MMI Preparatory School honored the Class of 2023 during its 131st commencement ceremony on Thursday, May 25.
This year’s graduating class of 24 seniors were accepted at more than 88 percent of the colleges they applied to and amassed more than $7.5 million in merit scholarships and awards.
“I am beyond thrilled to be presiding over the 131st commencement ceremonies at MMI. My first year has been one focused mostly on learning. Learning about the culture of our great school, our extended community, and these talented young people who I am pleased to congratulate on their graduation,” said Theresa Long, Head of School. “As the 13th Head of School, it is my honor to share in many traditions, old and new, and to be able to watch local area students grow and thrive under the watchful eye of our faculty and staff.”
A few students offered remarks at the ceremony, including Manal Muhammed, Salutatorian. In her speech, Muhammed reflected on the importance of her experience and the lessons MMI instilled in her, while looking ahead to her next chapter. “We have been through so much together and we have plenty of exciting things to look forward to as we set off for college in a few months. As we bid farewell to this chapter of our lives at MMI, I hope we carry with us the lessons, memories, and the friendship we have gained here,” she said.
Jessica Zheng, the Class of 2023’s Valedictorian and Class President, continued this sentiment: “As time passes and we grow older, our time at MMI will become an even smaller fraction of our lives. But, its impact has been resounding. I encourage all of you to value your time and appreciate these small, yet meaningful moments as we embark on this new journey.” Zheng continued to mention the impact her class has had on her and their surrounding community, “The class of 2023 is composed of the most diverse, compassionate, and insightful people I have had the privilege of meeting. They have made a lasting impact on my life, the lives of others, the lives of many more in the audience, and the resounding MMI Community.”
MMI Graduating Senior, Brenna Kate Eckhart, spoke about the Class of 2023’s banner: “The sun and moon represent the many ups and downs the class has experienced. Whether good times or bad times, and we had quite a few, our class made the best of what we had. There are sunrays representing each female in our class and stars representing each male. Each of us will bring some light into this world no matter where we go or what we do.”
MMI Board Chairman, Richard A. DiLiberto, Jr., Esq. ‘79 also offered his remarks: “When I spoke to you in this gymnasium on the first day of school, I told you that you can be whatever you dream to be. Stay away from people who tell you can’t. With an MMI education, you have the opportunity to think great thoughts, learn vast things, and change the world. So many of our alumni have achieved monumental achievements, you can too!”
Cal Herring ’74 gave the Founder’s Day Address. Herring worked at the Keystone Job Corps Center for 26 years. He currently works as the Administrator for the Greater Hazleton Area Civic Partnership and the Mountain Council of Government. Herring discussed the impact of being an MMI graduate: “When you become ‘Prepper Proud,’ it may not be today and for some of you it may take many years, you will be grateful for the experience you received. My dad made the decision that I was going to MMI. Today, I look upon it as one of the best directions my life has taken.”
During the ceremony, Brenna Kate Eckhart was honored with the Faculty Award, Jessica Zheng was honored with the Joseph A. Chaykowski ’48 Memorial Prize for Mathematics and Science, and Khristian Carol Banks was honored with the Rotary Service Above Self Award. The Faculty Award is presented to the student who displays basic goodness and honesty while being a good example for their peers in his or her own way. The student is emotionally mature and treats others with empathy, compassion, and concern. The entire faculty selects the recipient from a number of worthy candidates. The Joseph A. Chaykowski ’48 Memorial Prize for Mathematics and Science is awarded to the member of the class who has the highest combined average grade point average in math and science throughout their four-year upper school experience. The award is named for a distinguished alumnus of MMI who studied engineering at Penn State and was an outstanding professional engineer. The award was founded in memory of Joseph A. Chaykowski by his daughter Ms. Lisa Chaykowski Merlo ’80, and a member of the MMI Board of Directors, until her unexpected and untimely passing. Khristian Carol Banks was honored with the Freeland Rotary Club Service Above Self Award, which recognizes and acknowledges a young person who by his or her actions has personified the Rotary motto of “Service Above Self” in their school and community.
Members of MMI’s Class of 2023, their parents, and their hometowns are as follows:
Waqas Arain, child of Muhammad Hafeez Arain and Rashid Farah of Bear Creek Township; Khristian Carol Banks, child of Michael and Renee Banks of Mountain Top; Ashley Bonifacio Osoria, child of Edwin and Rosa Bonifacio of Hazleton; Jeffrey Mark DeAngelo, child of Grete and Aaron Floryshak of Sugarloaf and Louis DeAngelo of Hazle Township; Nathan James Dewar-Canosa, child of Alex and Syra Dewar of Drums; Brenna Kate Eckhart, child of Charles and Kim Eckhart of Lehighton; Anden Shane Karlick, child of Andrew and Carinne Karlick of Freeland; Erica D. Kline, child of Dr. John and June Kline of Mountain Top; Evelyn Raine Lacombe, child of Megan and Jeff Searfoss of White Haven and Brian Lacombe of Silver Springs, New York. Emely Illuminada Lopez-Rodriguez, child of Eduart and Veronica Rodriguez of Hazleton; Kate Marie Malay, child of John and Kathryn Malay of Jim Thorpe; John Matias Mauna, child of Pedro and Aracellis Mauna of Hazle Township; Ty Lewis McDermott, child of Terrence and Lesley McDermott of White Haven; Jillian Claire McGeehin, child of Larry and Amy McGeehin of Sugarloaf; Gianna Moisey-Hoover, child of Adam Hoover and Jenn Moisey-Hoover of Sugarloaf; Manal Muhammad, child of Ikram and Alia Muhammad of Mountain Top; Samuel Isaac Pacchioli, child of Marc and Nancy Pacchioli of Barnesville; Caden Elijah Pease, child of Jeremy and Tami Pease of Drums; Ava Bridget Putnam, child of Benjamin and Andrea Putnam of Sugarloaf; John E. Schwear III, child of John and Lisa Schwear of Sugarloaf; Caleb Joseph Serock, child of Paul and Erin Serock of Sugarloaf; Kasia Svendson Bitel, child of Kevin and Wanna Bitel of Drums; Lucille Marie van den Berg, child of Gregory and Kelly van den Berg of Mountain Top; Jessica Zheng, child of De and Hongzhi Zheng of Jim Thorpe.