The John Carroll School’s 193-member Class of 2018 has performed 19,856 hours of community service during their time at the Bel Air private school, according to principal Tom Durkin.
John Carroll students must perform 60 hours of community service over four years to graduate, according to the school website.
“We say our motto is ‘Patriots Do,’ and you have done, and that’s what makes you so special,” Durkin said during the school’s 51st commencement, held Saturday morning on the athletic field of Gerry Gray Memorial Stadium.
Themes of service to others, unity and seizing the day and treasuring special moments permeated the graduation exercises.
Alyssa Kraus, the salutatorian, discussed the impact the death of student Joshua Evan Hamer had on her and her classmates.
Joshua was 15 years old and a sophomore, one year behind the Class of 2018, when he died in an auto accident near the Royal Farms store close to Route 22 and Route 155 in Churchville on March 2, 2017. The North East resident played baseball and football for the Patriots.
The tragedy happened during Kraus’ junior year.
“As a school, we lost Josh Hamer, baseball player, student, friend, and because of this we came together,” she said. “We found unity in tragedy, and we learned to blossom from adversity. We have never been closer or more connected.”
Valedictorian Amelia Bothwell discussed the Latin phrase “carpe diem,” or “seize the day,” as it has been her “go-to saying” for many years.
It also was her grandmother’s motto and her father’s mantra as both battled leukemia.
“Although they, unfortunately, did not win these battles, they made the best of the short amount of time that they had,” Bothwell said. “On account of their admirable courage, I have always been drawn to this saying.”
Brian Olsen, the commencement speaker and recipient of the Rev. Charles K. Riepe Alumni Award, emphasized making service to others “a part of your everyday life.”
Olsen and his wife, Beth, are 1990 graduates of John Carroll. They have five children, four of whom have graduated from their alma mater, and their youngest is in the Class of 2019, school President Stephen DiBiagio said.
Olsen founded the Bel Air architectural firm, Skorpa Design Studio, in 2005. The firm has worked with many nonprofit entities, designing facilities for churches, medical institutions and schools, including several new construction and renovation projects at John Carroll, according to DiBiagio.
“Always look for new opportunities, both big and small, to serve others and know that in doing this you will find God, and that will lead you to true happiness and that will certainly make this world a better place,” Olsen said.
Graduate Robert Temeh, an international student from Liberia, has been raising money to build a school in his family’s home village in the West African nation as part of his service hours.
Temeh, 19, has raised $7,000 toward a $25,000 goal, according to his father, Juwah Temeh.
“We have a long way to go, but it’s going to start the project,” Juwah Temeh said.
The elder Temeh traveled to Bel Air from South Sudan, where he is working with the United Nations to assist South Sudanese citizens displaced by their county’s ongoing civil war, as well as people from disputed areas between South Sudan and Sudan — the former declared its independence from Sudan via referendum in 2011 — and refugees from wars in neighboring countries.
Temeh said there are schools in the areas where he works, but the difference between them and schools in the U.S. such as John Carroll is “vast — it’s very big.”
The school for his son’s service project will be built in the family’s community of Boryemah Village in the Sanoyea District of Liberia.
“Education is the best tool to give any child, any person, any community, any society, if you have to change their situation,” Temeh said.
Robert Temeh plans to study communication and information systems at Neumann University in Pennsylvania.
“After the... years of hard work, it was good to get done with [school] and start a new level,” he said.
Curt Craig, father of graduate Brandon Craig, chatted with Juwah Temeh, as their sons became close friends and Robert spent many weekends with the Craig family.
“It’s a challenge to be thousands of miles away and have a young lad at school,” Temeh said.
He said his son succeeded with support from other parents and school staff.
“Brandon has made a friend for life with Robert Temeh,” Brandon’s grandmother, Marie Preston, said.
Craig, of Bel Air, said his 18-year-old son entered John Carroll as a senior.
“Everybody welcomed him into the family, and it’s been quite a blessing, so I’m proud of the kids that welcomed him and the relationships that he’s formed,” Craig said.
His son will attend Millersville University in Pennsylvania. While he has not decided on a major yet, his father expects it will be in communications.
Mary Fraiji, 17, of Pylesville, plans to study chemical engineering at Penn State.
“It’s been a greet four years,” she said. “It really couldn’t have been any better; I really looked forward to going to school here.”
Fraiji said her class became “closer than we’ve ever been before” after Joshua Hamer’s passing last year.
““There is always a silver lining,” she said. “It shows you that good always comes out of the bad. Our class is so much closer, and we have a guardian angel watching over us.”
Her parents are Drs. Lee Fraiji and Mary Martello, physicians who practice at University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Medical Center and ExpressCare Urgent Care in Bel Air, respectively.
“We’re just proud of her accomplishments, and we’re grateful to John Carroll for all that they did to make her who she is,” Fraiji said.
Martello graduated from John Carroll in 1985.
“It gave me a great academic foundation, and I feel like it’s given [my daughter] a wonderful foundation that will get her through four years of engineering,” she said.
Ryan Griffin, 18, of Bel Air, will attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where he plans to study engineering.
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“I think John Carroll has prepared me enough; it’s a pretty challenging school, so hopefully I’ll be ready when I go up there,” he said. “I really want to serve my country because service is a huge part of my life.”