Father John Serio, S.D.B., took a good idea a step further. The president of Salesian High School in New Rochelle traveled through Westchester County and the Bronx over an 11-day period to personally deliver lawn signs recognizing the school’s 109 graduating seniors.
“We were sitting here thinking how we were going to honor the seniors knowing there was going to be no graduation on June 6,” Father Serio told CNY. “I don’t know who had the idea about lawn signs. It came up. I said we should do that and I said I’ll go deliver them all.
“At that time, they’d been out of school almost two months. They needed to have some personal contact besides what they were getting from the online classes. As president, I thought it would be good if I was to visit each one.”
Along with presenting the signs, Father Serio posed for photos and spoke with students and their families. Accompanying him on his visits were Kevin Heppes, the school’s advancement director; Steven Sallustio, admissions director; and Nicholas Sedia, communications coordinator.
“They were happy to see us. They were happy to see they were being remembered and thought of, even though we hadn’t seen each other for two months,” Father Serio said.
“One of the things that I believe is part of a Salesian education is that we have to try to get to know our young men as much as we can and to develop relationships with them to last beyond high school. That’s part of every educator’s responsibility. This was a way to live that out.”
Vincent Lombardozzi, who lives in the Bronx, will attend Manhattan College in the Bronx, where he will study civil engineering.
“I put (the sign) in a spot for everyone to see,” he said. “I want everyone to see I’m part of the graduating class of 2020 at Salesian High School. It’s very meaningful to me.
“I’m very thankful for Father Serio and everyone at Salesian High School for making it the best as possible with the (coronavirus pandemic) we’re dealing with. They’re doing everything they can.”
Steven Rice, 18, who lives on City Island in the Bronx, is the president of Salesian’s student body. He’s planning to study marine engineering at SUNY Maritime in the Bronx.
“We feel special and that’s what Salesian does for us, treats us as individuals instead of one big school,” he said. “I wasn’t even expecting it, but I wasn’t surprised they would go out of their way for us in these times.
“The students in Salesian are really great kids. Salesian has done a great job in preparing all the young men in becoming healthy young men ready to enter the real world and spread the word of God.”
Daniel Solis, 17, has his sign posted at his Yonkers home at the end of the driveway.
“People honk when they see it. It’s really nice,” he said. “A couple of our neighbors yelled out when we were putting it up. It was kind of cool.”
Daniel said the gesture speaks volumes about the Salesian school community. The boys’ school, which has some 480 students in grades nine through 12, celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2020.
“It shows how much of a family Salesian is. I knew they would do something like that because of the community Salesian is,” said Daniel, who will study political science at Siena College in Loudonville.
Daniel’s mom, AnnMarie Solis, said it’s been “heartbreaking” watching her son and other seniors miss their final months of high school, but appreciated everything being done by the school’s faculty and staff.
“They truly care about their students. It’s been wonderful how they’ve acknowledged the students,” she said.
Daniel and his classmates continued one tradition for Salesian seniors. Following their final day of classes May 20, the seniors met at the school in their cars, paraded around the campus honking their horns and screaming, and continued this as they left campus and paraded through the streets of New Rochelle.
“It was a lot of fun,” Daniel said. “We’re really going to miss this place. It’s become so many things to us.”