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By Dan McGrath

The weather was cool, damp and threatening, but it couldn’t dim the spirit in and around the church as Leo High School held its 94th commencement celebration for the Class of 2023 at St. Margaret of Scotland on Sunday, May 14 – Mother’s Day.

Forty-two seniors received diplomas before a packed house of family, friends and relatives. The sheer joy and exultation that greeted the announcement of each graduate’s name was a reminder of what a truly special occasion this was.

Mrs. Tiffany Harston, Leo’s guidance counselor, did a splendid job as MC for the program. President Dan McGrath and Principal Shaka Rawls commended the class for dealing with COVID’s many challenges as effectively as they did in making it through to graduation. The world-renowned Leo Choir performed. Each senior presented his mother with a Mother’s Day poem he had composed as a Senior English writing project for Mr. Redmond’s class.

But, in an unusual twist,  the highlight of the day was the speeches.

Matthew Hernandez displayed the poise and confidence he said he was grateful for acquiring during his Leo journey, one that saw him become an honor student, class Salutatorian, National Honor Society member and all-conference baseball player.

Esai Jacinto said he never would have had the nerve to deliver a speech to a packed house when he entered Leo as a nervous little freshman, not knowing anyone and not sure he belonged. But he not only was accepted, he was challenged to become all he could be at Leo: Valedictorian, honor roll, National Honor Society, varsity wrestler, four-year baseball starter. 

Esai grew emotional as he thanked his family, his friends, his teachers, his classmates and his coaches—especially Coach Mike Anderson—for helping him find the path to success at Leo. Several people were seen dabbing at their eyes as he went down the list.

In an amazing display of personal connection, Principal Rawls used his speech to recall an interaction or an anecdote about each senior in the graduating class. Nothing pro forma; every message was personalized to let the young man know he’d been recognized and appreciated as a Leo student.

“And now you’re going out into the world as a Leo Man,” Mr. Rawls said. “Make us proud.”

Jacinto and Tim Durr took home two gold medals apiece as Senior Award recipients. The complete list:

• William J. Koloseike Gold Medal for Athletics: Kevin Jackson
• Bishop John R. Gorman Gold Medal for Religion: Jonathan Agee
• Michael L. Thompson Gold Medal for Music: Timothy Durr
• Donald F. Flynn Gold Medal for History: Matthew Hernandez
• Dr. James J. Ahern Gold Medal for Science: Timothy Durr
• Thomas and Mary Owens Gold Medal for Mathematics: Thomas Sims
• Stafford L. Hood Gold Medal for English: Esai Jacinto
• Br. James Glos Gold Medal for Foreign Language: Dorion Woods
• Frank W. Considine Gold Medal for Social Justice: Christopher Robinson
• Andrew J. McKenna Gold Medal for Leadership: Esai Jacinto 

Congratulations to all the members of the Class of 2023 and their families.

And many thanks to the faculty, staff and parent volunteers who put together a spectacular day for Leo.

We’ll do it again next year … and for many years to come.