Life about attitude, commitment, Madonna grads told

Taryn Linder GRADUATION DAY — Weirton Madonna High School Principal Jamie Lesho presents the Class of 2019 to friends and family attending commencement exercises Saturday in the school gymnasium. Thirty-seven seniors received diplomas.

WEIRTON — Before beginning the next phase of their lives, members of the Weirton Madonna Class of 2019 heard some words of wisdom from a fellow Blue Don whose work helps to keep some of the world’s information and technology protected.

Daniel Manack, a member of the Weirton Madonna Class of 1976, addressed the graduates during commencement exercises held Saturday in the school’s Bill Barrett Gymnasium.

Following his days at Madonna, Manack went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from West Virginia University and an MBA from the University of Dallas. He is a licensed professional engineer living in Texas, and is vice president for global support and services at McAfee.

“I’m sure as your parents have told you, time does pass quickly,” began Manack. “For me, it doesn’t seem that long ago that I was sitting where you are today.”

Manack noted that after accepting the role as a speaker for Saturday’s ceremony he started to reflect upon his own journey in search of some insights that might be of interest to the new graduates.

“First advice is to show up,” said Manack. “I received an awesome education at Madonna but let me confide in you. My ACT and SAT scores were very average.”

Manack added that after attending a few classes in the College of Engineering at West Virginia University, he knew he would have to work hard.

“I would show up for classes, I would show up for study sessions and I would show up with my homework done,” Manack said. “I noticed a few of my classmates did not show up as often. Fast forward four years to graduation. The ceremony is about to complete. I’m sitting with my parents and future wife Kathy, a student of Catholic Central but I’ve never held that against her. There was one last award for highest GPA in the College of Engineering. They called my name, and I was stunned. What this taught me is that life is more than just talent. It’s also about attitude and commitment. So much of life is about showing up for what’s important.”

Manack also advised the Class of 2019 to find balance in their lives and to teach when possible, whether formally or informally.

“In the preparation process of teaching comes a deeper understanding,” noted Manack. “There is a Latin proverb, ‘Docendo discimus,’ that means, ‘By teaching we learn.'”

On Sundays, Manack teaches faith formation to kindergarten students.

“I have learned more about my own faith as I prepare for classes each Sunday,” said Manack.

Valedictorians Andrea Alimario, Eric Chartier, Chad Durante and Abigail Nickerson as well as salutatorian MaKayla Virden addressed their classmates.

Alimario encouraged her classmates to make every opportunity count,

“Up to this point, our paths have been laid out for us, more or less,” said Alimario. “Now, the ball is in our court. Ahead of us is the rest of our lives with a future that is not predetermined. There is boundless potential and there are infinite possibilities. It’s our time to take this opportunity and make our lives count. By the grace of God, we were extraordinarily created to make an impact in this world. It’s up to us to discover what that impact will be.”

Chartier also spoke about the adventures that await the graduating class.

“Today, we start down a new path,” began Chartier. “As we look to the horizon, we remember those who’ve prepared us for this voyage. Those who gave us supplies and outfitted our vessels. They taught us to sail out of port and prepared us to navigate the seas of life — and we thank them. Our home ports will remain, but we must discover our own paths, our own journeys. Today, our adventure begins.”

Durante started by referencing John Fitzgerald Kennedy, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” He asked his fellow classmates to take Kennedy’s words to heart.

“President Kennedy said this in his inaugural address during the Cold War, a very turbulent time for America,” said Durante. “In many ways, we are experiencing that turbulence.”

Durante noted that America is changing.

“America is currently at a turning point, her future has yet to be determined or defined,” said Durante. “Fellow graduates, we must partake in this turning point and propel America toward a path and definition of humility, morality, charity and temperance. Overnight at Madonna, each of us have been transformed from inexperienced youths into adults with the necessary logical, moral and physical tools to change the world.”

Just as Kennedy called upon Americans in the 1960s, Durante called upon his classmates.

“I call upon you also to improve the lives of your fellow men through every act you take over the many fruitful years each of your lives will have,” said Durante. “We are human. We will all have dark moments and great moments in our uncharted lives. Through it all, always remember we are Christian and are indelibly marked with the sign of Christ. Life will no doubt be arduous, but God’s light will shepherd us through it all.”

Nickerson advised her fellow graduates to always act in service of Madonna.

“When faced with uncertainty, we can always be reminded of Madonna’s main focus, ‘Faith, Family and Service,'” said Nickerson. “Throughout our years at Madonna, we have taken part in many service projects from sending a truck load for hurricane relief to Texas to collecting canned goods for the Community Bread Basket. We have learned to be leaders in our school and communities. Never forget that.”

Nickerson also asked her classmates to get out of their comfort zones.

“These next years of our lives will go by quickly and will become some of our best memories,” said Nickerson.

Virden reminded the graduating class to not lose faith.

“As Saint Paul said in Philippians chapter four, verse 12, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,'” quoted Virden. “Remember this verse as you take your life journey, and you will be able to accomplish anything with Christ’s help.”

(Linder can be contacted at tlinder@heraldstaronline.com)