BAY ST. LOUIS -- On Wednesday afternoon, 31 young women practiced the fine art of shaking hands while simultaneously receiving a diploma in Our Lady of the Gulf Catholic Church. It was in preparation for Friday night's graduation of the Class of 2016 of Our Lady Academy.
Most of the girls were wearing white cotton shirts bearing splotches of bright colors. Further inspection showed the splotches were signatures and greetings from classmates, a sort of wearable back page of the yearbook. The girls used neon Sharpies to write their brief messages. Most bore a rainbow of colors, but some shirt owners opted for one color for every signature and comment.
"They started it last year," more than one classmate said when asked if this might be a new trend. "It's just seniors, though."
Of course. Seniors like to have something that's special to the class that's about to leave familiar halls and head into the big world.
Take their class T-shirt.
"Life moves pretty fast," it says. "If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." It borrows directly from the movie "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" -- a film that was popular when many of their parents were about their age.
On Friday night, though, it was all business. The graduates helped each other with their hair, their mortar boards and their gowns. Each young woman carried a single long-stemmed red rose as she entered the church during the processional. Bishop Roger P. Morin of the Diocese of Biloxi was main celebrant.
Salutatorian Diana Baroudi recalled cutting her hair in class in seventh grade in a bid to make an impression on the girls who were already at OLA.
"We transformed from scared little girls to confident young women," she said.
Valedictorian Quinn Cottone noted she and her classmates are entering the next chapter of their lives -- college.
'We are the new kids on the block once again,' she said. 'College represents the start of our lives as adults.'
She thanked OLA's faculty and staff.
'We have gained knowledge not just for our future careers but for our daily lives,' she said.
Most of the senior class has been together at OLA since seventh grade, and most are from the Mississippi Coast. Some are from nearby, such as Gabby Bourgeois of Mandeville; Paris Jean from Slidell and Rebecca St. Martin from Houma, La. Konye Maldonado came to OLA this year all the way from Ecuador.