As South Philadelphia's two big Catholic high schools prepare to merge, there's no shortage of regret- and blame- to go around.
"My dad and uncle went here," says Michael Matteo, another student. "I'm closing the deal."
"It sucks that we won't be able to come back here," says Jason Oliveri, who'll be attending Temple University next year. "The whole family feel--it's like one big house. You walk in and you know you're home."
A group of juniors, assigned to hand out yearbooks, huddles in the far corner of the gym.
"We know them all already," shrugs one when asked about going to school with Goretti girls next year. "It's no big deal."
"You can come in here all laid back," says Chris Baldwin, another junior, "not worrying about having to look good for the girls. It's nice."
"It's our home," interrupts junior Anthony Miller. "We're being kicked out of our home."
"And you know the teachers will have to react differently," says Baldwin. "Their whole style will have to change."
"Mr. D'Orazio will probably have to stop practicing his karate during class," someone says dryly.
"I'm gonna miss Uncle Tomy's," someone says about a local sandwich joint.
"And Patty Pretzel," jokes another about a beloved cafeteria worker.
The gym starts to empty. The juniors head back to class. The seniors, finished for the year, take their time drifting out.
After a while, there are only about a dozen seniors left in the gym. They sit in the bleachers, surrounding Mr. DeVelasco, or "D," as the beloved assistant principal for student life is known.
A thin man with a soft Spanish accent, graying hair and an easy smile, Mr. D is a Neumann legend. "Without him, none of our memories would be possible," says senior Stephen Rinaldi. "He manages all the affairs, everything. He's a great man."
D's office, often supplied with donuts and milk, is a student hangout. "Yo, kid," he'll say. "How are ya?" Or "Yo, kid. Come on and help me with this."
The final issue of the school newspaper, The Rocket, printed a front-page tribute to Mr. D.
"All you have to do is walk the halls of the new school and hear Mr. DeVelasco, and you'll immediately feel like you're home," reads the tribute.
DeVelasco makes his way through the last of the yearbooks, taking his time signing each one.
The gym is peaceful.
After a few minuets, Fred the maintenance guy starts folding up the bleachers.
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