Graduation is Bittersweet for Students and Faculty at St. Pius V School

By Mariann Hughes

You’d expect a guest speaker from Harvard at a college graduation, but it was the eighth-grade graduating class of St. Pius who were treated to a powerful speech from St. Pius alum, Carla Harris (Class of ’76) on Tuesday night.

St. Pius alumna and commencement speaker, Carla Harris, poses with St. Pius graduate Miles Cameron, as the recipient of the Carla Harris Academic Scholarship Award. (Photo: St. Augustine Catholic/Woody Huband)

Harris, whose multiple impressive credentials also include working on Wall Street, singing at Carnegie Hall, and writing a book, gave the 15 graduating students and their friends and families a powerful reminder of God’s love.

“It’s not about who you are, but Whose you are,” she told the students, encouraging them to give thanks for their blessings, as well as to do their own part in leaving a legacy for those coming up behind them.

Harris told the boys and girls gathered in the front pews of the church that she had five pieces of advice for them to take to high school.

First, she told them to try “something new to expand your horizons.” Also, choose to do well, she advised. “The better you do academically, the bigger your menu of choices.” Then, she encouraged them to take advantage of resources, and never be afraid to ask for help. But hard work and academic prowess are not excuses to neglect what really matters in life. “Make friends, build relationships, make networks,” she counseled. And last but not least, keep busy and volunteer. “That says you are interested in being a solid citizen,” she explained. “We know that you can do it, that’s why we’ve invested in you.”

Father Bernardine Eikhuemelo, pastor of St. Pius Parish, poses with volunteer Beverly McMillan and a group of the graduates of the last class of St. Pius V Catholic School. (Photo: St. Augustine Catholic/Woody Huband)

Harris has created an endowment for scholarships to Bishop Kenny High School for qualifying African-American students. She was able to give this year’s recipient, Miles Cameron, his award in person as classmates clapped and cheered.

Then teary-eyed teachers and staff formed a receiving line against the wall to hug the students as each received their diplomas.

The event was bittersweet for those who gathered around punch and cake at the reception, as this is the last graduation for the 95-year-old school that will merge with Holy Rosary school this fall to become the new Guardian Catholic School.