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TMP graduates leave with friends and memories

5/27/2014

By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN

dobrien@dailynews.net

The class of 2014 probably had no idea how much it would be called on to live up to its theme for the school year when it chose "Rise Above" last August.

In the end, this year's 58 seniors even had to break tradition and have their graduation in a different location than usual.

Once again, they came through in flying colors, said Kathy Taylor, principal of Thomas More Prep-Marian High School in Hays.

"These seniors have been asked time and time again to rise above," Taylor said at Sunday's graduation ceremonies at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church.

Taylor said the class displayed "consistence, stamina and good spirit through this year.

"You really lived up to your theme of 'Rise Above,' and I hope this will serve you well for the rest of your lives," she added.

Numerous activities, including home basketball games and wrestling meets, had to be moved to alternative locations throughout the year because of an ongoing construction project to upgrade fire exits in Al Billinger Fieldhouse.

The seniors' biggest challenge came when the construction project was delayed, and graduation had to be moved from its traditional spot in the fieldhouse.

Had graduation been held in the fieldhouse, there would have been limited seating.

Rather than have their graduates limit the number of family and friends they invited, administrators decided to schedule the ceremony for Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, which holds more than 1,000.

"Sometimes we all need a little break from tradition," one of the graduates, Jenna Ernsting, said following Sunday's graduation ceremony at IHM, which was nearly full.

"Maybe we just started a new tradition," Ernsting said, adding "we still had all the TMP traditions. It was just in a different venue."

That venue at IHM, which some applauded because of air conditioning and easy access, saw students from seven different countries represented.

In addition to 42 American students, 16 from six foreign countries -- China, Italy, Korea, Rwanda, Taiwan and Vietnam -- received their diplomas.

Nearly 90 percent of the graduates received scholarships to further their education, for a total of $1 million.

And another part of tradition was the speaker chosen to give the graduation address -- Kathleen Cepelka, who has worked 45 years in Catholic education, including a seven-year stint as president and principal of TMP in the 1980s.

Cepelka, who now serves as superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, talked to the graduates about numerous gifts they received by choosing Catholic education.

She talked about the gifts of an "extraordinarily caring community, our beloved faith handed down to you and the legacy of leadership and service."

Cepelka told the graduates about something a graduate from another school told her.

" 'I came to this school with the faith of my parents, and now I leave with my own,' " Cepelka said. "I hope that is also true of you."