God is already looking out for Leo’s Class of 2018.
Sunday, May 13, was cool, damp and blustery for much of the day, but a two-hour break in the weather occurred mid-afternoon, allowing the senior Lions to graduate and pose for pictures in ideal conditions before a full house at St. Margaret of Scotland Church.
Competition for valedictorian came down to the final day of final exams for the seniors’ final year. Antoine Wheeler emerged the winner; he used his speech to remind his fellow graduates that their road through life was just beginning.
Kenny Taggart, in his salutatorian address, took the class on a four-year trip down memory lane and assured the grads that they will always be Leo Men, part of the vast and embracing Leo Family.
Derrick Blakley, lead political reporter for CBS-2 Chicago, gave the commencement address and quickly won the crowd to his side, saying it was an honor to spend Mother’s Day with the Leo Family because it was the first Mother’s Day he’d be observing without his own mother, who died in November at age 92.
Blakley, a Hales Franciscan grad, grew up in Chatham and said he was happy to embrace Leo, grateful for the warm welcome he received.
“Back in the day,” he said, “if a Hales guy walked into a Leo event, it was on.”
Turning serious, Blakley recounted his own experience trying to establish himself in the white-dominated world of broadcasting. “There was Lester Holt and Bryant Gumbel and a few others,” he said, but when I turned on the television, I didn’t see many people who looked like me.”
There are more opportunities for African-Americans today, Blakley said, “but we owe it to those who have come before us and those who will come after us, and most of all we owe it to ourselves to take advantage of those opportunities by being the best we can be and succeeding despite the odds.”
Principal Shaka Rawls spoke of the special bond he felt with the Class of 2018 and thanked the graduates for being so welcoming when he took over as Leo principal in 2016. “Every time I was down about something not going the way I wanted, you guys would turn up in my office to check on me and make sure I knew you had my back,” he said. “I’m going to miss all of you.”
The following seniors received special recognition at the graduation ceremony:
William J. Koloseike Award for Athletics: Malcolm Bell
Bishop John R. Gorman Gold Medal for Religion: Antoine Wheeler
Michael L. Thompson Gold Medal for Music: Vidal Cargo
Donald F. Flynn Gold Medal for History: Esai Perez
Dr. James J. Ahern Gold Medal for Science: Cassuis Kurns
Thomas and Mary Owens Gold Medal for Mathematics: Gregory Coleman
Stafford L. Hood Gold Medal for English: James Foy
Br. James Glos Gold Medal for Foreign Language: Dejon Harris
Frank W. Considine Gold Medal for Social Justice: Chris Reno
Andrew J. McKenna Gold Medal for Leadership Excellence: Kenneth Taggart