Graduates said they’ll miss the friendships they forged over the past four years.
By BOB JACKSON
YOUNGSTOWN — Dr. Gerald Curd, a Cardinal Mooney High School alumnus, compared education to a vehicle that will carry this year’s CMHS graduates toward their lifetimes’ destinations.
For the class of 2007, those roads will lead toward careers in space exploration, barbering, crime-fighting, biology and the military, among others.
“We truly believe that these are very blessed young men and women with tremendous potential to make a very real difference in this world,” said Sister Jane Marie Kudlacz, the high school’s principal.
Students received their diplomas during a ceremony Saturday morning at Stambaugh Auditorium on Fifth Avenue.
In the hour or so leading up to commencement, graduates took a last chance to mingle as classmates, share memories and make sure one anothers’ caps and tassels were straight.
Dr. Curd, a 1996 Mooney graduate, was the keynote speaker for the commencement ceremony. An Obstetrics/Gynecology resident at Aultman Hospital in Canton, he encouraged the graduates to embrace and make the most of their faith, family and education.
“Your faith will drive you,” he told the 132 graduating seniors. “Your family will fuel and support you, and your education will be the vehicle to carry you to your future destination, wherever that may be.”
Zachary Dietz of Boardman is headed to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn. His father, Wayne Dietz, said Zachary had also been accepted into the Merchant Marine Academy, and was nominated to both the army and naval academies. Pigskin pointed him toward the coast guard.
“He’s got it in his head that he has to play football, and he’s not big enough to play for either Army or Navy,” Wayne Dietz said. “So it came down to the Coast Guard or the Merchant Marine.”
Zachary, 19, said after he completes the academy, he’ll do five years of mandatory service in the Coast Guard and then probably stay in the service for another 20 years to complete his career. Ultimately, he’d like to do drug enforcement patrols in either Miami or San Diego.
Presley Philomena of Canfield and Joe Polis of Struthers said they’re staying closer to home, both attending Youngstown State University.
“I’m hoping to go to [work for] NASA,” said Philomena, 17, who said she’ll major in astronomy. “I’ve always been interested in space.”
Polis, 18, will major in computer science.
“I’m not nervous today,” he said, relaxing before the ceremony with his friend and classmate Lou Salreno. “I just want to graduate.”
Salreno, 18, of Youngstown, will attend Walsh University in Canton, where he’ll play football and major in biology. He didn’t hesitate when asked about the best part of graduating.
“No more detentions,” he said, laughing. “And I’m a little nervous about [graduating] today. I just hope I don’t trip.”
Then, turning serious, he said the staff and faculty at Mooney have prepared him and his classmates well for their futures.
Paulette Shields of Youngstown, who operates the Klip & Kurl hair salon on Indianola Avenue, said she’s looking forward to eventually sharing the business with her grandson, Eric Shields, who graduated Saturday. Paulette said she raised Eric and his three younger siblings, and also had two children of her own who graduated from Mooney in the past.
Eric, 18, said he will attend barber school in Columbus. Graduation day was always in his sights, but arrived faster than he expected, he said. He’ll always remember the friendships he made at Mooney, and the two football state championships the school won in 2004 and 2006. Eric was a receiver and linebacker on those teams. He also played basketball at Mooney.
Saturday was a happy day for 18-year-old Jennifer Maloney of Struthers and her mother, Peggy Maloney.
“I’ve been waiting for this all year,” said Jennifer. She is eager to begin classes at YSU, where she will major in criminal justice. Ultimately, she wants to become a police detective.
“I haven’t cried yet. Maybe I will today,” Peggy Maloney said, noting that Jennifer is her youngest child. “It’s sad, but in a way it’s like, ‘Yes!’”