Bishop O'Connell High School held its 61st commencement exercises on Thursday, June 3. The Most Reverend Michal F. Burbidge, Bishop of the Diocese of Arlington, presented diplomas to the 286 members of the class of 2021.
Because of COVID restrictions, the event took place in the school auditorium this year rather than at the National Shrine in Washington, D.C. where it is traditionally held.
Head of School Bill Crittenberger welcomed the graduates and their families and friends on behalf of Bishop O'Connell faculty, staff and administration. "This being my first year at Bishop O'Connell and this being the year that it was—marked by masks, social-distancing, hybrid schedules, and, as needed or requested, virtual learning, and, yes, throw in for good measure, 17-year cicadas (you can't make this stuff up!)—it would have been easy for me in coming into the year to have limited hopes and expectations about making links and connections with this year's 12th grade class," he said. "But, oh to the contrary, and with great good fortune, have I come to see things differently."
"It was through their pluck, tenacity of purpose, staying power, and capacity to make lemonade out of a wretched pile of lemons, that they defined themselves and made their mark, and let me know, and see, dramatically and first-hand what O'Connell fiber, mettle, and character is about, and how central "community" is to this loving and kind community," Crittenberger added.
Khanh Le, the class salutatorian, looked back on not just last year, but the past four years. "Together we have struggled, overcome and persevered," she said. "So let's make this a life habit and continue to grow in resilience, virtue and faith."
"As we spread our wings and fly away from our nests, never forget the family we came from and the ones who supported us," she added. "And never forget the memories we made and the life lessons we've learned at O'Connell."
Sara Ghanbari, the class valedictorian, framed her remarks by quoting Saint Teresa of Calcutta: "Reach high, for stars lie hidden in your soul. Dream deep, for every dream precedes the goal."
"I know that each one of us has reached out of our comfort zone and challenged ourselves in some way," she said. "Let us take a moment and be proud of ourselves for our small victories throughout these past four years."
"This has been a tough year for us," she added. "I hope that we will look back and realize that this year has made us stronger in ways that we might not recognize now."