Santa Margarita Catholic High School’s class of 2021 had the rare opportunity to graduate on stage at The Honda Center, home of the Anaheim Ducks. The resilient 406 members of the class received their diplomas during the school’s 31st commencement ceremony on Friday, May 28. The Most Rev. Thanh Thai Nguyen, auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Orange, presided over the ceremony. Superintendent of Schools, Erin Barisano, Ed. D., The Reverend Timothy Donovan, SMCHS Chaplain, and SMCHS President Andy Sulick joined Nguyen to reflect on the class’s achievements, perseverance and faith.
A traditional, sacred call to prayer requesting the Holy Spirit’s presence flowed through the stadium as the SMCHS concert choir sang Veni, Sancte Spiritus. The National Anthem was beautifully sung by Katelyn Stiegler ‘21. Once the class was seated, Barisano looked out onto the ocean of cobalt blue and said, “I urge you not to let these experiences of the past 15 months define your entire high school career.”
Addressing teachers, coaches, staff and administrators, President Andy Sulick ‘91 said, “Your courage, your innovation and your resilience has been vital to the school’s ability to survive during a global pandemic.” Sulick thanked his own parents for giving him the gift of Catholic education and sending him to SMCHS, where he met his beloved wife, Julie Sulick ‘93. Sulick’s son, Drew Sulick was among the 2021 graduates, and he promised Drew that he would not follow him to college and apply for the role of president. “SMCHS will always be where you have your roots and your wings,” Sulick told the graduating class. Sulick presented Aldo Ruiz ‘21 with the Caritas Award. One of the most profound traditions at Santa Margarita is the Caritas Award. The Caritas Award celebrates that human connection between student and teacher, the glimpse of God’s Love and Caritas Christi transcending grades, athletic and artistic abilities, future goals and dreams, and all other high school experiences.
“We have already survived a pandemic and we are only 18,” said Mary Kate Tracy ‘21 as she delivered the salutatory address. Joel Matthews ‘21, in his salutatory address, said, “The ones who are hardest to leave are the ones who we believe have most powerfully changed our lives for the better.” Valedictorian Sara Morrissey ‘21 said, “We’ve learned so much more than classroom academics. We’ve learned to confront challenge and difficulty head-on.”
The class of 2021 graduates have joined the ranks of more than 11,000 Eagle alumni. The commencement ceremony marked the seventh and final Driscoll family graduation from SMCHS. The Driscolls hold the school record of having sent the most children to SMCHS from one family. Between 2005 and 2021, all seven of their children have graduated from SMCHS.
As with all goals scored by the Ducks during games at The Honda Center, the iconic air horn billowed steadily three times, signifying the end of the graduation ceremony and the end of an era. Following the triumphant horn blow was a spectacular shower of confetti and streamers released from above. Outside the center, a surprise display of fireworks soared through the sky while a pulsating backdrop of live music entertained graduates and their families.