Jessica Swarner told her fellow St. Maria Goretti High School classmates on Saturday to never limit themselves and keep dreaming big as they move on to the next stage of their lives.
“We have so much talent in this class,” said Swarner, valedictorian of Goretti’s Class of 2013. “We’re talented academically, athletically, artistically, everything. So I just don’t want people to go to college and think that they should stick to the bare minimum.
“They should really use their gifts to change the world because I know they can.”
One of the larger graduating classes in recent years, a total of 59 seniors wrapped up their high school careers and received their diplomas during Goretti’s commencement at St. Ann’s Catholic Church on the school’s campus north of Hagerstown.
Goretti President Richard Fairley said all 59 students have been accepted into college, earning close to $5 million in scholarships. But what really stands out about the Class of 2013, he said, is the closeness of this year’s seniors.
“They’ve been a close group from the beginning, and just their willingness to care and give back to the school,” he said. “In this day and age, a lot of this generation gets a little knock for wanting to take and not give back. If we ask this group to do anything (to give) back to the school, they would always do it.”
Asked what he would remember most about the class, Fairley said their sense of humor and their “chattiness.”
“They love to talk, but that’s a good thing,” he said. “They have a lot of important things to say.”
Following the customary baccalaureate Mass, commencement included comments from Principal Bridget Bartholomew, who recognized Swarner, a Hagerstown resident, and salutatorian Ellie Gorman of Chambersburg, Pa., before a packed house inside the church.
Bartholomew thanked the graduating seniors for “sharing the most important years of your life” with the school, saying they all are extraordinary young men and women.
Afterward, Michael Bramson said he felt a little bit “sad” to be leaving Goretti, “but it’s also awesome to be graduating, going off to college. It’s a bittersweet day.”
Bramson, 17, of Blue Ridge Summit, Pa., said he will attend Boston College next fall to take part in the school’s honors program. He plans to major in biology.
Recognized by school leaders for her academic ability, athletic prowess and spirit for giving back, Swarner, 17, is headed west next fall to attend Arizona State University on a full academic scholarship in the school’s honors program. She said she plans on majoring in political science and hopes to go to law school in the future.
“I’d love to go into politics, be a lawyer. I kind of want to learn about the different types of law,” she said. “Hopefully, I’ll end up back in (Washington) D.C., though. That’s where I want to work.”
Swarner is a finalist in the National Merit Scholarship program this year, a school official said. Bramson and Gorman also received Letters of Commendation from the program.
While he’s excited for the next chapter of his life, Bramson said he’s going to miss his classmates.
“It’s been great and I wouldn’t have wanted to go anywhere else,” he said. “It’s been a great four years.”
St. Maria Goretti High School
Number of graduates: 59
Valedictorian: Jessica Swarner
Salutatorian: Ellie Gorman