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Pinecrest Academy´s Inaugural Graduation 2007

Pine Crest Graduation

Saturday, May 26, 2007, marked the joyous occasion of the graduation of Pinecrest Academy’s first senior class. The festivities began the evening before, when the fifteen graduates attended a dinner in their honor commissioning them as the first alumni of the school. Following the dinner, the graduates and members of their families and the faculty and staff assembled in the Dr. Tierney Memorial Garden to pray a rosary together, entrusting their futures into the hands of the Blessed Mother.

Graduation Day arrived at last, full of excitement and anticipation. By 1:00 PM the students had assembled in caps and gowns for pre-event pictures. This provided an opportunity for a formal pose with their commencement speaker, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, and an opportunity for them to speak personally with him in relative tranquility before the crush of guests began to arrive. This gracious and humble servant of God had become a friend to many of the students who had met him several times over the course of the year.

As 2:00 approached and the start of the Baccalaureate Mass, the graduates retreated to change for Mass and the priests con-celebrating the Mass were escorted to a classroom to vest.  In addition to Archbishop Migliore, priests in attendance included Archbishop–emeritus of Atlanta John Francis Donoghue; Fr. Scott Reilly, LC, Territorial Director of the Legion of Christ and President of the Board of Directors of Pinecrest Academy; Fr. Emilio Diaz-Torre, Assistant to the Territorial Director; Fr. Eamonn Shelly, LC, Pinecrest Chaplain; Fr. Todd Belardi, Director of Formation of the Boys School; Fr. John Hopkins, former President of the Board of Pinecrest and current Chairman of the Board of the Institute for Psychological Studies; Fr. John
Pine Crest Graduation
Howren, pastor of St. Brendan’s Catholic Church, and Fr. Joseph Peek of the archdiocese of Atlanta.
Mass began to a packed gym. The entire community was represented with current and former Board members, founding families, former teachers, and current families and friends. Archbishop Donoghue was the homilist for the Mass as he granted the initial permission for the school to begin and bestowed the title of “Catholic School” on Pinecrest in its early years of operation. As he stated in his opening remarks, “I have been a part of the life of Pinecrest Academy since it was a collection of thoughts on paper and a dream in the hearts of a few people.” He spoke of the dignity of the baptized Christian to not merely transition into the next phase of life but to be transformed into the person Christ wants him to be. He said that God always does this work in cooperation with our desires, and reminded the students, “If you live according to the teachings of Jesus Christ and the way of life enshrined in His One True Church, then awesome and profound powers will be at work in your lives, powers far greater than society, far greater than human thought, far greater even than the natural laws to which we are all subject.” He closed recalling that, “with God, all things are possible.”

At the close of Mass, the clergy and graduates recessed to change for the commencement exercises. Graduating seniors and faculty robed and re-entered the gym to Pomp and Circumstance played by a string quartet. Pinecrest Executive Director, Rick Swygman welcomed the guests and opened the ceremony. He called the Principal, John Tarpley, forward to present the formation awards.

In the area of academic formation, Mr. Tarpley announced Leanne Cassandra as the Class
Pine Crest Graduation
Salutatorian and Elizabeth Kelley as the Class Valedictorian. This designation is based upon a culmination of the grade point average over four years of high school combining both the Boys and Girls School.

In the area of human formation, two awards were presented. The award for athletic excellence in the Girls School was received by Leanne Cassandra and Franco Garcia received the award for the Boys School. Both students had received all-state honors.

The second award is given for leadership and was given in the Girls School to Kathleen Flanagan. Kathleen will defer college to give a year in service to the Church. In the Boys School Luis Domenge received the award for, among many accomplishments, his work as a leader with Conquest Boys Club.

The Apostleship Award was given for excellence in the area of spiritual and apostolic formation. Paloma Ramos received this award for the Girls School for helping to prepare a group of children in downtown Atlanta for First Holy Communion. Eric Quintana received the award for the Boys School for many acts of service on mission trips, with Habitat for Humanity, and at home with his siblings.

Fr. Scott Reilly was called upon to present the school’s highest award; the Integer Award. This award is presented to a boy and girl who consistently over four years of high school demonstrates exceptional characteristics of leadership in all four areas of formation; intellectual, human, spiritual, and apostolic.  The winner for the Boys School was Franco Garcia. The winner for the Girls School was Elizabeth Kelley.

Franco touched everyone’s heart by telling his classmates that their parents deserved to be on stage with the graduates. He thanked his parents for their sacrifices and encouragement. Franco singled out his basketball coaches, Andres Montana and Jay Lynch for “inspiring me to have confidence in God, myself, and to believe in others.” He challenged his fellow graduates to continue to be apostles. He said, “We must
Pine Crest Graduation
remember everything we’ve learned here at Pinecrest and teach it to others. I pray that we all continue to be Paladins far beyond our time here at school.”

In a memorable address to her Class, Elizabeth reminisced about her early days, “Faith at Pinecrest has always been simple; faith in God, faith in ourselves, faith in others…From those early days until this last week, our faith has always been simple and profound. We are confident that it has prepared us to face tomorrow for, as our Alma Mater states, “our mission lasts a lifetime.” She went on to quote St. Augustine, “The measure of love is love without measure.” She told the assembly, “Pinecrest Academy has been an experience of faith, hope, and love because it is an experience of Christ. To love and serve Him in others will be the true test of our education here…Fellow graduates, my best friends in the world, every time we look at our diplomas, let us remember the sacrifices of all who have made this school a reality. Dear friends, let us all remember the one sacrifice of the cross which has brought to us all the possibility of a peace and joy this world cannot comprehend. For He made us and died for us and gave us his Church and gave us Pinecrest, ‘so that the joy He has may be in us and our joy may be complete.’” (The complete text may be found on

Following the awards, Fr. Scott introduced Archbishop Migliore, the keynote speaker for graduation. Archbishop Migliore called upon lessons learned from the Greek philosophers. He recalled Archimedes words that if you could make a lever long enough and strong enough, you could move the world.  He said, “The world needs a jolt. It is up to
Pine Crest Graduation
you to be the lever that transforms the world. You can do this by using the words Jesus left us in the Gospel.” He reminded the graduates of the great privilege of their education at Pinecrest and said, “Today you start a new chapter; be proud of who you are, the values and virtues you have acquired and seek to use your voice as a means to impart truth to the world.”

Leanne Cassandra then thanked Archbishop Migliore for coming and presented him with a rosary made by a local artist in Pinecrest green and gold. She also announced the Class gift to the school; an archway to be built on campus supported by four pillars, signifying integral formation and crowned with the cross of Christ. The arch was designed by Orlando Ramos, father of senior Paloma Ramos. Mr. Ramos presented Mr. Swygman with a framed architectural rendering of the new arch.

Concluding the presentation of gifts, Principal John Tarpley made Archbishop Donoghue an honorary member of the Class of 2007 in recognition of his constant support and friendship and gave him the first ever Pinecrest Academy diploma.

At last, the diplomas were awarded. Miss Maria Brackett, Director of Formation of the Girls School, presented each of the girls with their diploma, and Fr. Todd Belardi, Director of Formation of the Boys School presented diplomas to each of the boys.

Archbishop Donoghue gave the final blessing and dismissal, and Mr. Swygman presented the Class of 2007 to an appreciative audience. The graduates recessed to the Alma Mater, “Arise, Arise, Oh Paladins.”

With sadness, joy, and anticipation the entire assembly was escorted to a reception under a beautiful tent on the school grounds. A string quartet played, tired, hungry graduates were fed, and congratulations were exchanged all around. It was a perfect day; a historic day; a miraculous day in the providence of God.



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