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John Carroll graduates, lauded for service to others, pay tribute to fallen classmate Joshua Hamer

Thomas Durkin, principal of The John Carroll School, listed the many ways the graduating Class of 2019 has served the community, both in Harford County and around the world.

Those efforts include collecting hundreds of prom dresses, writing a collection of poetry and then selling copies of the book to raise money for charity, writing about victims of violence in Florida and “giving a voice to those who lost their voices,” working with a Kenyan women’s lacrosse team that has made it to the world lacrosse championship in Canada, working with communities in need in the Dominican Republic, Honduras and Vietnam, even writing thank-you notes to veterans for their service to the nation.

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“They say every Patriot has a story, that service to others is at the very core of every story you told,” Durkin said. “That’s a special story, and that is what makes you so special.”

Durkin addressed the graduates during John Carroll’s 52nd annual commencement, held Saturday morning on the football field on the private high school’s Bel Air campus.

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He noted the 180 members of the Class of 2019 have performed a collective 21,927 hours of community service. The graduates were also rocked by tragedy, however, two years ago when their classmate, Joshua Evan Hamer, died in an auto accident on Route 22 in Churchville on March 2, 2017.

The North East resident was 15 years old; the then-sophomore played baseball and football for John Carroll.

“You dealt with tragedy at too young of an age when you lost Josh Hamer your sophomore year, but you showed us how to support each other through this tragedy,” Durkin told the graduates.

The class salutatorian, Caroline Smith, and valedictorian, Pierce Berger, also paid tribute to Hamer in their remarks to their classmates.

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Smith noted that, “regardless of the role he played in each of our lives, he left an irreversible mark on every single one of us.”

“It’s painful to think that one of our own is not physically present among us,” she said. “However, Josh is still with us today. He is a constant reminder that we are all fortunate enough to have the opportunity to do truly great things in the future.”

Berger, the valedictorian, said the passing of Hamer was “tragic, and it brought us all together as we learned to support and look after each other.”

“Even though he is not physically with us, he’s still here with us in spirit and he will never be forgotten,” Berger said.

Graduate Michaela Forchion, 17, of Forest Hill, said she and Hamer were in biology class together. Forchion and her classmates “became really close” after his passing, and said “the tribute to him was really nice.”

“I just learned to value life a lot more and to value the time you have with people,” she said.

Forchion said she plans to study psychology at Stetson University in Florida.

“I’m really excited to see what the future holds for me,” she said. “I’m kind of sad to leave everybody but excited we all made it this far.”

Rachel Parr, 18, of Phoenix in Baltimore County, said the tribute to Hamer was “beautiful, very nice.”

Parr talked about the “accomplishment” and “excitement” of completing high school.

“It’s going to be sad to leave, though, because we’re all such a family but I know one day we’ll all reconvene,” she said.

John Carroll School recently announced its newest group of Carroll Scholars, incoming freshmen whose academic achievements qualified them for the prestigious

Matthew Gonzalez, 18, was an international student from the Dominican Republic. He attended John Carroll during his junior and senior year, played baseball for the Patriots and plans to attend Marymount California University. He will play baseball and study business management in college.

He said he has learned during his time in school to “stay strong, keep believing in yourself and be thankful and grateful for the John Carroll community because everyone and all the teachers help you to make a successful year.”

Gonzalez introduced members of his family, who traveled from the Dominican Republic, to friends and staffers at John Carroll.

“Since they all have been supporting me, and my family is in the Dominican Republic, they’re always going to be part of my family and I’m always gong to be a Patriot,” he said.

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