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SHA Celebrates the Class of 2018

The 66th Commencement ceremony at Sacred Heart Academy took place June 2, 2018, a beautiful Saturday morning.  148 girls representing the Class of 2018 proudly donned their traditional white graduation robes, many adorned with regalia representing academic honors and society memberships.

The Class of 2018 is an impressive one.  95% of the graduates earned over $45 million in scholarship money for academics, athletics and the arts.  12 student-athletes, who were celebrated earlier this year at the college commitment ceremony, were recruited to play in college. Each and every graduate will move on to a four-year college, many enrolling in the nation’s top-ranked programs for science, health, engineering, business, education and the arts.  Seven will attend Ivy League schools. 

View the Graduation Photo Gallery

During the Graduation Liturgy, and again on Saturday, these types of examples of the Class of 2018’s accomplishments were shared, but the consistent message delivered to the graduates was to take what you’ve learned here at SHA, continue your education, and make a difference in the world.  This was summed up years ago by St. Catherine of Sienna who said, “Be who God meant you to be, and set the world on fire.” 

Delivering her final address as Principal of Sacred Heart Academy, S. Joanne Forker, CSJ, Ed., turned the podium to face “her girls” and left them with strong words of encouragement.

“Every class leaves a special imprint on their alma mater and you are no exception,” S. Joanne said. “And so as we take our farewell together, I ask you to keep in mind the beautiful words of St. Catherine of Sienna.  You are the rising stars and we count on you to bring your light to the dark places in this world. Stay faithful to the God who loves you.  And remember this place – Sacred Heart Academy – 47 Cathedral Avenue – ever your home. May you stay forever young and May God bless and keep you always.”

Valedictorian, Afia Kuragu ’18, expressed to her classmates the importance of using what they have learned at Sacred Heart to change the world.   

“We have grown from those apprehensive freshmen girls into confident women who lead with heart, destined to use our potential to change the world in ways only SHA girls can,” she said.  “We cannot forget the lessons in confidence and compassion we have learned in our classrooms, our clubs and our competitive sports. We have a responsibility as women, knowing the obstacles we face as well as the opportunities made possible for us by those who preceded us, to use what we have learned in these four years to forge a better path for women and girls everywhere.  As we embark on our college experience, we must consider what we want to contribute to the world as educated women, and more specifically, what only we can contribute in our own incredibly unique way as SHA alumnae.”

Watch the Valedictorian's Full Speech

Each year, an honored alumna who has lived out the very words expressed by Afia, is asked to return to SHA to address the graduates.  Barbara Galligan, MD ’92 was selected as this year’s guest speaker, for being an example of how to take the lead with courage, compassion and commitment.  Prior to medical school, Dr. Galligan had an accomplished career in the tech industry and degrees from Northwestern University and Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, but felt that medical school was her true calling.  A mom of three, she went on to earn her medical degree at the University of California, Davis, and today is an oncologist and hematologist at the Marin Cancer Center in California.  Dr. Galligan seeks to serve the broadest possible community and provides medical care to prisoners and migrant workers, as well as assisting elderly nuns with nursing home care.   

Dr. Galligan reminded the graduates as they move on to college to surround themselves with people who will support and encourage them through all of life’s turns and to always use their gifts to try and make a difference.

“With the privilege of going to college comes some responsibility to think beyond yourself,” Dr. Galligan said.  “There is a lot of work to be done for education, the environment, the justice system, medicine, the arts. With your education, skills and commitment, you can become a difference maker.”

“If you live your life with a never say never attitude, you surround yourself with people who want you to be the best you, if you think beyond yourself, strive to become knowledgeable, and turn off the road when you’re stuck, then someday you get to come back to a place where you’ve tried and failed many times before and you realize – this time I did it. This is exactly how it was meant to go down, and there is no other place I’d rather be right now. And my wish for all of the graduates is that you find that feeling too.”

Watch Dr. Barbara Galligan's Full Speech

Casey Leimbach, the Salutatorian, reminded her classmates remember what SHA has taught them to use that as a guide to help navigate the next four years.                                         

“Among us are beautiful artists, talented performers, vivacious club leaders, influential class presidents, spirited team captains, and ultimately, strong young women who have learned to lead with heart,” Casey said.  “Along with these great achievements some of the best parts of this chapter of our stories are small everyday moments that have bonded us and shaped our experiences as classmates and students.

