They Came from Near and Far for Kolbe’s Graduation
Kolbe Academy celebrated its senior class of 2018 with a live graduation ceremony this past Saturday. Along with their friends and families, eighteen students convened for the occasion at Georgia Tech’s Catholic Center in the heart of downtown Atlanta with five additional graduates attending virtually. Some of the participants made a trans-continental trek from California and Arizona, temporarily exchanging their dry desert climate for a legitimate “Georgia scorcher,” while others traveled from as far north as Canada and everywhere in between. The atmosphere was electric, with many people meeting for the first time just moments before locking arms in what was can only be described as a prayerful celebration of academic achievement.
Deacon Jack Knight–who will be ordained this Saturday as a priest for the Archdiocese of Atlanta–opened the ceremony with the invocation. This was followed by a warm greeting from Kolbe Academy’s Executive Director, Mrs. Mary Rowles, whom many of the participants had never met in person. Her brief address turned the hearts of the attendees towards the true meaning of degrees and success which set the stage for the following speeches.
Practicing the Art of Rhetoric
The first student address for the graduation was given by Patricia Kolakowski, who expressed her gratitude for all who had made the event possible. Having tugged on the heartstrings of students, faculty and parents alike with her vivid description of the confusion sometimes involved in choosing a next step after high school, Patricia exhorted her classmates with the words: “In times like these where stress levels are at an all-time high…it’s important to remember how far you’ve come already. You made it through Kolbe Academy, one of the hardest homeschool programs…And if you stop now, you’re only moving backwards and the goal is to constantly keep moving forward. So, when life gets tough, take a breath, pick yourself up and keep going. You can only go up from here.”
Next up was Charlie Mihaliak who delivered the second student address. Charlie’s speech was set against the backdrop of his 9th grade self, receiving a haircut during “normal” school hours while feeling the need to justify his presence to the hairstylist who was wondering, “why aren’t you in school?” Having touched on many questions for which homeschoolers are often called to account, Charlie then answered the hairstylist’s original question to the audience with, “…you know you are a Kolbe kid when just reading the text or solving the problem is not good enough because you need to know WHY. Knowing WHY is Kolbe’s gift to its students, it’s what separates us, and is, ultimately, why we are not in school.” He finished his speech by admonishing his classmates to commence the work of spreading the Gospel by writing their own narrative and completing the task which they have been given.
Words of Wisdom
Following Charlie’s speech, Dr. Jordan Almanzar took the podium to deliver the faculty address for the graduation. Having gotten a few jokes out of the way, the talk took a more serious turn as he challenged the graduating class to live out these next years in service to God. He said, “The class of 2018 is primed for radical greatness…You are a group of men and women who are ready to shock the world–not by being brash and ‘in your face’ as previous generations have tried it. But by singleness of heart, by obedience to God, by personal piety and by working harder than anyone else around you.”
Lastly, we were honored to have Professor Joseph Pearce deliver the commencement speech. Professor Pearce spoke on the treasure of education, particularly a classical education that is, “…centered on one of the most famous questions ever asked: ‘quid est veritas’–which means, ‘what is truth?’” As Professor Pearce indicated, the answer to this question was given by Jesus when he said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” Professor Pearce reminded the audience, “Any education that tries to exclude Jesus is therefore not a true education.” He then developed Jesus’ answer (the Way, the Truth, the Life) more practically to the corresponding transcendentals: the Good, the True, and the Beautiful, and he challenged the audience to see them by means of “dilation” (opening to God’s revelation) and to develop them in our world by means of “sub-creation”.
Rewards for a Job Well Done
Following Professor Pearce’s inspiring address, the degrees were conferred to the well-deserving graduates. At the end of the ceremony, the seniors organized on the stage for a photo op with the administrative faculty and Professor Pearce. The graduation ceremony was closed with a prayer by Mrs. Megan Lengyel, the director of Kolbe’s online academy.
Afterwards, the attendees assembled in the lobby of the Catholic Center for a reception and to mutually celebrate with friends, family and faculty. The afternoon was completed with a delightful dinner at Mary Mac’s Tea Room–a historic downtown Atlanta restaurant in which Kolbe reserved an entire room for its guests to enjoy some good ol’ fashioned Southern cooking and to mix and mingle before returning home. By all accounts, the event was a smashing success!