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June 10, 2022

AHA Middle School Hosts Commencement for First Graduates

 The inaugural eighth grade class from the Academy of the Holy Angels Middle School celebrated their commencement in a sea of pale blue caps and gowns. The June 10, 2022, baccalaureate Mass and graduation were held at Saint Therese of Lisieux Church in Cresskill with Father Samuel Citero, O. Carm, presiding.


AHA President Melinda Hanlon welcomed everyone to the historic event, which was organized by AHA Performing Arts Director Dan Mahoney and AHA Middle School faculty member Linda Payonzeck with assistance from Campus Ministry Director Kathleen Sylvester and Orchestra Director Andrew Monticello.


Musical selections included “All Are Welcome,” “One Heart, One Mind,” and “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee.”

The first reading, Ecclesiastes 3:1-11, expressed the theme that there is an appointed time for everything. The gospel, Matthew 5:13-16, is a reminder: “You are the light of the world.”


In her greeting to the eighth grade class, AHA Middle School Dean Traci Koval noted that the Class of 2022, which entered AHA on September 10, 2021, had spent the previous year enjoying new experiences and relationships. She urged the students to continue to accept new challenges and stretch their limits.



“Remember to always be yourself and never stop smiling,” Koval said. “Know that you do not travel the path of life alone. Jesus is walking with you and waiting for you to ask for His guidance along the way…We will miss your smiling faces, but we are only a short walk down the breezeway,” she added, referring to the enclosed pathway that connects the middle school and the upper school.


Linda Payonzeck announced the recipients of this year’s academic awards. Honorees include Eliana Melone, religious studies; Gemma Siciliano, English and Italian; Corinne Adamo and Sophia Emmi, mathematics; Lilyanna Potts, science; Isabelle Meyer, French and social studies; Alyssa Petrowski, Latin and physical education; Corinne Adamo, Spanish; Kaitlyn Zheng and Valentina Poire, Art; and Kaitlyn Zheng, music.


Leyla Ziemba led her class in expressing appreciation for their families. Graduates presented their families with a yellow rose and a personalized message.


Principal Jean Miller from the upper school presented the eighth grade class to President Hanlon. The 22 graduates then received their diplomas from Hanlon, Miller, and Payonzeck. The graduates include Corinne Adamo, Carina Ardizzone, Alessandra Cardamone, Rose Carr, Margarita Curado, Lyla Dove, Sophia Emmi, Abigail Gassib, Eliana Melone, Isabelle Meyer, Alyssa Petrowski, Valentina Poire, Lilyanna Potts, Emily Ryan, Cyia Sabathia, Miesha Sehgal, Angela Shaker, Gemma Siciliano, Makayla Yee, Samantha Zeccardi, Kaitlyn Zheng, and Leyla Ziemba.


Dean Koval invited the graduates to turn the tassels on their caps from right to left to signify their graduation. As the students complied, friends and family applauded in recognition of the students’ accomplishments.



The class sang the alma mater together, and Eliana Melone delivered the closing prayer. Afterward, the graduates filed out of the church, ready to move on to the upper school this September.


Founded by the School Sisters of Notre Dame in 1879, the Academy of the Holy Angels is the oldest private girls’ school in Bergen County. While AHA is steeped in Catholic tradition, this prestigious school serves young women from a broad spectrum of cultural and religious backgrounds. Over time, thousands of women have passed through AHA’s portals. Many go on to study at some of the nation’s best universities, earning high-ranking positions in medicine, government, law, education, public service, business, arts, and athletics. The Academy’s current leaders continue to further the SSND mission to provide each student with the tools she needs to reach the fullness of her potential—spiritually, intellectually, socially, and physically, by offering a first-rate education in a nurturing environment where equal importance is placed on academic excellence, character development, moral integrity, and service to others.