Seventeen-year-old Delina Auciello said she wishes she could spend her summer in Kenya instead of her native Long Island after her 10-day missionary trip there in February.
The Mastic girl was one of 96 graduates in the auditorium at Bishop McGann-Mercy Diocesan High School in Riverhead on Thursday.
“It humbles you a little bit, because when you come back you realize, wow, Kenyans have so much less than I have, but at the same time, I would have rather stayed there then come back, because that’s what I want to study,” said Auciello, who will major in world studies and public and community service at Providence College in September.
She aspires to become an international social worker with Unbound, the Catholic organization that led the trip to Africa, where she and other missionaries from across the United States spent time with their sponsored children. At Thursday’s graduation ceremony, she was awarded an honors medal for religious studies.
Diocese of Rockville Centre Bishop William Murphy handed diplomas to the graduating seniors, 97 percent of whom will pursue postsecondary education or military service. Bishop McGann-Mercy, which teaches grades 7-12, is the only Catholic high school on Long Island’s East end, with students attending from as far away as Montauk and Patchogue.
In her valedictorian address, Morgan O’Neill, 18, of Center Moriches, said she didn’t have the experience to give her classmates advice. But she added that they could possibly derive lessons from some from her mistakes, which included her not being grateful for her parents, friends and teachers. She talked about how she planned to correct this even as she prepared to give her speech.
“I’m going to keep people I’ve met at Mercy in my mind and keep in contact with them because throughout school I didn’t notice the people around me and didn’t show enough gratefulness for them,” said O’Neill, who will study biomedical engineering at Stony Brook.
On the other hand, salutatorian Grace Mazzeo eagerly gave advice during her address, telling her classmates that it’s fine if they are unsure exactly what they will do with their lives even decades after completing college.
“Don’t feel pressured to major in something you hate because you think you won’t be able to find a job doing something you love,” she said.