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Sunday, May 8 was a festive, joyous day to remember for Leo High School’s graduating class of 2022, as well as their mothers as Leo upheld a longstanding tradition of graduating on Mother’s Day before a full house at St. Margaret of Scotland Church.

It was an especially festive and joyous day for two standout members of the class, whose many contributions over four years were acknowledged and honored. 

In his Valedictorian address, Cameron Cleveland cited the obstacles he and his classmates overcame to reach graduation in the midst of a COVID pandemic that affected every aspect of their high school careers. Classroom success, basketball triumphs, community-boosting service projects … all seemed even more meaningful, achieved as they were against a COVID backdrop that disrupted their lives in so many ways.

Ranked No. 1 in his class for each of his four years at Leo, Cleveland earned the Valedictorian designation for finishing with the highest GPA within the Class of 2022. Befitting the two-year captain of Leo’s Catholic League championship basketball team, he also received the William J. Koloseike Gold Medal for athletics, as well as the Thomas and Mary Owens Gold Medal for excellence in mathematics and the Andrew J. McKenna Gold Medal for leadership initiatives.

Cleveland is headed for Morehouse College in Atlanta on an academic scholarship.

Oliver Brown Jr. —known as PJ around Leo—was the Class of 2022 Salutatorian by a razor-thin margin. He echoed Cleveland in noting that COVID-induced challenges brought his classmates closer and gave them a greater appreciation of high school experiences they might otherwise have taken for granted or even missed altogether.

Brown, who as “PJ the Deejay” was the MC for numerous Leo events over his four years, also received the Stafford L. Hood Gold Medal for excellence in English and the Frank W. Considine Gold Medal for social justice. He is headed for Southern University in Baton Rouge, La., on scholarship for baseball and academics. 

Mother’s Day set a delightful tone for the ceremony. Eachgraduate presented his mom with a framed copy of a Mother’s Day poem he had written to complete his Senior English project for Mr. Titus Redmond’s class. The world-renowned Leo Choir’s four-song set featured stirring solos by senior Robert Smith (“It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye”) and sophomore Theauntae Jones (“Until I See You Again”), as well as a lively rendition of “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now” that brought the crowd to its feet to join in. The song was a perfect metaphor for the current state of Leo High School: There ain’t no stoppin’ us. Our best days are yet to come.

And in remarks that encapsulated the last four years, Principal Shaka Rawls reminded the graduates that the resolve they displayed in committing to their education as COVID upended their lives would serve them well as they move forward in life … as true Leo Men. 

The list of honorees from the Class of 2022:

  • The William J. Koloseike Gold Medal for Athletics—Cameron Cleveland
  • The Bishop John R. Gorman Gold Medal for Religion—James E’Akels
  • The Michael L. Thompson Gold Medal for Music—Jacori Elam
  • The Donald F. Flynn Gold Medal for History—David Gross
  • The Dr. James J. Ahern Gold Medal for Science—Wellington Porter
  • The Thomas & Mary Owens Gold Medal for Mathematics—Cameron Cleveland
  • The Dr. Stafford L. Hood Gold Medal for English—Oliver Brown Jr.
  • The Brother James Glos Gold Medal for Foeign Language—Jakolbi Wilson
  • The Frank W. Considine Gold Medal for Social Justice—Oliver Brown Jr.
  • The Andrew J. McKenna Gold Medal for Leadership—Cameron Cleveland