Members of the largest class in Bishop Ireton High School history received their diplomas at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., last Friday.
The 219 seniors have been accepted at 161 different institutions of higher learning. They will attend such schools as American University, Auburn University, East Carolina, Duquesne, the University of Hawaii-Manoa, The University of Maryland, University of North Carolina, Presbyterian College and Wheeling Jesuit University.
Ben Sprague was this year’s class valedictorian, and Kathleen O’Brien was the salutatorian They were selected for these honors by their classmates.
“To get your name on the ballot, you had to have a 3.5 grade point average or better and had to have good conduct,” Sprague said. “This honor was even more important because my classmates chose me. It is the friendships that I have made at Bishop Ireton that are so important to me. When I left grade school, I was a bit concerned about what high school would be like. But BI is a small school, and everyone is incredibly supportive.”
In his speech, Sprague reflected on these friendships and his years in high school. “It is now time to say our goodbyes,” he said. “We will never again be together in quite the same way. Yet, wherever our wings may carry us, it is our roots that will always bring us home.
“As a friend once quoted to me, ‘They say you find your best friends in college, but what if you’ve already found them here?’ I’m sure it will be nearly impossible to replicate the wonderful friends we have made here at school.”
Sprague will attend Lynchburg College, where he will play basketball. O’Brien will attend the University of Virginia, where she will study French and English. “I was really honored to be chosen as salutatorian,” she said. “I love BI for many reasons, but mostly because everyone here is so accepting of each other.”
HER SPEECH INCLUDED a look back at her time at BI and some words of encouragement for her classmates. “We are the largest class ever to graduate from Bishop Ireton … all 219 of us,” she said. “From the moment we set foot within those doors freshman year, I knew. The teachers knew, our parents knew, and over time, many of us began to see it too, one by one. We were special. We were different. … From the very first year, we began to show everyone what we were made of. At the pep rallies, we dominated in spirit. No class could beat us, and no class has beat us for the four years that we have been here. We beat the upperclassmen in a tug-of-war on field day and left them all standing there with their mouths open in shock.
“I know the thing to do is to recite a quote from some ingenious scholar or insightful musician, but I have not been able to find words that adequately express all I want to say. I cannot tell you all how much I will miss you next year and how much you all have meant to me.
"I cannot tell you how much I wish you will find your dreams and follow them until they come true. I cannot tell you how confident I am that we will all succeed and find happiness in life, so as long as we remember that strength which has always bound us, and that gentleness which will always remain within our hearts. I don’t know how to tell you how to get through this, because I am getting through it myself, alongside each of you. But knowing that we are all in this together makes it easier and not so scary.”