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Cardinal Gibbons adds Class of 2012 to list two years after school's closing

Student who graduated from schools around metro area attend annual ceremony at UMBC

By Brian Conlin, bconlin@patuxent.com

6:50 AM EDT, August 13, 2012

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Though the Cardinal Gibbons School closed two years ago, the Class of 2012 was welcomed to the school's alumni after a celebration at theUniversity of Maryland, Baltimore CountySaturday.

The celebration occurred on what would have been the 50th anniversary of the Catholic all-boys high school on Wilkens Avenue, had the Archdiocese of Baltimore not shut it down, along with a dozen other schools, in spring 2010.

The setting couldn't match the grandeur of the Basilica of the Assumption, where the 65-student Class of 2010 and other senior classes had traditionally celebrated their graduation, but that was hardly the point.

Twenty-three members of the 61-student Class of 2012 greeted each other, rekindled friendships and shared memories and future plans as they waited to process into the auditorium of an UMBC academic building.

"It feels so good," said Peter Koscielski, an Arbutus resident who graduated from Lansdowne High School.

"The second I walked in, we just started laughing," said Koscielski, who will attend Mount St. Mary's University in the fall to study accounting.

The familiar feelings shared by the students returned, despite the separation of the students the past two years.

"It's just cool to see where they've come from and what they did," said Derek Wiegmann, a Catonsville resident who graduated from Archbishop Curley High School. "It's been two years since I've seen some of these guys and it's really good to see them again.

"It means a lot to finally have this closure," he said. "I consider myself an alum of Cardinal Gibbons and Archbishop Curley."

Kathy Valderas, co-chair of the committee that organized the celebration, watched as her youngest son, Douglas, joined his brother, John, a member of the Class of 2007, as an alumnus of the school.

"It's an irony of emotions of both happy times and sad times," she said on the eve of the event. "It's a very emotional tug on all of us to go through this. It is very much like reliving a funeral."

The celebration also marked a time to celebrate the successes of the Class of 2012, many of whose members will be attending college on a academic or athletic scholarships in the fall, Valderas said.

She could not provide a number on the scholarships.

Clifton Cornish III, of Anne Arundel County, graduated from North County High School in the spring. He will leave on Aug. 17 for High Point University in North Carolina, where he attend after receiving a basketball scholarship.

"It was always a heartbreak to everybody, but we had to figure out what's next and move on," Cornish said.

Though heartbreaking, Gibbons' closing also had a positive affect on some of the students.

Cornish's mother, Angela, said it wasn't until Gibbons closed and other high schools began recruiting her son that his family learned what a gifted athlete he was.

"It's phenomenal what happened when he left Cardinal Gibbons," she beamed.

Another member of the Class of 2012, Josh Mele transferred to Catonsville High School after Cardinal Gibbons closed and said that the larger public school gave him more classes to choose from.

He will pursue a degree in chemical engineering at UMBC in the fall and credited taking two math classes his junior year for helping him decide that was the right path.

Still the immediate path had bumpy points for Mele.

"It was pretty sad," the Catonsville resident said of the closing. "It was like my family.

"Junior year was kind of awkward and hard to fit in because it was my first time in public school," he said.

After Gibbons closed following the 2010 school year amid outcry from parents, students and alumni, the 61 members of the Class of 2012 split into more than two dozen public and private high schools in Baltimore, Howard, Anne Arundel and Carroll counties, Valderas said.

Mount Saint Joseph High School in Baltimore welcomed 11 students from Cardinal Gibbons, the most of any other high school.

Some students elected to attend public schools for their final two years and another was home-schooled, Valderas said.

Cardinal Gibbons held a similar ceremony, also at UMBC, for the Class of 2011 on June 15 last year and will hold another for the final class next year.