TRINITY CATHOLIC GRADUATION
Matthew Valentin celebrates after receiving his diploma during the Trinity Catholic High School Class of 2018 commencement exercises on Saturday in Stamford. At left is Stacie Stueber, associate superintendent of the Diocese of Bridgeport. TCHS Principal David Williams is at right.
STAMFORD — Damian Rydzewski was more than just first in his class when he graduated from Trinity Catholic High School on Saturday as valedictorian.
The ceremony also made the 18-year-old, the son of Polish immigrants, the first in his family to graduate high school in the U.S.
“I’m really proud and happy I was able to do this,” Rydzewski, a Stamford resident, said. “That’s what (my parents) came here for — a better life for their children — and I’m taking every opportunity I can.”
For salutatorian Katherine Janik, 17, being second in her class at Trinity is somewhat of a family tradition. Her two older sisters, who graduated in 2011 and 2013, were also ranked second in their classes.
“When I was little, I told them I wanted to beat them. My goal was to beat them,” she joked. “But I didn’t want to show them up.”
While Rydzewski and Janik have different stories behind their top spots, they’ve walked similar paths to get there. The two have been in school together for years, dating as far back as kindergarten at St. Cecilia’s School (now the Catholic Academy of Stamford).
The valedictorian and salutatorian addressed 81 graduating seniors at Saturday’s ceremony, as did John Carrigan, the school’s director of guidance, Trinity Principal David Williams, Assistant Principal Christine Wagner, Rev. Joseph Gill, the school’s Episcopal chaplain, and Stacie Stueber, associate superintendent for the Diocese of Bridgeport.
Rydzewski and Janik said it was the size of Stamford’s Catholic schools, plus the opportunity to express their faith there, that appealed to them.
“(It’ll be) really weird not to see the same faces you’ve been seeing since you were little,” Janik said. “But it will be a good change. We’ll all be back in the summer to see each other. I like how small (it is) and I’m able to express my faith. We go to Mass together, confessions are held. Faith is a big part of my life and it was important for me to continue that in high school.”
Over the years, the two said they’ve formed special memories with their classmates from helping each other with schoolwork, playing sports and going on class trips.
“We understand how everyone learns and we help each other,” Rydzewski said.
Janik and Rydzewski were in a lot of the same classes, such as Advanced Placement Chemistry. Both are planning on going into science and math-based fields.
Janik plans to study architecture at the Catholic University of America in Washington. Rydzewski wants to study engineering and German as part of the Eurotech program at the University of Connecticut where he’ll come out with two degrees and international internship experience.
Trinity Catholic High School Class of 2018 commencement exercises on Friday in Stamford.
Damian Rydzewski delivers his Valedictory address during Trinity Catholic High School Class of 2018 commencement exercises.