A successful life requires discipline, accountability, a strong work ethic, persistence and perseverance, Suzanne Pohland Paterno, wife of Penn State University football coach Joe Paterno, told the St. John Neumann Regional Academy Class of 2011 Monday during the school's commencement at the Community Arts Center.
Paterno told the school's 21 graduating seniors to keeping dreaming, have faith and, most of all, believe in miracles.
Regarding the latter, Paterno said most people do not recognize the miracles they experience in their lives, but that life itself is a miracle.
St. John Neumann Regional Academy graduate Jeremy Garcia receives his diploma from the Bishop of Scranton, the Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, on Monday night in the Community Arts Center. Bambera told the graduating class that they should use their gifts wisely and generously. Believe in yourself; respect others and put them first; be grateful for all you’ve been given; live a life of faith; and make a difference in the world, he urged.
Keynote speaker Suzanne Pohland Paterno, right, gives recent graduate Kelsey Silvagni a hug and thanks St. John Neumann Regional Academy for its $2,000 donation to the construction of a new Catholic Faith Center at Penn State University, which will be named in Paterno’s honor.
She also discussed the importance of doing little things on a daily basis to help others.
"Live life to improve the world," she said. "Do little things to help others every day. It's not difficult and it does become second nature."
According to Paterno, life is a journey - one that requires a strong faith for guidance.
"The next leg of the journey begins now," she said, adding that life is full of highs and lows, happiness and tragedy.
Having faith will build strength and character and help people deal with the ups and downs of life, she said.
Paterno said many people measure success by the riches they acquire. Look closely, she said, and it will not take long to realize what those people have is not so important.
Following her address, Paterno, who is having a new Catholic Faith Center at the university named in her honor, was presented with a $2,000 check from the students, which will go toward the construction of the center.
Following the check presentation, the Rev. Paul C. Fontanella, who served as emcee during the ceremony, made a confession.
Fontanella admitted to taking a pocketful of grass from the front lawn of the Paternos in 1994. Fontanella said he carried the grass with him throughout what proved to be an undefeated season for Penn State football.
Fontanella said he was not a superstitious man, but he refused to give the grass back to the Paternos.
Class Salutatorian Audrey Lynne Pasnello reminisced fondly about her years at the school.
As the Class of 2011 prepares to go in separate directions following graduation, they are entering a world that has changed just as they have changed.
Pasnello said she realizes the impact faith, teachers and, most importantly, family, has had on her life and the lives of her classmates.
She said she is confident members of her class will leave the school with the ability to succeed and live life to the fullest.
Class Valedictorian Hannah Nelkin Facey called graduation "an important milestone in our lives" but added the solid faith and strong academic background created by attending the academy will translate into a bright future for her classmates.
She said she is thankful for the teachers, administrators and staff of the school. The value of their work will be realized for years to come, she said.
Facey also praised her family for the sacrifices they made to ensure she had a Catholic education and spoke of her brother, who she described as her best friend. She said she could never repay her family for the gifts they have given her.
She spoke of her classmates, as well.
"Each one of you has left a mark on my heart that I will carry with me for the rest of my life," she said. "As we take the next step in life's journey, let's not forget from whence we came."
Also speaking were Kathleen P. Hanlon, superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Scranton.
Hanlon had high praise for the faculty, administration and staff of the academy. She also thanked the parents of the students for making sacrifices to allow them to have a Catholic education.
Fontanella then introduced the Bishop of Scranton, the Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, who offered closing remarks and a benediction.
Bambera said the work of Catholic schools such as the academy benefits not just the local communities they are in but the world.
Students who graduate from the school are its primary source of greatness, he said. That is because they go out into the world and make it a better place.
He urged graduating seniors to use their gifts and talents to benefit others.
"Use your gifts well, wisely and generously," he said.
Bambera also offered this advice: Believe in yourself; respect others and put them first; be grateful for all you've been given; live a life of faith; and make a difference in the world.
About 40 academic and athletic awards were announced during the ceremony.
Frank G. Pellegrino, president of the school Governance Board, presented Jay and Sally Hilsher, of Hilsher Graphics of South Williamsport, with the Leadership Spotlight Award for Excellence.
Pellegrino said the Hilshers have been unwavering in their support of the Catholic community and the academy.