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COVID restrictions held down the size of the crowd, but not its enthusiasm as Leo High School celebrated its 92nd commencement ceremony at St. Margaret of Scotland Church on Sunday, May 9—Mother’s Day.

A car caravan consisting of parents, alums and friends of the school traveled from Leo to St. Margaret’s and saluted the graduates as they marched into church for the ceremony, which was live-streamed to big-screen TV monitors in the parking lot for those without tickets.

Mother’s Day graduation is a strong and beautiful Leo tradition. This year’s was enhanced when graduates Damen Ward and Emmanuel Wright read poems thanking their mothers for all they had done in getting their sons to this point in their lives. When they finished, each graduate presented his mother with a framed copy  of a Mother’s Day poem he had written.

A recurring theme of the ceremony was praise for the perseverance the Class of 2021 demonstrated in completing their Leo journey. COVID cost them nearly half their junior-year activities, and disrupted every aspect of their senior year.

“But think of this as the conclusion of a preparatory phase,” Principal Shaka Rawls told the graduates. “Your real life’s journey begins now.”

Damen Ward, who will attend Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, posted the highest GPA among the 2021 graduates and was the class valedictorian. Sammy Pack, bound for Tennessee State University, was No. 2 in the academic rankings and spoke as the salutatorian.

Other graduates honored for their achievements:

The Andrew J. McKenna Gold Medal for Leadership: Jalen Johnson

The Thomas and Mary Owens Gold Medal for Mathematics: Pierre Miller

The Michael L. Thompson Gold Medal for Music: Chandler McMahan

The Bishop John R. Gorman Gold Medal for Religion: Joshua Carey

The Donald F. Flynn Gold Medal for History: Trajon Davis

The Dr. James J. Ahern Gold Medal for Science: Damen Ward

The Stafford L. Hood Gold Medal for English: Emmanuel Wright

The Br. James Glos Gold Medal for Foreign Language: Kobe Roberts 

The Frank W. Considine Gold Medal for Social Justice: Damen Ward

The William J. Koloseike Gold Medal for Athletics: Ri’chard Coleman