Graduates urged to value their time at Saint Bernard as a foundation for success

Norwich — Most recent high school graduates are still figuring out what they want to do, and often feel confused, scared and anxious about the future.

Less common are those who know exactly what they want to become.

Dr. Brian McKeon, keynote speaker at the Saint Bernard School graduation Friday, was one of those rare students who knew exactly what he wanted — he just faltered on his way to achieving it.

“I knew from day one that I wanted to be a doctor. I wanted to help people,” said McKeon, who graduated from the Catholic high school in 1984 and is now the chief medical officer and team physician for the Boston Celtics.

McKeon credited his the two years he spent at Saint Bernard, after doing poorly during his first two years at a public high school, with giving him the foundation he needed to persevere.

“You may be a late bloomer like me, but this education you got here is amazing,” said McKeon, addressing the 73 graduates in the ceremony at Saint Patrick Cathedral.

Student speaker Alexandra Santiago of Griswold said that while the last four years at Saint Bernard have passed too quickly, they have shaped her and her classmates in positive ways that will last a lifetime.

“We have become part of a place that will accept us as a family forever,” she said. “We are a community, a family, an interconnecting network of saints. We provide for those less fortunate. We have pride in our school. We smile brightly as we hold the door open for a stranger.”

The graduates of the 57-year-old Uncasville school included students from 21 towns in Connecticut and one in Rhode Island, as well as 13 Chinese students from seven different communities there. Sixteen of the graduates are the sons, daughters or grandchildren of Saint Bernard alumni.

In closing remarks, the bishop of the Diocese of Norwich, the Most Rev. Michael J. Cote, urged the students to draw on the religious education they received at Saint Bernard to continue growing in their faith. He noted a recent Pew Research Center poll showing that 70.6 percent of Americans identify as mainline Christians, a decline from 78.4 percent seven years earlier, and that 22.8 percent identify as atheists, agnostics or without religious affiliation, up from 16.1 percent in 2007.

“My hope is that none of you will fall into the group that is growing,” he said. “Faith is important. Don’t neglect your faith. Don’t neglect that inner part of you, the spirit within you. A good life is answering God’s call.”

Graduating class at Saint Bernard School:

Shannon Amarello, Natalie Anderson, Kaitlyn Berkel, Shoshana Berkman, Charles Bonser, Megan Bosetti, Timothy Bouchard, Courtney Bove, Jonathan Burianek, Hope Burnside, Jonathan Cabral, Amanda Carpentier, Kiona Carter, William Carver, Ashley Catala, Ruixian Chen, Yuqing Chen, Laura Costello, McKenzie Coughlin, Jingyan Dai, Sarah Ferraro, Shannon Foley, Shannon Forrester, Crystal Grabowski, Patrick Griffin, Marina Hanna, Zixuan He, Meredith Hird, Jincheng Hu, Elizabeth Jezierski, Audrey Jones, Gavin Jones, Nicholas Kane, Danielle Keefe, David Kennedy Jr., Logan Lacroix, Yajun Li, Keze Lin, Pengcheng Liu, Ryan Londregan.

Also: Eilish Maher, Madeleine Mahoney, Erica Massad, Grace Mayeda, Kathryn McKinley, Cassandra Meehan, Aaron Michaud, Nicholas Morrow, Monica Muriel, Olivia Novak, Eric Ostaszewski, Paul Pepas, Jr., Daniel Percy, Margaret Reagan, Emma Rose, Rachel Rossier, Alexandra Santiago, Margaret Shea, Autumn Sutton, Daniel Terracciano, Christen Teskey, Mallory Thomas, Molly Turban, Gabriel Vallario, Eric Vallieres, Heather Wallace, Kangze Xu, Peter Yackovetsky, Yuanhao Yang, An Zhang, Qindong Zhang, Yifan Zhang, Nicholas Zuczek.

j.benson@theday.com

Twitter: @BensonJudy

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