As the 11 month school year comes to a close, the eighth grade students at St. James got ready to say “goodbye, see you soon” as they move on to high school. The graduation ceremonies began with a meaningful Baccalaureate mass on Friday, June 15th, after the last day of academic classes. During the Mass, students were given a blessing by the faculty and staff during a special “Service of the Light.” Each staff member lit a candle to give to a graduate, and laid their hands on the graduates, a symbol of support as they moved on to a new chapter of their lives. The service ended with the hymn, “This Little Light of Mine” a class favorite.
This year’s graduation was unique for several reasons. For one, the students of St. James walked across the stage not only when their name was being announced, but also recognized by a teacher or mentor who they shared a significant relationship with throughout their time at St. James. As each student received their diploma, the adult reflected on their growth throughout their years at St. James, sharing stories of their personal development. These special messages showed the strength of the student-teacher-mentor connections and the power of community that St. James prides itself to have with its students.
The graduation ceremony included an Invocation from Father Andrew Kellner and an introduction from the Head of School, Dave Kasievich. St James School Board Member, Dana Brown, gave a tremendously moving speech about the impact of her family’s values on education. Dana grew up with six other siblings, raised by a father who was a son of a slave and only completed the 8th grade. Her father valued education tremendously, and Dana was impacted by her education in an extremely meaningful way, a way that has shaped her life and enabled her to speak profoundly about the subject of education.
For the first time in the school’s history, St. James recognized two valedictorians, Ayniah Quinerly and Micah Pinckney, who both finished with a 4.0 GPA. Both of the valedictorians gave speeches during the ceremony. Micah commented in her speech, “I was proud of the both of us, but more than that, I was proud of the whole class.”
Another meaningful moment was when Father Mullen presented the Founder’s Cup Award. This year’s recipients represent St. James School in all aspects of the Agape Upper School Culture. They both show that they are adaptable, grateful, aware, patient and excellent. Taki Leonard and Mackenzie Austin are both wonderful ambassadors of the school, leaders to their peers and lower school students and are ready to take on high school.
After awards and diplomas, each graduate received a special backpack from Christ Church Media, PA, packed with materials that they will need to succeed in high school, including a graphing calculator.
To close out the ceremony, Frank Mitchell, from the Opera Philadelphia Chorus, sang “Witness”, a reflection song about bringing Jesus into your life’s journey.
The celebration continued after the ceremony, and the attendants enjoyed a delicious meal prepared by Chef Deborah Anthony. Graduation day was a truly joyous occasion, celebrating the success and growth of the fourteen St. James students.
The fourteen students became the fourth graduating class of St. James:
Mackenzie Austin Cristo Rey Philadelphia High School
Makiyah Blackwood West Catholic Preparatory High School
Jerome Brothers Boys’ Latin of Philadelphia Charter School
Cherrelle Charlton Mercy Career & Technical High School
Tyshay Franklin West Catholic Preparatory High School
Sakhya Harris Little Flower Catholic High School for Girls
Jayla Hill Cristo Rey Philadelphia High School
Tanasia Jackson-Hayes Cristo Rey Philadelphia High School
Darlene Jason West Catholic Preparatory High School
Taki Leonard Boys’ Latin of Philadelphia Charter School
Micah Pinckney Cristo Rey Philadelphia High School
Ayniah Quinerly Cristo Rey Philadelphia High School
Nia Smith Cristo Rey Philadelphia High School
Selena Spruel West Catholic Preparatory High School