ND Valedictorian: ‘You As A Person Have The Ability To Make Your Life As Amazing As Possible’


Notre Dame Valedictorian Mollie Sheptenko June 2018 (2)

Savouring the moment: valedictorian Mollie Sheptenko, ND principal Ralph DeFazio. (Supplied photos)


Notre Dame College School held its 2018 commencement ceremony Wednesday, June 27. Continuing a tradition that started a few years ago, here follows valedictorian Mollie Sheptenko’s address:

Good evening fellow graduates, teachers, faculty, and the family and friends of the Notre Dame graduating class of 2018. It is my pleasure and honour to address you today and to represent all of the brilliant students that make up this class.

Over the past 4 years at Notre Dame, we have been able to interact with and form amazing relationships with so many people in addition to developing our passions through scholastic and extracurricular involvement. As well, we have had the privilege of having the best principal guiding us, on our high school journey. I would like to extend my gratitude, on behalf of our class, to Mr. DeFazio who has been with us since day 1. Thank you for sticking with us and treating us like family, making Notre Dame a home away from home.

Notre Dame, as I mentioned before, is not just a building in which we simply learn and go home – it is a communal home where each individual is an essential piece in the unique mosaic that is our school. Notre Dame allows students to excel in all facets of school life – academically, athletically, socially, and provides the opportunity to become a leader, through groups such as social climate and students’ council, and initiate others to find a way to become involved. Notre Dame is one big family that supports one another through everything – whether it be travelling to Hamilton to see the senior boys football team play at OFSAA or when we walk together in solidarity during our annual pilgrimage – Notre Dame is a warm, welcoming, and inclusive environment that cannot be compared to any other.

Notre Dame is also driven by faith, and with that, the love and everlasting mercy of God. Faith can move us and provide us with lessons to live out our lives as better and enlightened people. In Micah 6:8, the Lord only asks that “we act justly and love mercy and walk humbly…”. This message relays directly to our futures and should be kept in mind each day. When we act in a way that pursues justice; while also maintaining a sense of humility it is then that we can live our best life and reap the most reward from any opportunity we choose to take or any path we walk upon. In Luke 6:38, it is written “give, and it will be given to you… for with the measure you use, it will be measured to you,” presenting the idea that whatever you put into your education, work, family life and relationships is what you will get out of it. From this, it should be learned that you as a person have the ability to make YOUR life as amazing as possible and the capability to achieve all of your goals so as long as you are committed. These passages, one from the old testament and one from the new, act as metaphor for the journey of the graduates from high school onto the next stage of their lives and how faith follows us every step of the way, providing us with the energy and motivation to seek greatness.

A journey such as the one that is life is not plausible if you do not have anyone to experience it with. It is impossible to develop and flourish without the companionship and support from other individuals; whether that be a family member or a friend. In Maya Angelou’s poem, Alone, the speaker ponders upon how to “find [one’s] soul a home…” and comes to the ultimate conclusion that “nobody can make it out here alone.” This poetic portrayal of life is truth – and lends to the fact that we must accredit our successes to not only ourselves; but to those who have helped to get us where we stand today.

Before I extend thanks to those who have helped us on our high school journey, I would ask that each of the graduates today congratulate themselves briefly for getting through any struggles they may have faced these last four years and to reflect on the good times, instances that make you smile when you relive them. You are all amazing individuals, and I personally want to thank you for the impact you have made on my life, because I can honestly say that without you in my life, I would not be the person I am today. Moving forward, I would like to thank the staff at Notre Dame – teachers, support faculty, administration, as well as the Notre Dame Family and Alumni – your dedication to this class and to this school is extraordinary and cannot be topped. Finally, I would like to thank my friends and family and those of all the graduates for remaining a constant support system and source of love and inspiration throughout our secondary school career – words cannot express on how great your impact has been, and continues to be, on us.

