Saturday, June 2, 2018 marked Saint Joseph Notre Dame High School’s 136th commencement exercises. Family and friends gathered on the joyful, 80-degree day to celebrate the 97 graduating seniors who took the stage as Pilots and concluded the commencement ceremony as SJND Alumni. The ceremony included remarks by Principal Ken Jennings and St. Joseph Basilica Pastor Father George Alengadan, as well as inspiring speeches by Commencement Speaker Miki Reynolds ’98 and Valedictorian Ozi Amuzie ’18.
At the Baccalaureate Mass on May 31, Salutatorian Joseph Picchi ’18, who will study Biomedical Engineering at UCLA in the fall, took the graduating class on a trip down memory lane, tracing freshman through senior year’s most memorable moments and reflecting on their biggest takeaways as Pilots:
“At SJND, we’ve learned more than just academics; we’ve also learned about how we can contribute to a warm and faith-filled community, how we can create a loving family amongst those we interact with on a daily basis, and how we can make a difference in the lives of all those we meet. We’ve learned to serve others in new ways, and we can never forget the importance of sharing our gifts beyond the SJND community...And even though we’ll no longer sit together in the same classes or on the same bleachers, the memories we’ve made here will never perish. Though our time as classmates has come to end, we will always remember each other in our hearts and minds as friends, companions, and perhaps most importantly, as brothers and sister of an inseparable family. The friends we’ve made will always be there for us, and the family we’ve formed will never fail to love us.”
SJND Commencement Speaker Alumna Miki Reynolds ’98, who now lives in Los Angeles and serves as Executive Director of GRID110, a startup accelerator she co-founded, used her unique personal and professional experiences to discuss today, tomorrow and the future with the graduates:
“Let’s start with the Future: I suppose in a way, I come from the future. Your future. 20 years ago, I was sitting exactly where you are today at my own graduation. I got straight A’s, was a student athlete and headed to my dream school: UCLA. But the point here is not to boast about my accolades. It’s to fill you in on a little secret: I had no idea what I was going to do next...Over the course of these 20 years (and even as recently as this week), I’ve had moments of uncertainty, insecurity and self-doubt. What I want you to know is that this is perfectly ok. If you don’t know what your future looks like right now, it’s ok. And even if you do, it will mostly likely change. Because you’re going change, and grow, and experience new perspectives…and adapt to life’s always curving and rarely linear path. Because that’s what happens when you are fully living your life. There’s no Waze or Google maps to guide you; it’s you continually deciding whether to go left, right or continue straight.”
She also shared her many hopes for the Class of 2018:
“I hope you make mistakes and embrace failure. This may be contrary to what you have done growing up, but hear me out. They say that failure is success in progress. It’s not something to fear, but a part of the process. Every fall teaches you how to stay up a little longer next time...I hope you take risks. Some of the things I regret most were not taking chances on things that made me uncomfortable: to study abroad, to speak my mind, to leap with uncertainty. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. I promise you, it’s worth it...I hope you are kind. To each other, but most of all to yourselves. We are often our harshest critics in times of failure or when things don’t pan out the way we want them to. And we fault ourselves for not being enough. But a little kindness really does go a long way. Toss it around like confetti...I hope you do the things that scare you. They say that bravery is not the absence of fear, but rather feeling the fear, the doubt, the insecurity and deciding that something else is much more important. So go out there and find the courage to be brave.
Finally, Valedictorian Ozi Amuzie ’18, who will pursue pre-med studies at the University of Pennsylvania, dissected what it means to be a Pilot and encouraged her classmates to remember three very distinct components - to love, be yourself, and serve others:
“Pilots are welcoming, they're trailblazers, they're altruists. However, one key component makes all these characteristics that of an SJND Pilot. And that is LOVE. We have grown to love ourselves as confident open-minded leaders who have no fear of standing out. We have been inspired by Christ to love our neighbors, welcome them with open arms, and help them get to their destination. Wherever you end up in the next few months, make the decision to take this love with you and make any place feel like home. Make decisions that are the best for you and that will help you grow as a person. Choose to welcome the stranger and be unapologetically yourself…[And] as we continue to be our individual selves beyond today, let us continue with our school’s mission and commit ourselves to serve others in any way that we can. Especially, when you set foot onto a college campus: remember you are not just studying for your own future. You are studying to save patients. You are studying to save a family's mother from unjust incarceration. You are studying to change the culture of our society. You’re studying to save the environment. You're studying to improve international relations. You're studying so technology progresses. To help us learn from the past. No matter where you are or what your goals are, your decision to study will change the world.”
In addition to receiving their diplomas, the following graduates were also awarded special honors during the ceremony:
- Principal's Leadership Award - Jordan Fernandez
- Spirit of the Pilot Award - Kayla Nunn
- Inspired by Christ Award - Chloe Campion
- Fides et Caritas Award - Isabel Luna
- SJND Award for Excellence - Joseph Picchi
- Valedictorian - Ozi Amuzie
- Salutatorian - Joseph Picchi
Congratulations, Class of 2018! We look forward to watching you soar in college and beyond!
Click here to view photos from SJND Graduation Day 2018 (SJND will email the full Graduation Ceremony album to graduates and their families).
Click here to watch the 2018 Commencement Ceremony.
The Class of 2018 was accepted to over 150 colleges and universities. In total, $6.9 million in gift aid was offered to our graduating seniors. Learn more here.