Mater Dei Prep students in graduation caps, many of which were adorned with the grads’ future colleges, smile during their commencement ceremony June 5 in St. Mary, Mother of God Church, Middletown. Joe Moore photo

Mater Dei Prep students in graduation caps, many of which were adorned with the grads’ future colleges, smile during their commencement ceremony June 5 in St. Mary, Mother of God Church, Middletown. Joe Moore photo

By Carly York | Correspondent

Enthusiasm and anticipation were in the air as the 109 Mater Dei Prep graduates lined up outside St. Mary, Mother of God Church, Middletown, for their commencement procession June 5.

Photo Gallery: Mater Dei Prep Graduation 2018

The Middletown school’s graduates and their family, friends and loved ones were greeted by school president Donald Galante, who shared that the class earned some $18.5 million in scholarships and that 98 percent of the students will be attending college in the fall.

On May 31,  the students were sent off in prayer as Father Jeffrey Kegley, pastor of St. Mary Parish, and Father Richard Osborn, parochial vicar, concelebrated the Baccalaureate Mass in St. Mary, Mother of God Church.

The four years of the Class of 2018 were marked with numerous athletic championship wins and titles, as well as Basie Awards for performing arts – not to mention the more than 13,000 hours of Christian service performed by the students. Their experience was not without its difficulties, including the possibility during their freshman year that their school – known at the time as Mater Dei High School – could face closure.

“Some of you had to deal with not knowing whether or not Mater Dei would even be here,” said Galante. “But the sun always rises, and today is your new day!”

Susan Kiley, deputy mayor of Hazlet Township and a 1972 Mater Dei graduate, shared words of wisdom with the graduates as the evening’s keynote speaker. “Our world needs the message of hope and charity found in our faith, and you carry that message,” she said.

She also urged the graduates to “never underestimate the power of your voice,” sharing the story of her son’s recovery from near-death complications as a newborn. Hearing the sound of her voice, she said, helped him recover. “Believe in yourself; believe in the power you have to accomplish anything you want, and your voice will create miracles.”

Co-salutatorian Seychelle Ibrahim, in a rousing speech, told her classmates, “Excellence does not stem from natural ability, but through struggle and perseverance.” She led the entire congregation in a round of applause for Jesus, exclaiming, “Take time for the one who made time.”

Later in the evening Seychelle received a major award herself: an appointment to the U.S. Air Force Academy.

Co-salutatorian Emily Tronolone spoke about the passion and camaraderie that the class maintained.

“The greatest thing about our class is our community,” she said. “We build each other up.”

Valedictorian Franchesca Zilinski reminded her classmates that they have every ability for a successful future if they remain determined.

“Be true to who you are as individuals,” she said. “Because when you are you, that is when you will be able confidently achieve your ambitions.”