High School Class of 2021 Graduation

The St. Joseph Hill Academy High School Class of 2021 Commencement Exercise took place on Saturday, June 5, 2021 outside on Hill’s campus, as is tradition. The Hill Class of 2021, at 141 in size, is the largest in our school's history, with 27 transfer students (mostly from St. John Villa Academy) joining the class in their sophomore year. The Graduation Liturgy and Awards Ceremony took place two days prior on Thursday, June 3, 2021 at the Church of Our Lady Star of the Sea. The Mass was concelebrated by Bishop John O’Hara, Father Rhey Garcia, and Father Thomas P. Devery. Both ceremonies were live streamed with students permitted to have two guests in-person, providing proof of Covid-19 vaccination or negative tests. 

The Graduation Liturgy and Commencement Exercises reflected on the tremendous challenges the Class of 2021 overcame due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It was noted that the graduates demonstrated resilience and perseverance despite the destabilizing experience and they emerged from it with gratitude, appreciation for life, and immense strength of character. 

At the Graduation Ceremony, Mrs. Kerry Sullivan (Hill '81), Director of College Counseling, shared the collective accomplishments of the 141 students that were "worthy of particular kudos." Mrs. Kerry noted, "this year marked the most competitive year for college admissions in the past 19 years... with the added stress of applying to college during a pandemic." Their achievements include: 

  • $59.2 million in academic scholarships received
  • 213 unique colleges and universities offered them acceptances
  • 23 commitments to accelerated master’s and doctorate programs
  • 28 participating in Honors, Leadership, Research and Scholars programs
  • 4 offered NCAA Division I, II, or III athletic awards in softball, swimming, and track and field


"I am so very grateful, proud and fond of you for the strength of character you and your parents displayed during such trying times,” said Mrs. Sullivan.

 Mrs. Maria Molluzzo, Hill HS Principal, told the class, “You are special. You are the largest class to ever graduate from Hill; you are the first class to follow a pathway; you are the first class to present the school with a class gift and you are the first class to graduate on a Saturday… As you leave these familiar surroundings, I ask you to take the tools that high school has given you, academically, socially, and most importantly spiritually. Use these tools to help you write the next chapter of your lives.”

The love and legacy of Hill’s longest serving principal, Sister M. Charlotte Gulban, FDC was also honored. Ms. Jeanine R. Khoury (Hill ’78), founder of the Sr. M. Charlotte Gulban, F.D.C. Scholarship as well as the Jeanine R. Khoury Scholarship, delivered the Alumna Commencement Address. Ms. Khoury told the Class of 2021, “You may not realize it today, but I guarantee you that in 10, 20, 30 – even 50 years from now, you will appreciate the foundation that St. Joseph Hill Academy has given you. You are well prepared for the world outside of these gates.”

The Class of 2021 Valedictorian was Thea Maria Akhrass and the Class of 2021 Salutatorian was Michelle Chen. Valedictorian Thea Akhrass will attend Siena – Albany Medical College Science, Humanities and Medicine B.A./M.D. 8-year program and the Standish Honors Program. Salutatorian Michelle Chen will attend Swarthmore College where she intends to major in Biology. Both speakers spoke warmly of the empowering education they received at Hill.

Thea remarked, “Hilltoppers, we are beyond equipped and empowered to change the world… I picture myself voting for a Hill girl on the ballot for Congresswoman, or reading your name as the lead author in a scientific paper, or turning on the TV to find your successful business pitch on Shark Tank. No matter how far we go or which direction we take, we will always remember to achieve Summum Bonum.”

St. Joseph Hill Academy High School President Sister Mary Coffelt, FDC, also recounted the deep connection this Class has formed with each other and with God. “Your fellow classmates have encouraged and taught each other about friendship, collaboration, courage, service, trust, sharing of your faith and just being there for one another, lifting each other up in the happy moments as well as difficult times experienced during these months of Covid.” 

The St. Joseph Hill Academy High School faculty, administration, and staff will never forget the Class of 2021. They are in awe of the leadership qualities they demonstrated. Like all the Hilltoppers before them, they are able to substantiate their ideas with evidence. They have confidence and are dedicated to lifelong learning and to “making God’s love visible.” As they were welcomed as alumnae during a candle lighting ceremony, they heard, “Hill Alumnae have a bond that will always unite them.”

We hope the Class of 2021 always remembers what Bishop O’Hara said, “you may be graduating, but you’ll never leave.” And though it may be intimidating to venture off to colleges across the country, Ms. Khoury noted in her address a simple, yet bold, piece of advice, “Take a moment and remind yourself- you’ve got this!"

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