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The Caravan

The student news site of Mount Carmel High School

The Caravan

The student news site of Mount Carmel High School

The Caravan

Mrs. Chappetto makes MC history with commencement speech

Mrs. Menke (Mount Carmel Social Media)
Mrs. Chappetto speaks at Holy Name Cathedral on May 14, 2024, as the first woman to give an MC commencement address.

“I keep doing my best to worry about giving my best here,” said Mrs. Julie Chappetto as she prepared for Mount Carmel’s graduation ceremony on Tuesday, May 14. 

In all prior commencement addresses in the 124 years of MC history, none had ever been given by a woman. With the speech usually being given by alumni, it’s not like there has been much opportunity for a woman to give one. 

“I was the first female; all the other speakers were men,” said Mrs. Chappetto. “I never really thought about a woman being a speaker [at graduation]. It was never in the back of my mind thinking why don’t they ever ask a woman. You know, it’s an all boys school, they’re mostly alumni that speak, and I just always thought they would always be a man. I have heard some good speeches, and I’ve heard some that I don’t think had a good connection with our kids because they didn’t know our kids..”

Having been an art teacher at MC for twenty-two years and now the assistant dean, Mrs. Chappetto certainly has a connection with students.

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She was approached by school principal Mr. Scott Tabernacki about giving the speech about a month before graduation. This was a big moment in MC history. 

“Right away I got like a pit in my stomach, and I said I don’t know if I could do it because my son is a senior,” she said. “I was worried I would be too emotional, and he said, well, I think you would do a great job, and you would be the first female to do this. I said then I kind of feel like I have to. So I was nervous and excited at the same time.”

One of the topics she touched on in the speech was opportunities for the graduates, and to give this speech was a big opportunity for her to make MC history. 

“I could have said no, I don’t want to do this,” Mrs. Chappetto considered, “but if I did that and then in a few years there was a woman who spoke, I would be mad at myself that I didn’t take the opportunity. That was part of my speech to the students about opportunities and the opportunities that I have been given here at Mount Carmel. If I didn’t accept that opportunity, I would have been mad at myself.”

Actually writing the speech itself was one of the easier parts of the process, and Mrs. Chappetto was very grateful to colleagues Dr. Jon Berry and Mr. KC Perlberg for helping her refine it. After all, the speech can’t be too long, but too short is bad as well. 

“I had plenty of time to think about it, which was good,” said Mrs. Chappetto. “Any time I had–whether I was at work and I thought of something or sometimes driving to school–if I thought of something I just kind of put little notes in my phone. So I had a bunch of notes, and then I was just kind of piling them all into a document, and then I would take things out, add things in, and if I thought of something new I would add it in.” 

In her time at MC she has had the chance to see quite a few graduation speakers, and she knew what she had to do to stand out from all the others. 

“I thought it would be very important to make sure that I was talking to our students, not about me,” she realized. “The [speech] was only a little bit about me. It was not my day. It was not my graduation. It’s their graduation. So I wanted to make sure that I was talking to them about their four years here at Mount Carmel and then them moving on. But I also wanted to give them a background about my twenty-two years at Mount Carmel, but I didn’t want to make the whole speech about me and my life.” 

The senior class this year was also a very unique one. With them having gone through the Covid period of MC, their years here started out very different than other students. 

“The ending I liked because those are always things that I want seniors to remember as they go out into the real world,” said Mrs. Chappetto. “But I think my favorite was talking about this year’s class because they started in Covid. I wanted people to remember that’s how they started here, this is how they ended. So when they started it was scary, and we just didn’t know what was going to happen, we didn’t know where we were going. We were in masks, we weren’t talking. It wasn’t the typical behavior. So I wanted people to reflect on that.” 

The emotional aspect of giving a graduation speech to her son, Louie in the Class of 2024, was a difficult task when it came to making sure she wasn’t focusing on him too much. 

“That was a big part of it,” said Mrs. Chappetto. “So honestly I had to separate my emotions from my son, which was not easy. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t talking to my own child because I was talking to everybody’s child. I was speaking to 130 seniors, not one. As his parent I was giving him the same message that I was going to give to everybody else. So I had to make sure that I wasn’t thinking about just Louie because I would have been more emotional. Which was hard because now I’m realizing that he’s not here.”

Mrs. Chappetto ended her graduation speech with some of her personal life advice, and she got emotional while reciting a Led Zeppelin lyric from “Stairway to Heaven”:  “Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run there’s still time to change the road you’re on.”

She said goodbye to this class of seniors, and they will go out into the world a little bit wiser because of her words.

In the end the attendees got a moving, heartfelt speech–that “best” that Mrs. Chappetto had been focusing on while preparing. And she happened to make MC history in the process.

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About the Contributor
James McCormac '25
James McCormac '25, Staff Writer
James McCormac is a junior at Mount Carmel. He lives in Bridgeport and attended Old Saint Mary's Grammar School. James is a member of the Varsity football team, the chess team, boxing, and The Merchant. Outside of school James enjoys doing volunteer work. His hobbies are reading and lifting.