The 67th Commencement ceremony at Sacred Heart Academy took place June 1, 2019, a beautiful Saturday morning. 209 girls representing the Class of 2019 proudly donned their traditional white graduation robes, many adorned with regalia representing academic honors and society memberships.
The Class of 2019 is an impressive one. Over 90% of the graduates earned over $60 million in scholarship money for academics, athletics and the arts. 23 student-athletes, who were celebrated earlier this year at the college commitment ceremony, were recruited to play in college. Almost 100% of the graduates 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.
During the Graduation Liturgy, and again on Saturday, these types of examples of the Class of 2019'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."
Arden Tierney '19, the Salutatorian, thanked all those involved in helping the Class of 2019 grow into the confident, strong women they are today over the past four years:
"Aside from everything our grade has accomplished, we have grown to become strong, confident women who have been given the tools and experiences that will guide us and enable us to navigate the next four years of our lives. So, thank you to the administration and teachers for helping us develop into the young ladies we are today and for never giving up on us. Thank you to our God for the gifts He has given us. May He continue to guide our lives as we continue on our journeys. Thank you to our parents for their unwavering love and support cheerleading our games, constant taxi service and for giving us the opportunity to spend the last four years in the best place in the world. Especially, thank you to my 209 best friends who sit behind me for giving me the best four years of my life, countless laughs, unforgettable memories and friendships that will last a lifetime. Although we will soon leave each other and start over in a brand new place, I know that we will always have a second home right here on 47 Cathedral Avenue."
Valedictorian, Ariana Freire '19, encouraged her classmates to never lose their passion as they move into the next chapter of their lives:
"I encourage you, Class of 2019, to reach your worldly goals, but I also advise you to go beyond. Have always an inquisitive spirit and do not accept the world, our nation, your relationships, and most especially, yourselves for what they are or inversely, are not. It is often useful as well as logical to view the world in black and white, yet I challenge you to look for the gray.
"This fuzzy, seemingly unclear aspect of life calls upon passion to attain clarity, a quality, as previously mentioned, that is very much shared among the 209 graduates on stage. It is of utmost importance then to continue to let this passion radiate as we move on to the next chapter of our lives, no longer returning to Sacred Heart in the fall, as we have the past four Septembers. It is, after all, the driving force behind the ingenuity and ambition that has led to much of our success thus far. Although in the future, societal and personal issues that arise may initially seem unapproachable, you are certainly equipped to solve the problems embedded within these issues. I am confident that each young woman here who has been inspired by the mission of the Sisters of St. Joseph and who has 'taken the lead' over her four years now realizes the need for compromise, common ground, innovation, and growth in problem-solving and likewise, in trying to make a change."
Each year, an honored alumna is asked to return to SHA to address the graduates. Dr. Denise Godfrey Walsh '72 was selected as this year’s guest speaker, for being an example of how to take the lead with courage, compassion and commitment. Dr. Walsh is the Associate Dean and Director of Graduate Nursing Programs at Molloy College, overseeing about 500 graduate students enrolled in eight nursing tracks. Before going to Molloy, Dr. Walsh was the Director of the Yale University Master of Healthcare and Hospital Administration Program at Jimma University in Ethiopia, working in conjunction with the Bill Clinton Foundation. In addition, Dr. Walsh was a Senior Fellow in International Healthcare Management at Yale University/Clinton Foundation in Monrovia, Liberia, and served as Acting County Director/Deputy Director of the Clinton Foundation in Liberia. Dr. Walsh was also the Clinical Leader and Change Specialist at Yale New Haven Hospital and Clinical Instructor at Yale University School of Nursing, as well as clinical administrative positions at Bridgeport Hospital in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
Dr. Walsh reminded the girls that whatever their endeavors may be, there will be a time when they will be called upon to take the lead and help others:
"Throughout your life, you will be called on to be the leader guiding others and also supporting the colleagues as they take on leadership roles. As John Mayer said, 'it is time to bust down those double doors.' Now you have the opportunity to pick a path, try everything, but always lead with your heart knowing there is someone who may need your help."
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.
The following students were medal recipients at the 2019 graduation ceremony:
Somaia Saba - Computer
Christina Biscardi - Scholar Athlete
Melissa Biscardi - Scholar Athlete
Jessica Toscano - Italian
Ashley Catapano - Art
Annalisa Emmett - Music
Maria Noyes - English
Kathryn Karamouzis - Social Studies
Jordan Molgano - Leadership
Colleen O'Connor - Leadership
Kerri Zappalla - Perfect Attendance
Ariana Freire - Valedictorian, General Excellence, Perfect Attendance
Emily Moran - Math
Kerri Zappalla - Science
Lauren Sommers - Dance
Elizabeth Dorrian - Physical Education
Gabrielle Gonzalez - Spanish
Kellyne Vaudreuil - French
Arden Tierney - Salutatorian
Callie Coors - Theology
Earlier this weekend, Sacred Heart Academy’s celebration of the Class of 2019 began with the senior prom on Thursday, May 30, 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 209 graduates.
Four special awards are presented during this Liturgy each year, to young women who have embodied the ideals of Sacred Heart Academy.
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 Kendall Grace Miller.
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 Zhara Angelan.
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 Callie Coors.
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 Jessica Toscano.