2014 Madonna grads urged to challenge themselves

WEIRTON – A Madonna High School alumna who formed an organization to aid the poor in southern West Virginia advised students in the school’s Class of 2014 not to fear mistakes and failures.

“When you risk something, you have the opportunity to gain much more than what you had,” advised Luci-Jo DiMaggio, co-founder of Lend-a-Hand for Appalachia and director of mission animation at Duquesne University, at the school’s commencement program Sunday at St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Church.

DiMaggio said often it’s easy to play it safe instead of taking risks, but people can’t truly grow unless they step out of their comfort zones.

“Own your mistakes and failures. They are as much a part of you as your successes,” she said.

A 1994 Madonna graduate who went on to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Duquesne, DiMaggio said she took a risk when she co-founded Lend-a-Hand for Appalachia, a nonprofit group that repairs the homes of poor residents in West Virginia’s Southern Coalfields Region.

She noted many Madonna students have participated in summer trips to the area to assist with the effort.

DiMaggio said the experience and others has taught her “You can’t change the world but you can be an agent of change in your own corner of the world.”

She encouraged students not only to reach out to help others but also to seek solutions to the problems encountered by those in need.

DiMaggio also said they must live for themselves, not others. While they should seek a career that will support them financially, they also should choose one they will enjoy, she said.

The graduates also heard from Senior Class President Francesca Basil, salutatorian Mariah Mott and valedictorian Alisandra Welch.

Each noted the class has been active in many areas. Basil said its 48 members include 21 graduating with honors, 46 involved in sports, 17 who are state champions, 10 serving in student government and all participating in community service.

Basil said such experience and a faith in God leave her confident the class has “boundless opportunities for a future filled with greatness.”

In imparting advice to her classmates, Basil quoted Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

Mott said the decisions they will make from graduation on will determine where they go and what they do, while their memories of Madonna High School will live forever in their hearts.

In some ways, Welch echoed DiMaggio’s sentiments, as she encouraged her classmates to face obstacles head-on and challenge themselves daily.

“It’s better to have tried and failed than to fail to try,” she said.

The three acknowledged parents, teachers, coaches, advisors and others for supporting them through school.

Before receiving their diplomas, many of the students also were presented confirmation of scholarships from several sources.

They include the following students: Andrew Higgins, William Bowser II and Hannah Enos, all recipients of Eugene and Nell Petrucci Scholarships; Rachel Gaughenbaugh, Krishan K. Aggarwal Family Scholarship; Mariah Mott, Serra Family Scholarship; Alan Alimario, Phyllis Girolamo Scholarship; Hannah Enos, Cecilia M. Serra Scholarship; Francesca Basil, Mark Colantonio, Travis Brown and Anthony Antinone, all recipients of Charles and Thelma Pugliese Foundation Scholarships; Sierra Bone, Anthony N. Pirraglia Memorial Scholarship; Emily Pietranton, Sister Marian James Carberry Memorial Scholarship and a quilt made by the Overbrook Towers Quilters through the Brooke-Hancock Retired and Senior Volunteer Program; Amanda Paul, C.F.O.V. Beulah Meyer Scholarship; Steven Maus II, Weirton Medical Center Scholarship; Eliott Nero, Patrick Brown Memorial Scholarship; Gianna Anile, Jennario F. Fazi Memorial Scholarship; Gabriel Hypes, Lead a Hand for Appalachia Scholarship; Shaine Livada, Fraternal Order of Police Scholarship; Shelby Kirk, Deana Steele Memorial Scholarship; Alisandra Welch, scholarships from the Weirton Rotary, Upper Ohio Valley Italian Heritage Festival, Teddi and Justin Licker Memorial Foundation, Tin Mills Federal Credit Union and Larsen Educational Trust, the Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation W.P. Black Scholarship and EQT Students of Excellence Scholarship; Ross Comis and Michael Rogers, both John Retton Foundation Scholarships; Comis, a University of Massachusetts athletic scholarship; Anthony Antinone, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society Scholarship and Mettler-Toledo College Scholarship; and Cole Roberts, the Rick Kucan Memorial Scholarship and four scholarships to Wheeling Jesuit University.

Various scholarships from West Virginia University also were announced for Breanna Dalfol, Thomas Gianni, Sam Licata, Emily Pietranton, Francesca Basil, Alan Alimario, Mark Colantonio, Nathan Guio, Gianna Anile, Rachel Gaughenbaugh, Shelby Kirk, Andrew Higgins and Mariah Mott.

West Virginia P.R.O.M.I.S.E Scholarships also have been awarded to Alan Alimario, Gianna Anile, Anthony Antinone, Francesca Basil, Sierra Bone, Travis Brown, Mark Colantonio, Rachel Gaughenbaugh, Thomas Gianni, Andrew Higgins, Shelby Kirk, Sam Licata, Shaine Livada, Steven Maus II, Mariah Mott, Emily Pietranton, Cole Roberts and Gabrielle Sellitti.

In addition to Welch and Mott, the class’ top students are: Cole Roberts, Anthony Antinone, Andrew Higgins, Alan Alimario, Francesca Basil, Gianna Anile, Mark Colantonio, Rachel Gaughenbaugh, and Sierra Bone.

Others in the graduating class are: Austin Bell, Garrett Bever, Marcello Biondillo, William Bowser II, Travis Brown, Dominic Clements, Ross Comis, Christina Conforti, Matthew Conforti, Breanna Dalfol, Hannah Enos, Tyler Ewusiak, Luciano Fuscardo, Thomas Gianni, Brianna Green, Nathan Guio, Gabriel Hypes, Geuntae Kim, Shelby Kirk, Samuel Licata, Shain Livada, Alayna Macaluso, Joshua Martin, Stephen Maus II, Eliott Nero, Dustin Parr, Amanda Paul, Emily Pietranton, Emilie Pollard, Adam Robertson, Michael Rogers, Gabrielle Sellitti, Joshua Smearman, Emily Stoneking, Anthony Thomaselli IV, Ryan Watts, and Kelsey Weaver.