As much as the next four years of college presents an opportunity to change ourselves, meet new people, and try new things, we should hold in our hearts the experiences, lessons and friendships we’ve had at Sacred Heart and use them to guide us in writing the next chapter of our lives.”

In a bittersweet moment, Senior Class President Olivia Duffy addressed S. Joanne to thank her on behalf of the Class of 2018 and all SHA students.  Olivia presented her with a diploma and medal to represent her status of an honorary member of the Class of 2018.

“As we walk out of these doors today, we’ll take with us the most cherished of memories and the best of times, all with you by our side,” Olivia said.  “Thank you for being our cheerleader and biggest fan, our confidant, and emulated model of leadership throughout our high school years.  We wish you the best of luck in the future and hope that you will never forget your SHA girls, but in a very special way, all of us from The Class of 2018!”

Watch the Salutatorian's Full Speech

In the final act of ceremonial tradition, SHA President, Mrs. Kristin Lynch Graham, presided over the turning of the tassels from the right side to the left to signify their graduation and welcome them as Sacred Heart Academy Alumnae.

“Today marks the beginning of a new chapter in your relationship with Sacred Heart Academy. Ironically, the shortest part of your relationship with SHA is the four years you spent in the building. The diploma you have worked hard to earn is a lifelong long ticket to a relationship with Sacred Heart Academy.”

The following students were medal recipients at the 2018 graduation ceremony:

Savita Angira- Computer
Ellen Byrnes- Scholar Athlete
Georgia Cosola- Italian
Olivia DiSanto- Art
Erin Donnelly- Music
Eve GaNun- English
Emily Gola- Social Studies
Helena Gunther- Leadership
Arielle Isedenu- Leadership, Perfect Attendance
Christine Kinahan- Perfect Attendance
Afia Kuragu - Valedictorian, General Excellence, Perfect Attendance
Mary Kate McIntyre – Math
Katherine Miller – Science
Josette Peacock - Perfect Attendance
Sarah Ruane – Dance
Brianna Ruiz – PE
Margot Varrichio – Spanish
Kayla Lapommeray – French
Casey Leimbach – Salutatorian
Jaclyn Manicdao - Perfect Attendance
Olivia Duffy - Theology

Earlier this weekend, Sacred Heart Academy’s celebration of the Class of 2018 began with the senior prom on Thursday, May 31, and was followed by the Graduation Liturgy on Friday evening, where a capacity crowd gathered in the Church of St. Anne to pray and give thanks for the gifts of the 148 graduates.

Four special awards are presented during this Liturgy each year, to young women who have embodied the ideals of Sacred Heart Academy.  

The Catherine Rose Miller Award, named after a member of the Class of 1996 who passed away after a battle with Cystic Fibrosis, is awarded to a student who represents Cathy’s joy, dedication, determination and courage.  This year’s recipient is Olivia Duffy.

As Mrs. Graham stated during the Liturgy, “generosity always inspires more generosity.”  

In 2010, Erin Gaughran received the Catherine Rose Miller scholarship award. She gratefully remembers that it helped her purchase textbooks, among other things when she went on to study pharmacy at St. John’s University. Erin wanted to show her gratitude for the Miller Scholarship by supporting another future leader in healthcare so she has made a generous gift to establish the Future Leader in Healthcare Award, which was presented to Kate Duffy, who will be attending Quinnipiac University to study Physical Therapy.

Each year, Sacred Heart Academy presents the Lead with Heart Medal to a graduating senior who witnesses the Gospel message and lives out SHA’s mission of inclusive love, unity, and reconciliation in both the School community and beyond.  This year’s recipient is Ellen Byrnes.

The SHARE award is given to a graduate each year who will be pursuing the profession of teaching. The recipient is chosen by the faculty and staff.  The award includes a check of $250 and a piece of lace, a reminder of the first Sisters of St. Joseph – who taught lacemaking – to empower women to make a living.  The Share Award reads:  May this lace serve as a reminder of Sisters of St. Joseph, valiant women who preceded you in the noble vocation of teaching to which you have been called.  This year’s recipient is Julia Rose Chodash.