Class of 2021 Graduates In Person, Heads Into Next Stage of Life


Staff Writer, Adviser, Online Tritonian

“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” 

The words of Charles Dickens aptly describe Saturday’s NDA graduation.  Despite pandemic restrictions, commencement exercises took place in a somewhat traditional fashion.  

Graduates filled the entire floor of the Triton Center, each graduate could have two guests, all of whom sat spaced out in the bleachers, the stage was smaller, and no big bands or full choir provided music.

But tradition prevailed, and graduates heard Bishop David Ricken give them three words of advice:  be a grateful person, consult with the God who created you and remember your life is not about you.  

“Be less virtual and more virtuous,” said the bishop in talking about social media.

After the Baccalaureate Mass, NDA President Tom Kiely kicked off the commencement ceremony by telling the graduating class of almost 200 students to “go in love, give and serve. . . and welcome to the future!”

Science teacher Andrea Hearden, emcee, ran through the various scenarios “the seniors of the Covid 19 pandemic had endured from in-person hybrid to virtual to finally everyone back in class for the final exams.”  She told the seniors they “gave up tradition but achieved anyway” and that she admired their “ability to pivot.”

Another traditional moment was recognition of the valedictorian (Tara Janas) and salutatorian (Jennifer Ai).  Janas will go to Northwestern, Ai to Marquette.

Student speakers were Rachel Van Hefty and Jack Christensen.  Van Hefty highlighted special events that marked their four years in high school, urging her fellow graduates to “stay positive, test negative, keep your mic off in zoom meetings and appreciate each other.”

Christensen urged his classmates to “take what we learned here and apply it to our lives.”

He concluded his talk with a quote from Mark Twain:  “The two most important days of your life are the day you were born and the day you found out why.”

Then the graduates unmasked as they walked across the stage and received their diploma from Principal Patrick Browne.  A photographer snapped the moment.  Adetola Adejumo was the first to get her diploma with Anna Zimmermann the last.

After the final blessing from Father Christian Raj, the graduates went outside where many relatives and friends waited to congratulate them.

A plethora of graduation pictures can be seen on the Notre Dame Academy Facebook page.