Graduation Caps,  Sweatshirts Too


 A graduation tradition lives on. On Monday, June 8, the graduating class of St. Rose of Lima Catholic Academy posed outside of school to take a special photo. One might wonder why this photo was so special. Well, it depicts all 21 socially-distanced eighth graders adorning their St. Rose of Lima Class of 2020 sweatshirts. The distribution of graduation sweatshirts has been an eighth grade tradition at St. Rose for years. However, due to COVID-19, many traditions were replaced with a virtual reality that left some students and parents disheartened.

This year, the eighth graders were plagued with disappointment. Their graduation Mass and commencement ceremonies are both scheduled to be virtual. As of two weeks ago, it appeared that the students were about to have yet another disappointment. The sweatshirts were not ordered. Upon hearing this news, 1st Vice President of The Heart of Rockaway (THOR), a civic association based in Arverne by the Sea, Edwin Williams, decided that something needed to be done to put a smile on the students’ faces.

Williams’ neighbor, Jose Rodriguez, expressed how disappointed he was when he found out that his daughter, Angelina, would not be receiving this special graduation souvenir. As a community leader representing THOR, Williams knew there must be something he could do to help. “Not only was their senior year cut short, but I was trying to figure out a way to put a smile on their faces,” Williams said.

So, Williams reached out to Gerry Romski, CEO of Arverne by the Sea, who Williams has counted on in the past. “Gerry always comes through for the kids in Rockaway. Gerry just wanted to help us put a smile on the faces of the St. Rose of Lima Seniors. 2020 has not been a good year, and it looked like the students would not even get senior class sweatshirts. I could not let that happen. So, maybe now, these students will have one bright day to remember through all of this,” Williams said. And, with the teamwork of Williams, Romski, and THOR, they found a way. All 21 graduating students have received a graduation sweatshirt.

The sweatshirts were designed by eighth grader, Angelina Rodriguez, who will attend Brooklyn Tech High School in the fall. Every sweatshirt has the year they graduated, as well as their names on it.

Due to the pandemic, the teachers and faculty of St. Rose organized a car parade two weeks ago, where students received a goody-bag with their names on it full of treats, as well as their diplomas. However, all 21 eighth graders were disappointed when the traditional graduation sweatshirts were not in their original goody-bag. When the students heard the great news that THOR wanted to do something to help, they were overcome with joy at the compassion they felt from the entire community. Angela Rodriguez said, “I think the sweatshirts make us feel a little more appreciated, because every year before us has gotten them, and now we are being shown how appreciated we really are in this community.”

 By Marina Cregan