WEIRTON - Nearly 20 years after her own high school graduation, Madonna High School alumna Joanna Bernabei McNamee returned to her alma mater and told the Class of 2012 that, in 20 years, they would find most people fell within two categories: Those who were happy and content and those who had regrets.
"You never hear anyone say, 'I wish I had partied harder,'" she said during commencement exercises at St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Church Sunday.
McNamee told the students college would be a fun and exciting time and an opportunity to reinvent themselves if they chose but also would be busy and stressful. She added many of them may not know what career path they want to follow.
ALUMMNA SPEAKER — Joanna Bernabei McNamee, a Madonna High School Class of 1993 graduate and recent Madonna Hall of Fame inductee, returned to her alma mater as the Class of 2012’s graduation speaker Sunday afternoon. McNamee, a basketball standout at Madonna, was named to the NCAA D-2 All-American Team in 1997 and was a University of Maryland women’s basketball assistant coach during a national championship run. McNamee coached for 10 years in Division I.
"You need to be passionate about your job," she said. "You're going to be spending 40 hours a week there, it's a big chunk of your time. I loved coaching. When you love your job, it never feels like work."
She advised the graduates to follow their passions and stay true to themselves, but also to explore their options by taking courses in many subject in which they are interested and to shadow professionals in fields that intrigue them.
"Never follow someone else's path," she said. "Unless you're in the woods ... and you're lost ... and you find a path - then, by all means, follow it."
She said she had inquired of her family and friends what she should speak about and was told she should speak about teens' perceived poor communication skills and sense of entitlement and tell them to "put down Facebook and pick up a real book."
"I imagined telling you this very earnestly, while half of you were texting and the other half were looking at me with an expression like 'we are so entitled to a better speaker,' while taking my picture with your cellphone and posting it to Facebook," she joked.
McNamee encouraged graduates to rely on their parents' advice, noting their families know them better than they know themselves.
"That hard advice that sounds like criticism is probably the most honest advice you'll ever hear," she said. "So ask them for that, because your family will always be in your corner, and they want you to succeed, because you are their pride and joy."
McNamee told the Class of 2012 to sharpen their time management skills, advising them they had 16 hours in a day to make a difference in their lives, and what they did in those hours would determine whether they were content or regretful. The other eight, she told the graduates, were for sleeping - but they should invest in an alarm clock.
"Put it as far away from your bed as possible," she said. "If you have a dorm room with a bathroom, put it in the bathroom and leave the door open. For those of you who are morning kids who jump right up out of bed, it's unnecessary, but for everyone else, it's the most important thing I've told you today."
Outside of time management, McNamee said students' most important attribute is their attitude.
"It's the only thing you're 100 percent in control of," she said.
Leaders don't give excuses or blame others, welcome responsibility and shine under pressure, she said.
"Life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you react to it," said McNamee. "Always remember to react with confidence and a level head and know you're giving life all you've got."
McNamee, a 1993 graduate, recently was named to the Madonna Hall of Fame. She spent 10 years coaching Division I women's basketball at the University of Maryland, West Virginia University and Eastern Kentucky University. She also was the West Virginia Wesleyan women's basketball head coach. She is the daughter of Nancy and the late John Bernabei.
Valedictorians Christian Boni, Taylor Brancazio and Stephanie Magnone and salutatorians Rosalie Granato and Lisa Parkins also spoke, and senior class president Isabella Anile gave the welcome.