On Tuesday, June 5, the Class of 2018 marked their graduation with a beautiful ceremony at Mary, Mother of God Church in Middletown, New Jersey. One Hundred Nine graduates were honored at this year’s ceremony and as a collective group received over $18.5 million in merit-based scholarships, which averages $169,725 in scholarships per student.
Mr. Donald Galante, Mater Dei Prep President, welcomed and addressed the Seraph community to begin the ceremony. He asked all the graduates to reflect on what they have experienced over the past four years and to embrace the future. “The sun always comes up, giving us a new dawn, a new chance, a new day. All of you sitting there right now, this is your new day. Tonight 109 individuals have earned the right to call themselves a graduate of Mater Dei Prep High School. Each of you has taken your own unique path to this point and we are all celebrating your new day,” said Donald Galante. He also encouraged all of the graduates to “get engaged, be courageous, and embrace the opportunity.”
Co-Salutatorians Seychelle Rebecca Ibrahim and Emily Marie Tronolone as well as Valedictorian Franchesca Marie Zilinski were honored at the ceremony and had the opportunity to address the audience.
Franchesca Zilinski, the Class of 2018 Valedictorian, discussed the experiences and lessons learned at Mater Dei Prep. “From our experiences over the past four years, we have learned how to create strong, lasting bonds with people that will persist for many years. We have learned the importance of responsibility, time management, and working hard and conscientiously. We have learned to seize every possible opportunity available and how crucial it is to be fearless and steadfast in achieving our goals. These are extremely valuable lessons that we can still apply to our lives today and continue to apply through college and beyond,” said Franchesca Zilinski.
Emily Tronolone, Co-Salutatorian, praised the Class of 2018 on their many accolades while at Mater Dei Prep. “We’ve won several athletic championships. We’ve received countless theater nominations and wins. Our quiz bowl team has qualified for nationals. Our global leaders have acted as representatives at the United Nations. We’ve performed thousands of hours of community service from helping veterans, to doing Bible camps, to collecting prom dresses, and beyond. Many of us have been inducted to one or more of the academic honor societies. Many of our athletes have signed to continue their athletic careers in college. And to think, we did all of these things in just four short years. Who knows what we could achieve in the years to come? What we’ve done here at Mater Dei Prep is only a drop of water in the ocean of our future accomplishments,” said Emily Tronolone.
Seychelle Ibrahim, Co-Salutatorian, commended the Class of 2018 on their hard work over the past four years. “Throughout our four years, I’ve learned that being a great student does not mean that things come easily to you. I had to spend hours in the math lab being tutored by Miss Poracky, who helped me brave through AP calculus. In times of difficulty, we lose our footing, and sometimes our motivation. But it’s when we don’t want to try that we need to the most. In fact, it’s during the hard times that our efforts count. The fact that we’re seated here today is a testament to our perseverance through difficulty and strife, culminating in resilience and character in each of us. We all will reap the rewards of our hard work. I want to extend a sincere thank you to everyone in attendance, because in essence, you have all carved and molded us into those who will lead the very bright future of tomorrow,” said Seychelle Ibrahim.
Mrs. Susan Raine Kiley from the Class of 1972 delivered the Commencement Speech to the graduates. Mrs. Sue Kiley is a civil servant, passionate volunteer, former Registered Nurse and a retired National Vice President of Sodexo. Mrs. Sue Kiley was the number one sales director for two years, delivering profit contributions in excess of $6 Million while at Sodexo. She would sign the company’s first healthcare deal with Magic Johnson and MJE (Magic Johnson Enterprises). Mrs. Sue Kiley eventually became national vice president at Sodexo, calling on large healthcare organizations and traveling frequently around the country and the world.
After retiring from Sodexo, she became president of the Hazlet Republican Club and ran for public office in 2014, winning a seat on the five-member Hazlet Township Committee, which oversees the management and growth of the township. After serving one year as a committee member, Mrs. Sue Kiley was deputy mayor in 2016 and was sworn in as mayor of Hazlet by Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno on January 1, 2017. Mrs. Sue Kiley is currently the deputy mayor of Hazlet and pursuing a Monmouth County Freeholder seat.
In her commencement speech, Mrs. Sue Kiley passed down three important life lessons to the graduates. The first is always to be faith based, the second is to always set goals, and the third is to never underestimate the power of your voice and what you can accomplish. “Believe in yourself. Believe in your voice. Believe you have the power to accomplish anything if you put your mind to it. Mark Twain said the two greatest days in your life are the day you are born and the day you figure out why. From today forward, grow, and nourish your faith every step of your journey. Set and strive to achieve lofty goals and believe in the power of your voice,” said Mrs. Sue Kiley.
In addition to the powerful commencement speeches, select Mater Dei Prep graduates were awarded academic awards and scholarships. The Religion Award was awarded to Matthew McCarthy; the Ellen Cunningham Akmentins Scholarship was awarded to Kimberley Clare Deahl, John Enrico DiBrita, Molly Elizabeth Hurst, and Joseph G. Liskiewicz; the Grace Azzolina Scaduto Memorial Scholarship was awarded to Amanda Michelle Yetman and Valerie Zoda; the John A. Anderson Scholarship was awarded to Jocelyn Elyse Vales Dacquel; the Eric P. Donoghue Scholarship was awarded to Griffin Bleil Cole; the John Delaney Nursing Scholarship was awarded to Melissa Margaret Kelly; the Herff Jones Journalism Academic Scholarship was awarded to Natalia Trojacki; the Future Female Leaders in Stem Scholarship was awarded to Jocelyn Elyse Vales Dacquel; the Alfred O’Connor Memorial Scholarship was awarded to Madeline Brew; the Matawan Italian American Association Scholarship was awarded to Andrea Connors; the Middletown Township Post No. 2179 Veterans of Foreign Wars of U.S. Scholarship was awarded to Nicole Lee Natelli and Thomas John Olausen; and the Corporal Kevin J. Reinhard Memorial Scholarship was awarded to Seychelle Rebecca Ibrahim and Emily Marie Tronolone.
Medals of Academic Excellence were presented to this year’s graduates who have achieved the highest academic average over four years. Gregory Thomas Bender, Justin Ryan Corman, Jocelyn Elyse Vales Dacquel, Amanda Devaney, Dylan Ryan Higgins, Molly Elizabeth Hurst, Seychelle Rebecca Ibrahim, Jonathan Meskin, Emily Marie Tronolone, and Franchesca Marie Zilinski all received the prestigious honor.
Attendees were also treated to wonderful musical performances by the graduating Seraph Players and the Mater Dei Prep choir under the direction of Cindy Dwyer. The Seraphs received their diplomas from Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Randy MacDonald, Reverend Rick Osborn, and President Donald Galante.