In less than a month, Olivia Valle will stand on that stage at Bishop-McGann Mercy High School and look out at the audience — fellow classmates wearing green and white gowns, the teachers who have inspired her and alumni of the close-knit Riverhead Catholic school. To have the opportunity to address the class as valedictorian is a once-in-a-lifetime moment for any student. For Olivia, it will be so much more.
“It makes a sentimental event even more sentimental,” she said. “I want to make [my speech] good. People are distraught. This is everyone’s graduation and a lot of alumni will be there … This feels even more sentimental because there’s nothing to come back to, and that’s really sad.”
The sudden announcement in March that the Diocese of Rockville Centre would close the school at the end of the school year put the Class of 2018 in the unexpected position of being the final group of students to receive diplomas as Monarchs. The graduation ceremony is scheduled for Wednesday, June 6.
McGann-Mercy recently announced the 10 top-ranking students in that final graduating class, with Olivia, of Hampton Bays, at the top, joined by her close friend Isabella Sorgi as salutatorian. During the 58th commencement ceremony they’ll both be tasked with summing up what their school has meant to them.
“It’s so amazing that we’re No. 1 and 2,” Olivia said. “I have never felt a competition with her. We work off each other, not against each other … I’m happy my best friend is salutatorian because it’s like we did it together.”
Olivia compiled a 102.783 grade point average to earn valedictorian honors. Isabella, also of Hampton Bays, is one grade point behind her at 101.348.
The friends are also co-captains of Mercy’s varsity softball team, on which they’ve both played for four years.
While they share other similarities, such as volunteering at their local churches, they have varying interests.
Isabella, 18, plays tennis, is editor-in-chief of Mercy’s student newspaper and is a member of the science and math National Honor societies. She is also vice president of Mercy’s chapter of the National Honor Society.
Outside school she is a lifelong piano player. This past summer, she visited family in Finland, where she interned doing social work and helped Somali refugees assimilate to Finnish culture.
This desire to help people fueled Isabella’s college decision. She will attend the New York University’s Stern School of Business to pursue a degree in business and political economy.
“I’ve always had an interest in helping people,” she said. “When looking at the future, I think being successful, in my opinion, is being able to make a difference. This is the way I will be able to make a difference hopefully.”
Olivia, 17, is headed to Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she plans to major in neuroscience and minor in management and leadership.
At Mercy she ran varsity cross-country and winter track all four years. In 10th grade, she joined the club Mercy on a Mission. Each year members pick a charity and raise nearly $10,000 for it.
She’s also been a Girl Scout for 13 years, completing her bronze, silver and gold awards. For her silver award, Olivia and a friend raised money to purchase the scoreboard for the Mercy softball field. She also participates with her dad in the annual Polar Plunge at Coopers Beach in Southampton.
Olivia credited Mercy’s small size and desire to include everyone for allowing her to be so involved.
“You don’t get lost in the numbers here,” she said. “I can name everyone in my grade, no problem. And everyone can be involved in whatever they want to do. It’s really great.”
Rounding out the top 10 of the 2018 graduating class are, in order, Maria Lucatorto, Mercator Osinski, Olivia Kneski, Vanessa Quiros, Laura Naranjo, Margaret Gazda, Kate Wilkie and Ailsa Augustyn.
The girls agreed that what they will miss most about the East End’s only Catholic high school is the people they’ve met — peers, teachers, parents and community members alike.
“I think what’s special about Mercy is the feeling of family and community and the sense of pride and love that exists within the Mercy community,” Isabella said. “It’s something I wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else.”
Top photo caption: Olivia Valle was named valedictorian of McGann-Mercy’s final graduating class. The 17-year-old plans to attend Massachusetts Institute of Technology next year. (Credit: Nicole Smith)