HAMMONTON - The 85 graduates of St. Joseph High School's Class of 2013 were encouraged to put their Catholic values to work for themselves and for others at Thursday night's graduation ceremony at St. Joseph Church on Third Street.
"'The grass is not, in fact, always greener on the other side of the fence. The grass is greenest where it is watered,'" said Salutatorian Kimberly Sirolli, quoting author Robert Fulghum. "When crossing over fences, carry water with you and tend the grass wherever you may be.'"
The message is to share and to cultivate others' futures as well as our own, said Sirolli, of the Elm section of Winslow Township. She will attend Seton Hall University to study occupational therapy.
Valedictorian Alexandra Otto, of Egg Harbor City, got a standing ovation after an emotional speech in which she cried while talking about leaving the school and her classmates. She will study nursing at Nova Southeastern University.
Otto described God's role in helping people overcome fears, such as her own fear of public speaking.
"Counselors, teachers and various organizations may all agree with you that you are handicapped, but God never will," she said. "He loves giving you the opportunity to face what you fear, because when you face what you fear you become fearless."
Commencement speaker Kathryn Campanella Lambert advised the graduates to live their Catholic values of faith, hope and love every day. Lambert grew up in Hammonton and is a 1978 St. Joseph graduate who is a physician with a family medicine practice in Stratford, Camden County. She is also the assistant dean of student affairs at the UMDNJ Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.
"Be not afraid to be Catholic and people of faith in an increasingly secular society," Lambert said, as she urged the students to find a balance in their lives between the three great quests in life: The search for money for our daily bread; to love and be loved; and to find God.
A school spokesperson said 92 percent of the graduating class will attend college this fall and 8 percent will enter the military or trade school. She said the class garnered $4.7 million in scholarships.
The St. Joseph Award of Honor, for those who exhibit Catholic values, excellence in scholastics, love of learning and citizenship and service, went to Alexandra Nowak, of Atco, and Joachim Jon Cendana, of Williamstown.
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