On May 16, the Saint John Paull II Academy class of 2020 received their diplomas and congratulations from teachers and administrators during a graduation procession on campus. To view a slideshow of the procession, click on arrow over the image above. (SCREENSHOT)
In recent weeks, the Facebook, Twitter and Instagram news feeds of John Carroll High School, Cardinal Newman High School and Saint John Paul II Academy have been flooded with photos and videos showcasing graduating seniors in profile features, graduate parades, “honk for senior” signs, athlete highlights and video messages from teachers and lower classmen. These thoughtful and heartfelt deeds—although unable to take the place of walking across the stage towards a diploma—are cherished by graduates throughout the diocese.
In the same vein, the Diocese of Palm Beach would like to honor the senior class of 2020 through a short series of class profiles. The Florida Catholic asked the top graduates to answer reflection questions on behalf of their class. In this issue, we honor Saint John Paul II Class of 2020. Below is what Tommy Haag, valedictorian, and Matthew Mandaro, salutatorian, had to say about graduating during the COVID-19 pandemic.
How have you stayed in touch with your classmates during the quarantine?
The main ways we have been able to stay in touch with friends is through car meet-ups, Zoom calls, using FaceTime throughout the school day and meeting virtually through video games.
Did you celebrate prom or graduation in any special way while practicing social distancing?
We celebrated graduation by distributing front yard signs to our fellow classmates celebrating their accomplishments and showcase their senior portraits. To celebrate prom, some people dressed up for pictures and had an “at-home prom.”
How have you maintained your spirituality with your classmates during this time?
Many of us have watched the Mass through livestream and maintained an active prayer life. Our school has helped us maintain our spirituality by posting daily Gospel reflections online and by holding online weekly rosary sessions.
Looking back, what would you say is the biggest accomplishment or important moment for your senior class this year?
Our senior class’s most important moment was our Karios retreat. It really brought us together and gave us the opportunity to bond just before parting ways for the year. It was a time of spiritual reflection, while still having fun with our classmates.
What is the most important thing you’ve learned from this time away from your school? Was there anything positive that came out of this di?cult time?
Staying in touch with your friends is really important for being happy and healthy. Some positives that have come out of this time is that we all have been able to appreciate life, family and friends more and take less for granted.
Do you have any words of wisdom for the next class of seniors?
Make the most of your time at Saint John Paul II Academy, it goes by quickly! Also work with determination and passion, and make sure that you spend time with the people you love. Don’t take anything for granted.
If you could use a quote from a religious figure as a motto, what would that be for the class of 2020?
I think this quote from Mother Teresa says it well: “Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”
A Word from the Principal
When asked what word comes to mind in describing the Saint John Paul II Academy class of 2020, Ed Bernot, principal, said, "The words that come to mind when I think of the class of 2020 are ‘enthusiastic resilience.’ This class is very special to me because they were freshmen when I arrived here four years ago. They have been through many tough times—from the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas (only 10 miles from us) to the pandemic/virtual end to their high school careers. - They have always chosen to embrace every situation with enthusiasm and positivity, and I consider myself blessed to be their principal."