SALT LAKE CITY — Commencement exercises for the Judge Memorial Catholic High School Class of 2023 returned to Abravanel Hall in Salt Lake City. The hall was the traditional site for the school’s graduation ceremonies, but because of the pandemic the event was held on campus for the past four years.
At the May 21 ceremony, Principal Patrick Lambert noted that the graduates, who formed the last pre-pandemic class, “bonded by shared isolation – made tougher, richer, deeper by unprecedented teenage adversity – scaled their mountain and celebrated a joyous Judge Memorial commencement.”
Father Christopher Gray, JMCHS Class of ’01 and now pastor of Saint Mary of the Assumption Catholic Parish in Park City, presided over the day, which began with the traditional processional entrance. Lilian Crocket, Class of 2023, sang the national anthem.
Nikki Ward, Class of ’87 and now associate superintendent of Utah Catholic Schools, offered the invocation. This was followed by remarks from Student Body President Spyridon (Sam) Daskalakis.
Emma Mejia, the class salutatorian, was “instrumental as the president of our Latinos Unidos Club,” Lambert said as he introduced her. “Her multicultural experiences have helped her to lead an inclusive place for our Latino community. She has also been instrumental in advocating for all the students’ needs.”
In her remarks, Mejia said that “the last four years have not been easy, and have tested our strength in what seems like every way imaginable, but despite every setback the world has thrown our way, we still made it to the finish line.”
During her freshman year she felt lost, but soon made new friends, she said, and recalled “walking up to freshman hall in the morning, where we were all at least 15 minutes early to school if not earlier, watching everyone film TikToks in the hallway, and laughing as we struggled to dissect passages of Macbeth. We felt so independent walking to Dolcetti’s or Smith’s after school.”
The pandemic turned their student lives upside down, but their last year at the school came in a blink, she said.
“Suddenly we were the ones being honored with candy on senior nights and succumbing to senioritis,” she said. “We began to tie up the loose ends of our time here at Judge, including many lasts: last first day of school, last football game, last school dance. … I know very little about what the future holds, but one thing I know for certain is that it will not lack this binding force of love. How exciting is it that we now get to move onto the next phase of our life and meet the next abundance of people who we will cherish and care for, and who will cherish and care for us.”
In his comments, Lambert asked the graduates what they were going to do with the education they had received, noting that “You’ve learned how to work hard, you’ve learned how to persevere,” and that he is confident they will successfully navigate the next chapter of their lives.
He suggested they follow the example of John and Mary Judge, Irish immigrants who were generous benefactors of the Cathedral of the Madeleine and Judge Memorial CHS, “Two people that learned, worked, created, led others and ultimately left a tremendous legacy that continues to change lives today,” he said.
Following the presentation of the 100 graduates and the conferral of diplomas, the 2023 Senior Core presided over the Rite of Changing the Tassel.
In his comments as valedictorian, Jacob Thomas described Judge Memorial as “a unique place where growth and acceptance have always been at the forefront of our collective consciousness. It is a place where we have been challenged to push beyond our limits, explore new horizons, and embrace our individuality while also recognizing the importance of community.”
During their four years at the school, Thomas and his classmates learned the importance of academic excellence and the values of compassion, kindness and inclusivity, he said.
“The tight-knit community that Judge has produced is evident in the mere five minutes between classes, as many students can be seen interacting with their peers while constantly touching on the compassion that lies in the foundation of this school,” he said. “Students of all grades interact with each other, showing no bounds to the connections at this institution. While Judge has a strong focus on building up the academic repertoire of students, the immense development of character can go unnoticed. The preparation that Judge has provided me and others in the academic and social realm is truly special.”
Dedicating a few words to his fellow graduates, Thomas said that the lessons learned should be applied to their future.
“As we go out into the world, let us take the values of compassion, respect and acceptance that we have learned here. Let us continue to embrace diversity, to celebrate our differences, and to continually strive towards building a more inclusive and just society,” he said, concluding by expressing his gratitude to everyone who contributed to their success.
– Overall GPA 3.37 unrated; 3.57 rated
– Graduates will attend 41 different institutions
– One to a U.S. military academy
– Cumulative $12 million in scholarships and renewable grants
– More than 5,800 community service hours over the past four years
– 186 National Community Service Awards from the United Nations
– Five graduates recognized as Academic All State, three for two seasons
Christ the King Award: Nyandoar (Sarah) Daw and Oliver Baende
First Honors: Luke Cotter, Lanee Farr, Abigail Fowler, Gracie Haffey-Sherman, Seungmin (Leah) Han, Caroline Mackey, Stella Sharp, Peter Stokes, Camile Webber and Sofia Wedemeyer
Bishop of the Diocese of Salt Lake City Award for
outstanding scholar-participant in athletics:
Lanne Farr and Nicolas Morton
Bishop of the Diocese of Salt Lake City Award for
outstanding scholar-participant in activities:
Stella Sharp and Anthony Walz
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