Alexandria’s first graduates in the class of 2004 received their diplomas as Bishop Ireton High School held commencement exercises last Thursday.
The 191 graduates were honored at the school’s traditional ceremony at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on the campus of Catholic University on May 27. Class valedictorian Jesse Del Gizzi and class salutatorian Elizabeth Dalmut, and school principal were the main speakers during the ceremony.
“In many ways the spirit of the cicadas embodies this class of 2004,” Jesse said. “Roughly 17 years ago, these creatures were born but remained protected by the shelter of their underground environment. Many of us were also born around the same time as these bugs – 17 or 18 years ago – in hibernation until May, 2004, the cicadas finally emerged, shed their shells, and developed as adults – ready to take on any lawn mower in a 'who can make the loudest sound contest.' Some of these creatures proved to be more athletic, smarter, and some even appear more sensitive than others…Now they have introduced themselves after their long preparation for the real world that awaited them. We also have been preparing for this day that symbolically opens the door for us to experience the same world, without the wings of course…" said Jesse.
“As part of their own life cycle, the cicadas will return to the earth becoming food for other animals, and their lives will be over. Our lives however, have really just begun, so let’s avoid car tires and kids with tennis rackets in order to see each other at the next reunion…Take one last look at each other. Do you notice the color scheme of red yellow and black? Now, if any of you start sprouting wings, I will have to wonder if I took this speech a little too far. Congratulations and best wishes to the class of 2004,” Jesse said.
ELIZABETH TOOK a different approach. “The past four years, we’ve all been shoe shopping, some more literally than others,” she said. “We’ve all been wandering the halls of BI trying on shoes. We have been trying for years to discover who we are individually. We have been in situations where we were not completely true to ourselves. For instance, some of the shoes we tried on were too big. Some seemed right for a while but ended up giving us nasty blisters. Other times we shed our shoes completely and got detention for wearing flip-flops on dress-out days. Yet, as we close on our days as high schoolers tonight, I see a class of people who have found the right shoes.”
In addition to being class salutatorian, Elizabeth was awarded the Salesian Medal of Honor. This award is presented by the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, who are currently ministering at Bishop Ireton. This medal is considered by the Oblates to be the highest honor that can be bestowed on any student. The honor is given to the graduate who has most adhered to the virtues of St. Francis de Sales in spirit, action and attitude. The winner of the award is always an ardent scholar, a zealous apostle and a person of true gentleness.
Principal Father Matthew J. Hillyard described the class of 2004 saying, “The class of 2004 will always be memorable because I arrived at BI four years ago as they were entering freshman,” he said.
Members of the class will attend all of Virginia’s state schools and schools such as Notre Dame, St. Josephs, Princeton and the University of South Carolina.