Kolbe Academy in Bethlehem, the nation’s first and only faith-based addiction recovery high school, completed its second year of serving students in recovery from substance use disorder, and celebrated two more successful graduates.
Kolbe held its second Baccalaureate Mass and Commencement Exercises June 7 in the school gymnasium. Guest speaker was Jennifer Smith, the Pennsylvania Secretary for Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP) of the Wolf Administration, who has been an active supporter of the school since its inception.
Receiving diplomas were Gabriel Shellock (at left in the photo above) and Joseph Skrip.
Shellock received an award for academic excellence in the study of Environmental Science. He also received a $1,000 scholarship for college from the Knights of Columbus, sponsored by St. Rocco’s Knights of Council #14082 of Martins Creek and the Pope Pius XII Assembly Council #941 of Easton. He plans to attend Northampton Community College in the fall.
“At first I hated it here,” said Shellock addressing those gathered at commencement, “but then I realized what it was – it’s a family – and I can’t thank my Kolbe family enough.
“Last year when Covid first struck, schools everywhere closed, including Kolbe. That was an extremely difficult and low time for me. I struggled, but I worked very hard, supported by my family, my Kolbe family and my friends.
“I am proud to say that I have over a year of clean time and am able to battle my demons successfully, all thanks to Kolbe, my family, my friends and everyone here with us tonight. Thank you all. I love you.”
Skrip, who was Kolbe’s first enrolled student, received Outstanding Achievement in American Government and Outstanding Achievement in Chemistry. He is still working on his future plans that might include a work internship or college.
He and his parents also received Kolbe’s highest honor, the Trailblazer Award, given to a person or persons who have helped “blaze the trail” for the success and sustainability of Kolbe Academy. It recognizes someone who has given dedicated service to the Kolbe Academy community or who has left a meaningful and lasting impact on the school.
“I thought I would never recover, I had no idea what to do,” said Skrip. “In time I realized that I had found my home.
“I had teachers who actually cared about me. I made good and sober friends, and I learned what it means to be a friend. I had education and support, and was really able to bond with all the teachers since I was the first student. This was the greatest school experience I ever had. I came with no hope, and now I have hope for the future.”
Also speaking at the graduation were Diocese of Allentown Chancellor for Catholic Education Dr. Brooke Tesché and Kolbe Principal Mr. John Petruzzelli.
Main celebrant for the Baccalaureate Mass was Father Bernard Ezaki, school chaplain, and homilist was newly ordained Father Philip Maas. Concelebrating were Father Patrick Lamb, Kolbe board member, and Monsignor Robert Wargo, then-Pastor of St. Joseph the Worker, Orefield.
Kolbe Academy is part of the Allentown Diocese Catholic School System and serves students of all faiths. It is named after St. Maximilian Kolbe, who is recognized as the patron saint of those who battle addictions.
For more information about Kolbe Academy, contact John Petruzzelli, Principal, at 610-419-3333 ext. 1101, email email@example.com, or visit www.kolbe-academy.com.
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