Some last names were omitted to protect the privacy of youth.
ORLANDO | Eighth-graders at St. James Cathedral School prepare for graduation on a cloudy morning, June 5. They are excited to go check out the paved deck they are leaving the school as a legacy gift and find their name on the bricks surrounding the large cross sitting at its center. The students were thankful for a chance to return to campus one last time and see their gift completed and blessed.
Each year the graduating class of St. James Cathedral School leaves a legacy gift as a way of thanking school staff for forming them in the faith, preparing them for high school, and leaving their mark. Past projects include stained glass, a Marian garden, and even a scoreboard. This year, the class chose to commemorate a space that was of particular significance to them.
Originally set on grass and partial concrete, the Class of 2020 chose to pave their lunch area with bricks to enhance the school grounds. “(The legacy committee) looked around for an area that needed a little more life… it was a perfect area that would leave a lasting tribute,” said Wendy T., a mother of an eighth-grader who served on the four-person legacy committee. She said it followed in step with one of their family mottos: “Leave everything better than you found it.”
The 20’ x 60’ space strewn with picnic tables, runs the length of the middle-school. “The SJCS middle school deck is where my classmates and I shared laughs and memories during lunch. It’s the place where my closest friendships grew,” explained Alexandra, Wendy’s daughter. “By adding bricks, we wanted the upcoming classes to be able to make memories and fellowship like we did.”
With the help of Charles JeBailey, another eighth-grade parent, his construction company MarJon Construction, prepared the space. He also secured the brick donation, making the project possible.
Wendy noted, “The goal was to have the deck completed over spring break, so that when they came back to school, they could enjoy the last bit of their eighth-grade year socializing, sharing community and breaking bread on it.” She added, “With COVID, we didn’t go back to see it.” The circumstances made the blessing, just prior to graduation, all the sweeter.
Father Miguel González, rector of St. James Cathedral, and Parochial Vicar Father Matthew Hawkins prayed over the space and blessed it with holy water. Then the group of 56 students moved to the gymnasium for their graduation ceremony.
“When the parents and the families come together, we do great things at St. James,” acknowledged Wendy. Principal Jayme Hartmann added, “It’s adds to the aesthetic value (of the school). It’s not only pretty to look at, and… was a fabulous way to allow these kids to really show where their foundation is. They put it in bricks. It’s decorative. It’s religious. It’s a great representation of the foundation they built here.”
By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic, June 5, 2020