LAWRENCE — Faith and family have always played large roles at Central Catholic High School since it was founded in 1935.
Speakers at Thursday evening’s commencement exercises, in which 275 members of the Class of 2019 received their diplomas, frequently stressed those values.
Valedictorian Natalia Clark, who is headed for Boston University with a “full boat” Cardinal Medeiros Scholarship, said her friends at Central “became my family.” One night, she recalled, she checked her GPS to see how long the ride home would be.
The GPS indicated “home” was 300 Hampshire St., Lawrence – Central Catholic’s address. Clark actually lives in Bradford.
“Call me idealistic, but I’m a huge believer that everything happens for a reason,” she told her fellow graduates, faculty, family members and friends gathered in Central’s gymnasium. “We hold the keys to unlocking successes that could transform our world as we know it.”
She concluded her address by saying, “You should know the comfort of love because you have known Central Catholic.”
Clark said she is undecided about her major, but thinks she will likely pursue a scientific career.
Salutatorin Maria Graziano talked about the struggles Central students have faced. At the freshman retreat, one of the leaders, Peter Graziano, her brother, cited the example of the butterfly.
“He explained that every butterfly must struggle to escape its chrysalis because, without that struggle, the butterfly will never be able to fly,” she said. Graziano noted her class lived through the gas disaster of Sept. 13.
Some of her classmates have had medical problems, others experienced depression or anxiety, she said.
“Struggles bring us together. Struggles deepen our faith. Struggles give us courage,” Graziano said.
She expressed a strong belief in God.
“God is always right there standing beside us. He will be there whether we know him or not and nothing could ever make him leave us. I pray that each of us has gotten to know him better here at Central and that we will grow even closer to him over the next four years and for the rest of our lives,” Graziano said.
She and her classmates, she said, need courage.
“Especially in the world today, we need courage more than ever” courage to stand strong in a society that is so divided, courage to stand up for the dignity of life from conception until natural death,” Graziano said.
Graziano will enroll at Providence College next fall. She plans to pursue a career in neuroscience or psychiatry. She was the recipient of the Brother Florentius Memorial Award, named in honor of the Marist Brother who founded Central Catholic.
The award is given to the graduate who “best exemplifies” the school’s ideals. Graziano, of Atkinson, New Hampshire, was greeted by a receiving line of past recipients of this honor.
Christopher Sullivan, president of Central Catholic, said the Class of 2019 “made Jesus known and loved.” He mentioned the students who came to him during the gas disaster and said, “We need to do something and we need to do something now.”
He also noted that members of the class insisted on making a presentation to the custodial staff, who work hard to keep the building clean and well-maintained and “always have a smile on their face.”
Sullivan paid tribute to the gregarious president of the Class of 2019, Josearmando Binet. When Brother Patrick McNamara, the provincial of the Marist Brothers in the United States – the “big cheese,” as Sullivan called him – visited the school, Sullivan introduced him to “Mando.”
The class president said to Brother Pat, “Dude, sign my shirt!”
After all the graduates had received their diplomas, Binet stood before them and with a relish, led them in moving the tassels from the right to the left of their mortarboards, thus signifying they officially graduated from Central Catholic.
Binet is headed for the University of Massachusetts Lowell, where he will study business management. At Central, he was a star wrestler in the 195-pound class and won the state championship despite being rated an underdog.
Asked if he plans to wrestle at UMass Lowell, he said he intends to focus on his school work.
His father, José Binet, said he is very proud of his son and expects him to work hard at UMass Lowell. Mando’s mother, Milagros, said she is also proud of him and has high expectations of him.
The Class of 2019 included a set of triplets, Rachael, Elizabeth and Kathryn Dobson, of Merrimac. For the first time in their lives, they will be attending different schools. Before Central Catholic, they attended Sacred Hearts School in Bradford.
Rachael is headed for Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, Elizabeth will attend Roger Williams University in Rhode Island and Kathryn will enroll at Boston University.
They were accompanied by their parents, Jill and Mark Dobson; and their older sister Sarah, a 2013 graduate of Central who now works as a dental hygienist.
When the triplets were on their way, she said she knew she was going to have twins. The third baby was a surprise.
“They are good girls,” she said, as she smiled at her newly graduated daughters.