By Emily Drooby
Mary Queen of Heaven Catholic Academy’s class of 2019 took their first steps towards the future as a special group of people watched: members of the very first class to ever graduate from the school.
Paula Whitney was part of that first graduation. “I graduated on June 27th 1954,” she recalled.
Sixty-five years later, Whitney and some of her 90 classmates were back in Mary Queen of Heaven’s pews. This time, to cheer on the school’s last class.
The Catholic academy is officially closing this summer, a decision made because of declining enrollment and severe budget deficits. The academy has seen a 60 percent decline in attendance over just a five-year period.
Alumni are sad to see the school close.
They’ve met up almost every year since graduation, a tradition started by their beloved former teacher, Sister Mary Jane. Over the years they’ve enjoyed bonds first established through their Catholic education.
“They gave us such a basis…and it’s the spirit of Mary Queen of Heaven that is entwined between all of us that brings us back here all the time,” Whitney explained.
They held this year’s reunion before and during the last graduation. Tina Moore, who is also part of the school’s first graduating class, explained they did that to show the students the support the alumni network provides and will continue to provide them.
“We’re still behind them and encouraging them,” Moore said
Students like valedictorian Tracey Thompson were thankful for the visit. “Excited, honored, happy, those are the three emotions I could really use right now,” she said.
“They really love the parish and so they’ve come back to celebrate with them, it’s a very sad time but at the same time it’s great to know that we have had that kind of effect on people’s lives,” said pastor Father Leach. He added that a Catholic education stays with students.
The visit proved that while this is the last class to graduate, the love, support and faith fostered by Mary Queen of Heaven Catholic Academy will always remain.