The Gazette has focused on graduation coverage during the last several weeks. Graduations are a time-honored tradition in Hammonton. At Hammonton High School and Hammonton Middle School, as well as St. Joseph High School and St. Joseph Academy, decades of graduates have received diplomas as a rite of passage each spring.
Following nearly a year and a half that was unlike any other seen in our lives, and particularly in education, due to precautions taken because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), we saw some traditions fall locally and others persevere.
St. Joseph High School and St. Joseph Elementary School were both closed by the Diocese of Camden during the pandemic (although not specifically because of the pandemic). That situation led to the creation of St. Joseph Academy, which opened in the buildings that once housed the Diocesan St. Joseph High School at the corner of Central Avenue and Vine Street. Those buildings are being leased from the Hammonton School District, which once housed its Hammonton Middle School there and still owns the property.
As a result, the town saw St. Joseph Academy hold its graduation at Kathedral Event Center earlier this month, like a phoenix rising from the ashes of the previous high school. It had the look and the feel of previous St. Joseph High School graduations at St. Joseph Church. There were differences, but the feeling was that time was moving forward at the new St. Joseph Academy.
Across town, tradition reigned at Hammonton High School, which held its 125th graduation and included a touching moment where Hammonton Board of Education President Sam Mento III presented his daughter, Sarah, with her diploma. Hammonton Middle School also held its graduation under sunny, blue skies. Mortarboards and tassels, blue and white robes, students, parents, grandparents and board members were all in attendance, just as they were at the St. Joseph Academy graduation ceremony.
It felt good to see the local graduating classes achieve their goals in ceremonies that brought people together. These traditions are what make Hammonton, and the schools within it, truly tight-knit communities. Congratulations, graduates: You earned it.