To paraphrase CBS Sports broadcaster Jim Nantz: A Leo High School graduation is a ceremony unlike any other. And the Mother’s Day send-off for the Class of 2019 was no exception.
A gray sky and gloomy, threatening weather were no match for the excitement that pervaded the stately old church of St. Margaret of Scotland as the graduates filed in on Sunday, May 12. They were resplendent in their white dinner jackets, accompanied by the proud faculty, staff and administrators who have been their guides on the journey they have taken the last four years.
St. Margaret’s Pastoral Associate Pete Doyle, a much loved former principal, teacher and coach at Leo, began the proceedings with a prayer, asking God to bless the young Leo Men as they transition from one phase of their lives into the next.
Dr. Lloyd Walton, a former Marquette University basketball star, used his commencement address to remind the grads that resilience and determination are the paths around any obstacle they might encounter in life, save for those they needlessly place before themselves. Walton cited his own example, explaining that he’d been an indifferent, reluctant student until he realized that education was the key to success in life after basketball. Stirred by that realization, he went on to earn a doctorate in Organizational Leadership and a job as a career counselor for the NBA Players Association.
Walton also coyly mentioned dropping “a career-high 43 on Leo” as a standout point guard at Mount Carmel in the early 1970’s.
Fred Cleveland, Leo’s answer to Walton as a two-time All-State point guard, recalled warm memories of times shared with his classmates in his Salutatorian’s address. Elijah Lamptey was equally compelling as the Valedictorian, echoing both Doyle and Walton in describing the transition from one phase of life to the next and emphasizing the importance of avoiding self-imposed obstacles.
In a special presentation, Jose Gonzalez, father of 2019 graduate Marco Gonzalez, was awarded varsity letters in football and wrestling to acknowledge the countless hours he has devoted to assisting with those two sports. “Mr. Gonzalez,” Coach Mike Holmes said, “spends more time at Leo than most of our students.”
Finally, Principal Shaka Rawls shook down some thunder. He explained the tradition of Mother’s Day graduation: Leo wishes to acknowledge the moms for all they do in raising their sons, and thank them for entrusting those sons to Leo. He instructed the grads to turn and face the crowd and thank their mothers for the irreplaceably vital roles they played in their boys’ development into Leo Men.
Before diplomas were awarded, 10 seniors were singled out for special recognition:
• The William J. Koloseike Award for Athletics: DaChaun Anderson
• The Bishop John R. Gorman Gold Medal for Religion: Marquel Elem
• The Michael L. Thompson Gold Medal for Music: Devale Alsup
• The Donald F. Flynn Gold Medal for History: Fred Cleveland II
• The Dr. James J. Ahern Gold Medal for Science: Andre Garland
• The Thomas and Mary Owens Gold Medal for Mathematics: Jokon Cousett
• The Stafford L. Hood Gold Medal for English: Cameren Hanks
• The Br. James Glos Award for Foreign Language: Elijah Lamptey
• The Frank W. Considine Gold Medal for Social Justice: Myles Thomas
• The Andrew J. McKenna Gold Medal for Leadership Excellence: Jalen Harris
As the diplomas were rewarded, friends and families of the graduates celebrated with appropriate jubilation. The pure pride and unbridled joy in the building was something to behold, particularly during a rousing rendition of the Leo Fight Song that brought the alumni in the house to the front of the church to join the graduates in closing the show.
It’s only fitting that a Leo graduation is a ceremony unlike any other. Because Leo High School is a school unlike any other.