St. Gerard Campus sends off 14 graduates in ceremony

Class of 2016

Graduation at St. Gerard Campus doesn’t exactly go down like a typical high school graduation.


Amid celebratory whistling and applause from their families, teen mothers take to the stage for their hard-earned diplomas while waving and blowing kisses to their babies. It’s a ceremony that truly marks the end of one journey and the start of another.

St. Gerard, founded in 1981, is a nonprofit, faith-based high school and home for pregnant girls and young mothers. There were 14 young women in the school’s Class of 2016.

“School is school, but not at St. Gerard,” said Caroline Wolff, executive director and founder.

She said students coming to the school can be “grouchy as anything sometimes,” but always loving.

“We hear laughter, we hear crying, we hear singing,” Wolff said.

Students spoke of a curriculum that goes beyond the standard high school offerings. Graduates are expected to know not only how to care for themselves but for their babies upon walking out the door.

Class president Mary Alice Burch thanked school staff for their “tough love and guidance” as well as her parents for believing in her and encouraging her.

“From diapers to diplomas, we made it,” she told her classmates. “This year was super tough and challenging. We all had days where we just wanted to rip our hair out, and I just want to tell the girls I love them so much and that they’re, like, my family.”

Valedictorian Courtney Lynn Bennett thanked her friends, family and St. Gerard staff for their support through the “bump in the road.”

“I’m terrified of what life has to hold for us,” she said. “Every girl in this school has already started her family. We already no longer live for ourselves but for more than that. We have our children. We defy statistics.”

She urged fellow graduates to remember the success stories of former graduates and to never count themselves out.

“We are all teen moms who have full lives ahead of us,” Bennett said. “We live for our children, to give them anything the ever want or need. We continue to further our education so we can provide for our families, keeping everything in mind we learned while at St. Gerard.”

Salutatorian Kyesha Simone Jones echoed those sentiments, saying St. Gerard is a “special, unique place.”

Jones said her long journey began when she became a mother at 16 years old.

“There were people who didn’t believe in me, but I didn’t quit,” she said.

She encouraged fellow graduates to find their true calling in life.

“There is a passion for all of us,” she said. “Thank all of you girls for being in my life.”


Class of 2016

Courtney Lynn Bennett

Mary Alice Burch

Josie Marisa Cannon

Taylor Jo Center

Marissa Garcia

Kyesha Simone Jones

Ashleigh Eunice Nolen

Erica Marie Munoz

Kiegee Javond Proctor

Gianna Punziano

Clara Lucille Sowers

Hope Isabel Thompson

Haley Elizabeth Waters

Angel Rayne Wilson



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