Amen: During the journey, don’t forget to look back

July 05, 2016

By Erik Zygmont

When Olivia Bonner, Sarah Conway and Benjamin Cummins graduated June 3, they had spent 15 years – approximately 5/6 of their lives – together. 

The trio of young adults had been students at Our Lady of Mount Carmel School, a pre-K-grade to 12 institution in Essex, since they were 3 years old. 

That’s not all they share in common. The three were executive members of student government, with Bonner serving as president, Conway as vice president and Cummins as treasurer. 

In that same order, they earned the distinctions of valedictorian, salutatorian and third in class. 

The three were recognized at the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s 24th annual Distinctive Scholars Convocation in April.

All played sports and offered service, and got early starts on their post-secondary education, earning credits from the Community College of Baltimore County while at Mount Carmel.

While the future is unwritten, the trio is as poised for success as any new high school graduate could hope, a fact they themselves attribute to their Catholic education.

“Attending a Catholic school since the age of 3 has truly shaped me into a hard-working, conscientious student with a desire to learn inside and out of the classroom,” Bonner wrote for her biography for the Distinctive Scholars Convocation program. 

Cummins wrote that his Catholic education “has given me the tools to be the person I always strove to be and constructed a steady foundation for me to build off of for the future.”

It has given the graduates something less tangible, as well. 

The three – whose ambitions include working for the NSA, “climbing the ladder” at an investment firm, and serving autistic children – are close friends. 

Their interactions exhibit a gentle and genuine playfulness. 

When Bonner and Conway described Cummins as funny, he quickly retorted, “Not funny looking.”

For his part, Cummins described Bonner, the valedictorian, as “very presidential.”

The friends laughed together and seemed as buoyed by the successes of their counterparts as by their own. 

Asked if they will keep in touch, the trio replied, “Definitely.”

Their Catholic schooling (and no doubt their family upbringings) have preserved in them a kindness and innocence, partly manifested in their respect and appreciation for one another, but also in something harder to pinpoint. 

The way Bonner, Conway and Cummins interact is the way people are supposed to. If every executive board, law enforcement team and think tank had what these three graduates do, the world would be, at the least, a more pleasant place.

Bonner, Conway and Cummins will continue their educations at Loyola University Maryland, Elizabethtown (Pa.) College and Salisbury University, respectively. While their Catholic education has given them the tools to succeed in those arenas and beyond, it has also imparted to them the wisdom to discern success.

They will undoubtedly go on to bigger things; when they reach toward the “better,” may they continue to look to their formative years at Mount Carmel as a reliable rubric. 

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