Cindy Lima listens intently during the TCA Lower School commencement exercises May 27.  Rich Hundley photo
Cindy Lima listens intently during the TCA Lower School commencement exercises May 27. Rich Hundley photo
A strong academic foundation, recognition for accomplishments and excellence, celebrating the benefits of Catholic education, and a return to normalcy.

These were all common themes among those celebrating the graduation of eighth grade students in Trenton Catholic Academy, Hamilton, and St. Peter School, Point Pleasant Beach. Both institutions held graduation ceremonies for a combined 56 young men and women, who will take the lessons they learned from their Catholic school education as they begin their high school studies in the fall.

In all, there are 868 eighth grade students to graduate from the 27 Catholic elementary schools in all four counties in the Diocese this year.

“This year was extraordinarily challenging at so many levels,” said Michael Knowles, president of Trenton Catholic Academy, which held its Baccalaureate Mass on May 26 and graduation ceremony on May 27. “It was truly a feeling of a return to normalcy.”

Knowles shared with each of the 39 graduates how proud he was of their accomplishments and related his hopes as they take the next step in their academic careers.

“My prayer for our graduates is that they always remember how much TCA was like family,” he said. “The time they spent with us gave them opportunities to learn about academic matters and about themselves. TCA gave our students a place to be themselves and to share their God-given talents with others.”

The ceremony also carried a special significance for the institution’s Lower School.

“Not only were they the latest class to graduate from Trenton Catholic Academy Lower School,” Lower School director Anne Reap said, “they were also the last class to graduate as the school will close at the end of June and re-open as an independent, private Catholic school in July.  This is a very special class.”

In her speech to the graduating class, Reap recalled the “tenacious spirit” of the cohort, as they were challenged to complete their studies amidst a global pandemic.

“I am certain their tenacity will serve them well in high school and the years beyond,” she said. “I hope that they know they are loved – by their parents, their teachers, their school family and most importantly, by God.”

St. Peter School marked the accomplishments of 17 graduates on June 4 with a ceremony that included the annual awards ceremony to recognize academic success, service, character and growth.

“It was a joy to have this year’s graduation in person, inside St. Peter Church and with family and friends present,” said principal Tracey Kobrin. “After the challenges of this school year, it was particularly rewarding to see our graduates experience this momentous occasion.”

Kobrin spoke about Catholic education, and the strong foundation it provides for students.

“The benefits of a Catholic education are many, including academic excellence, instilling values in a Christ-centered environment, (and) a safe, caring atmosphere where all are valued and encouraged to develop their gifts and talents,” she said. “I hope students will walk away with a strong foundation of faith, a commitment to serve others, lifelong friendships, and the knowledge and skills to be successful in future endeavors.”

Erin Ballou, a parent of one of the graduating students, feels strongly about the merits of Catholic education. She attended diocesan Catholic schools from Kindergarten through eighth grade – including St. Peter School and St. Rose High School, Belmar – and went on to attend Georgian “I believe that Catholic schools are strong academically, but more importantly nurture the child socially, emotionally, as well as spiritually,” she said. “To any parent that is considering enrolling their child in a Catholic school, I would tell them it is the best investment that they will ever make.”

Her son, 14-year-old Brady, is also an altar server in the parish connected with his school. In the fall, he will begin attending the Marine Academy of Technology and Environmental Sciences, Manahawkin, and he attributes his acceptance to the competitive school to his time at St. Peter School.

“I valued the unity of my class as we all made happy memories participating in many class events and school sports together. My teachers were very kind to me and my classmates, always willing to guide us and to lend us a helping hand in times of need,” he said. “I know that I am ready to move on to the next chapter of my life, because of the invaluable education that I received at St. Peter School.”