Joyous screams echoed through the air and blue caps were sent soaring toward the sun-splashed sky when Union Catholic’s Class of 2021 made history by becoming the first group to ever graduate during a ceremony held in front of the school on Thursday.
The 200 members of the Class of 2021, who will forever be remembered for their resiliency, let their emotions flow as they celebrated their memorable accomplishment with classmates, family, and members of the UC faculty on a beautiful sun-splashed day on the campus.
Union Catholic’s historic 56th annual Commencement Ceremony was an emotional, exciting, uplifting, and reflective event as a great crowd gathered to honor UC’s Class of 2021, and members of UC’s Class of 1971, who celebrated their 50th anniversary.
The day was also filled with inspiring, passionate, and heartfelt speeches from Principal Sister Percylee Hart, RSM, UC seniors Sabrina Mayor, the Valedictorian, Karen Melendez Alas, the Student Council President, and Commencement Speaker Justice Fabiana Pierre-Louis, a member of UC’s Class of 1998.
To watch the entire graduation ceremony, go here
Sister Percylee Hart delivered a special message to the Class of 2021 with her usual passion and great words of wisdom.
“Class of 2021, this moment in time marks your place in Union Catholic history,’’ said Sister Percylee. “Things at Union Catholic are better, change abounds, and advances have been made because of you. Your presence will be missed as you pursue your college and career goals. But your many contributions will remain as a valued testament of your talents and gifts you so generously shared with the UC Community. Graduates, I wish you much success and happiness, and may God Bless you all the days of your lives. And don’t forget to come back to UC. You are always welcome.’’
Mayor said the Class of 2021 is ready to make its mark on the world.
“Over the past four years, I believe that I’ve gained a good amount of wisdom,’’ said Mayor. “And without a doubt, I am certain that our Class of 2021 will have a momentous difference in the world—because you’ve all made an indelible, extraordinary difference in me. Changing the world doesn’t have to start big or right now. It’s okay to be confused and not know what the future holds. All I ask is that, while we’re accepting the things we cannot change and having courage to change the things we can, take some time to reflect. When life is hard and it becomes difficult to know the difference, spend some time thinking. While you’re at it, take the long way, and don’t forget to bring a buddy.’’
Justice Pierre-Louis, who made history last summer by becoming the first black female to serve on the New Jersey Supreme Court, gave a very heartfelt and passionate speech, and offered some great advice for the Class of 2021.
“I’m extremely honored to be here today to speak to the graduating Class of 2021,’’ said Justice Pierre-Louis. “I am a very proud graduate of Union Catholic, and having the opportunity to speak to the graduating class to me is honestly one of the highest honors an alum of this school can ask for. It goes without saying that the last 14 months have been unprecedented. If this were any other year, I would stand here and tell you that I once sat in those seats and I know exactly what you are growing through and experiencing at this moment in your life. That like you, when I started my senior year I was excited to arrive in the Senior Hallway, and like you I was excited to finally have access to the Senior Courtyard, which made getting to class so much easier on that very short timeline between periods. But I, and almost every Union Catholic graduate before you, except for last year’s class, cannot say that I shared your exact experience or walked in your shoes because I will never know what it was like to have experienced the last year and a half of my time in high school during a once in a lifetime global pandemic. I will never know what it was like navigating high school virtually or with masks, or not being able to be in the same classrooms as my teachers and my classmates every single day.
"For all that you’ve overcome and endured over the past year and a half, I salute your resiliency, your patience, and your perseverance to move forward and continue to achieve great things amid so much uncertainty. For reaching this moment, for continuing to remain committed to your schoolwork and studies, and doing exceptionally well at such a difficult time in the history of the world, please know that you are leaving Union Catholic and starting your journey in life phenomenally capable and well equipped to rise to any challenge that comes your way.’’
Melendez Alas gave a very memorable speech, and implored her fellow graduates to remember how much they’ve overcome.
“During our last week of school, I kept asking my teachers what one word you would use to describe the class of 2021,’’ Melendez Alas. “And they all shared the same word, “Resilient.’’ Our class has undergone many firsts and changes, but these obstacles have shaped us into the people we are today and the people that we will become. I know I myself am still figuring out who I am, and what I am meant to do in this world. Whether it is the version of myself that wants to become a doctor, the one that wants to be a guest star in a telenovela, or the one that wants to travel the world, I know that the lessons we have learned both in and outside the classroom over the past four years have prepared us for our futures. We have a strength like no other class before has had. This strength is hope. Hope, this year’s theme, has helped us get through long Zooms, unpredictable sport seasons, PAC performances like no other, and has allowed us to grow as a class in solidarity to succeed wherever and however that may be. Hope has enabled us to be resilient. Time and time again, we have done the impossible as individuals, teams, clubs, and the Class of 2021.’’
“Class of 2021, our time in the halls of Union Catholic has come to an end,’’ said Melendez Alas. “But as the wise Winnie the Pooh once said, “don’t be sad that it’s over, but be happy it happened.” We leave Union Catholic knowing that we are all individually unique and have so many different talents and potential to offer the world. We may not know where we are going, but we have been given the resources, skills, and support to know that we are capable of achieving what seems to be impossible. I hope each one of your lives offers you endless opportunities, and a lifetime of happiness and success. But I also hope you fail a few times, only to realize that failing is okay and that it will motivate you to work ten times harder. Have hope and resilience always. In just under three months our new chapter in the book of life will begin, and I can’t wait to see where it takes us. Once again, thank you for giving me the privilege to speak to you all today. And with all that said, class of 2021, we did it! I wish you the best of luck and congratulations!’’
Here's a look at some of the members of the Class of 2021 who received special awards that were handed out during the ceremony:
The Spirit Award: Caroline Morgan and Nicholas Hart The Michael Marotti Award: Benjamin Abood and Catherine McGovern The Jane Albert Award: Madeline Gunsiorowski and Elisabeth Pickel
The School Consultative Board Award: Daniel Jaworski and Jadeyn Williams
The Principal’s Award: Karen Melendez Alas
The Hart Award: Presented to every member of the Class of 2021
Here’s an alphabetical list of Union Catholic's Class of 2021.
Isabella Del Negro
Ivette Hilario Dominguez
Sean Machado Guzman
Karen Melendez Alas
Kevin O’Callahan Jr.
Madison Mae Perre
Antonio Reyes Guillen
* National Honor Society
^ World Language Honor Society
> National Art Honor Society
< International Thespian Honor Society