CALDWELL, NJ — Last Wednesday in St. Aloysius Church, in front of a limited audience of 100 faculty, parents and family, Trinity Academy formally recognized and celebrated the achievements of each member of its 29th graduating class.
Students were gathered in their cap and gowns – excited, smiling and dressed up for the occasion. This gathering marks the first opportunity many have had to celebrate together as a class and follows their “caravan” drive-by receipt of their physical diplomas in June.
This year has proven to be an unprecedented and exceptional experience for the Trinity Academy Class of 2020, not only for the impact COVID-19 has had on their final year of elementary and middle school, but for their distinction in being the final class to graduate from Trinity Academy. In April, the Archdiocese of Newark announced it would be closing Trinity Academy at the end of June, a decision that sent shock waves through the Trinity family and local communities.
While the school had officially dissolved as of June 30, 2020 – the principal, faculty, parents and friends wanted to ensure this class had a proper celebration and send off. Plans were made to hold this celebration once the Governor approved outdoor gatherings of 50 or more. Thunderstorms threatened to cancel the event, originally planned for outside Trinity Academy. At the last minute, Father Juan Jose Esteban worked with principal Linda Payonzeck to move the graduation inside St. Aloysius, as indoor gatherings of up to 100 had recently been approved for religious gatherings in the state of New Jersey.
“These students have worked so hard and overcome so much,” said Maria Giorgio, their former eighth grade homeroom teacher, “It was important for all of us to gather and recognize their efforts. Today is a celebration of their time at Trinity Academy. Not a sorrowful mourning of our school closing, but a day to acknowledge these students’ faith in God, their hard work, talent, and perseverance.”
During the ceremony, the principal and limited faculty watched on as the 23 graduates processed up the aisle in masks to their pews, distanced for safety. Family and friends in attendance watched with joy as the eighth graders were each called out and recognized, symbolizing the end of one chapter of their lives and the beginning of another. Michele Sweeney, a 21-year faculty member who taught many of the graduates as their Kindergarten teacher, and Kelly Egan, an alumnus of Trinity Academy, parent and faculty member each addressed the graduates as surprise guest speakers. Sweeney and Egan expressed their excitement as they have witnessed the Class of 2020 grow and mature and encouraged each of them to stay true to themselves throughout their journey, and always keep Trinity Academy in their hearts.
The class, still awaiting their yearbooks from the publisher due to COVID-19 work stoppages, had the opportunity to share their yearbook’s dedication with the audience. Graduate Bridget Castano shared that the yearbook had a dual dedication. First, to all the essential workers — firefighters, police, healthcare workers, who have worked tirelessly to keep our communities safe during this worldwide pandemic. Then, a more specific dedication to Nick Novelino, Trinity Academy’s custodian who has cared for the school and the students for years.
Msgr. Robert E. Emery, pastor of St. Aloysius represented by Estaban, along with Father Thomas Dente, pastor of Notre Dame Church in North Caldwell, blessed and wished the graduates well while the many class awards and diplomas to the class, was led by Payonzeck.
“It is an honor to be with you all today, and a pleasure to see the spiritual, academic and emotional growth of each young man and woman throughout the year,” said ayonzeck. “While it is difficult to leave what we have come to consider a 'second home,' it is with great pride and confidence in their abilities and accomplishments that we do so.”
The Trinity Academy graduates have been accepted to and have received in excess of $460,000 in academic scholarships to top Catholic private high schools including Mt. St. Dominic Academy’s Siena Scholarship awarded to Bridget Castano and Kelly DelTufo; the Ignatian Scholarship to St. Peter’s Prep was awarded to Aidan Maione, Head of School Award to Oratory Prep was given to Bobby Bajkowski; Seton Hall Prep Headmaster’s Scholarship to Declan McKiernan and Owen Mulvihill; and Angel Sullivan Scholarship winners Bridget Castano, Caitlin Caufield, Kelly DelTufo, Kaitlyn Ferris, Jane Finney, Lauren Hoffman and Gabriella LaMarca to Mt. St. Dominic Academy; and Aidan Maione to St. Peter’s Prep.
In addition, three students, William Du, Aidan Maione and Katherine (Mackenzie) Mir, were awarded certificates of merit and purple ribbons for their performance on their National Latin Exams. Du scored a perfect 40 on the exam, only 709 students out of over 21,000 who took the exam, achieved a perfect score.
Many students from the Trinity Academy class of 2020 will be continuing their education at private Catholic institutions: Mt. St. Dominic Academy, St. Peter’s Prep, Seton Hall Prep, Delbarton, Immaculate Heart Academy, Oratory Prep and Union Catholic while others will attend James Caldwell High School and Montville High School. Graduates have also been invited to participate in honors classes in English, Math, Biology, History, World Language and Theology.
Trinity Academy administration, faculty and staff, and the families of the eighth graders are proud of the students' accomplishments and wish them the best in their future endeavors.
The Trinity Academy Class of 2020 (alphabetical order):
Nicholas Alberto, Cedar Grove
Edward Ayuso, West Orange
Robert Bajkowski, East Hanover
Jack Camporeale, Caldwell
Bridget Castano, Caldwell
Caitlin Caufield, Caldwell
Kelly DelTufo, Livingston
William Du, Caldwell
Kaitlyn Ferris, Fairfield
Jane Finney, Essex Fells
Matthew Glenn, Caldwell
Caitlin Halpin, Pine Brook
Micaela Healy, West Caldwell
Lauren Hoffman, West Caldwell
Gabriella LaMarca, Caldwell
James LaMarca, Caldwell
Aidan Maione, Fairfield
Declan McKiernan, Essex Fells
Katherine (Mackenzie) Mir,Clifton
Owen Mulvihill, West Caldwell
Annie Norton, Caldwell
Elias Velez, West Orange
David Zoppi, Parsippany