s public address system. Many thanked their parents, families and friends for their love, support and years of sacrifice on their behalf. Others used the time to spout some humor-filled philosophy. These nuggets ranged from "loose lips sink ships," and "life`s a garden - dig it," to "don`t judge others unless you walk a mile in their shoes. Then if you criticize them, you`re a mile away and you have their shoes."
One comment that elicited a big laugh was: "duct tape is like the Force. There`s a light side and a dark side, and it pulls the universe together."
The class of 2009 was obviously serious when it had to be, as students were the recipients of scholarships and awards to colleges, universities totaling more than $5.6 million, according to Principal Andrew G. Krakow, who recalled the grads as some of the school`s most talented, likable and charismatic in his years at the school. As he stood watching graduating seniors playing a game during a traditional year-end outing, Krakow said he genuinely felt the students` compassion and caring nature. "There was no nuance, not one, of any person feeling unwanted out there."
Krakow urged students to not let their warmth and empathy for others disappear as they begin to experience life in a bigger, more diverse world. "Never be responsible for letting anyone feel this horrible disease of being unwanted."
Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or firstname.lastname@example.org.