Throughout our high school journey, we as people have grown and developed spiritually, socially, and intellectually. We have faced hard times and experienced triumph and happiness – which have all culminated to produce the amazing graduating class that we are today. We have learned to embrace who we are as people – to be our true selves with confidence and vigour. We have learned to embrace change, and to capitalize on exciting opportunities that come our way – even if they seem challenging at first. Moreover, the most important lesson of all, is that we have learned that just because we are individuals, does not mean we cannot make an impact- for if we strive to achieve our goals and dedicate our whole selves to attain something – we have the power, energy, and spirit within to do so. In the future, I encourage the graduating class to live by the following: be humble, be conscious, and embrace life as it tests you. Maintain humility and the world will be for you a more welcoming and opportune place. Be conscious in the choices you make, the actions you carry out, and the words you choose to speak – the world is yours to discover; but it is essential that you respect those around you and the planet itself. Embrace life – try new things, go on adventures, and form relationships that will sustain in you happiness, vigour, and inspiration.

Today, as we, the graduating class of 2018, take the step towards our next stage of life, it is necessary to reflect on the past; but also to look towards the future. We, together, have made it – we have worked tirelessly to graduate and receive our diplomas – and for that I congratulate each and every one of you. As Benjamin Franklin said “the key to success is under the alarm clock,” and no matter how many times you hit snooze over the past years, those early mornings have been a lead-up to this incredible moment in time. Wherever life takes you on this next stage of life, I wish you all the greatest of success, opportunity, and happiness in your future endeavors. Though we’ll miss the breakfast potatoes each morning and the endless ND cookies at lunch, we will never be far from Notre Dame – as its spirit and energy have been deeply ingrained within each and every one of us graduating students. This is not goodbye, it’s see you soon – for I am sure we will all cross paths in the future at some point and I am excited to see where life takes us. Congratulations again to the class of 2018 and a big thank you to all who have been with us on our journey; most of all, thank you to Notre Dame for being our forever home. To end this speech, I think it appropriate that we end it together as we do every morning: “Our Lady of Holy Cross, PRAY FOR US.” Step onward to victory graduates! Thank you.

Below is the ‘Appreciation of the Principal’, presented by 2018 graduate and student council president, Victoria Nezezon:

Good evening graduates, parents, guests and staff. As you may be
all aware, our loving, caring, encouraging and faithful leader, Mr. DeFazio,
is retiring this year. He has been principal at Notre Dame College School
for 13 and a half wonderful years. When you think of Notre Dame, the first
thing that pops into your head is probably Mr. DeFazio. That’s because he
is the heart and soul of it all. Mr. DeFazio means everything to ND and he
has created the most amazing atmosphere within the school and
community. Coming from our graduating class, we are tremendously lucky
to have had Mr. DeFazio for our four years of high school. We have made
so many fun and amazing memories with Mr. DeFazio over the years. I’m
sure everyone will remember him dressing up in a leprechaun suit and
playing his famously known accordion, teaching us the Alma Mater over
the PA system for a whole week, or just seeing him in the halls, giving us a
smile and saying hello. Mr. DeFazio has been an inspiration to not only us,
but thousands upon thousands of students. Mr. DeFazio has become a
role model for many students, alumni, and families. He is well-known in the
community and he does so much to ensure that the environment
surrounding others is healthy and that they are happy. Mr. DeFazio is one
of the most selfless, kind, and all around amazing person that we were
lucky enough to get to know; but now it’s time for him to take care of
himself, his family, and more importantly his health. With that being said,
we want to thank you Mr. DeFazio with all of our hearts for being our
principal, friend, and also our school dad. Have a blessed retirement and
we hope to see you around.

(Editor’s note: Graduation remarks by Class of 2018 valedictorians from Welland schools are sought for publication on the blog. For more information contact the editor by writing: fromareportersnotebook@gmail.com)

Grads Tossing Hats (1)

And so it begins: the tossing of the hats.


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