Skip to main content
Main Menu Toggle

Rising Sophomores Take the Lead in Inaugural Emerging Leaders Institute


Take the Lead.  Sacred Heart Academy promises to empower all students to do just that – in academics, athletics, service, and in life. This summer, in support of that commitment, Sacred Heart Academy launched the inaugural Emerging Leaders Institute, a four-day intensive experiential program designed for rising sophomores that provided them with exposure to career paths in the legal, communications, engineering and healthcare fields.  

The Emerging Leaders Institute highlighted the collaboration and support that SHA enjoys among all of its constituents – students, parents, faculty, administration and alumnae.  Ms. Katie O’Brien, former dean of the Class of 2021 and member of the math faculty, served as the program’s coordinator.

“When Kristin Graham approached me about the Emerging Leaders Institute for the summer there was no hesitation and I was all for it to help our girls be successful,” Ms. O’Brien said.

Ms. O’Brien partnered with the Office of Institutional Advancement to identify alumnae who were willing to open a window into their career journeys.  As expected, the response was remarkable and an itinerary that included day trips for the students to meet with alumnae and other friends of SHA at various prominent companies was thoughtfully created.   

After an orientation breakfast at Sacred Heart on Monday, July 23, “Legal Day” began as the cohort of 14 students headed to the Nassau County Courthouse to speak with Virginia Clavin Higgins ’80, Law Clerk for Judge Christopher Quinn.  Lunch was hosted by Debra Keller Leimbach, ’85, P ’18, ’19, ’22, and provided the girls with the opportunity to speak with and ask career-related questions of Hon. Margaret Reilly.  

Upon returning to SHA, S. Karen Burke, CSJ spoke to the cohort about how all of their leadership development is uniquely tied to the CSJ mission of inclusive love, unity, reconciliation, peace and justice.  To facilitate the conversation, S. Karen asked each girl what she would like her story to be and how she would make her mark on the world. That simple question sparked a conversation about taking risks to help make a difference which turned out to be much of the focus of the week.

“Communications Day” brought the students to New York City for a visit to ESPN Radio, where Mary Sheehan ’91 and Jennifer Minogue ’02 hosted the students and introduced them to the many opportunities offered in the fields of communications and media. The students participated in the first all-female focus group in ESPN history, where they discussed today’s social media, digital, and electronic trends among their age group. ESPN’s general sales manager Peter Doherty discussed successful marketing tactics with the students and gave them a tour of the ESPN Radio studios. The students had fun experimenting with the microphones, taking pictures, and learning about what it takes to run a successful communications outlet like ESPN.

On Thursday, SHA Partner, National Grid, served as host for “Engineering Day,” where the girls learned of the multitude of roles engineers play at the natural gas company. They took a tour of the facility that included the gas operations technology room and the gas control center and were treated to a show as witnesses to a fiery demonstration of what happens when you mishandle natural gas and how electronic charges are created. 

Brian O’Neill P ’20 coordinated an extensive final day at Northwell Health’s campus in Lake Success, where opportunities in health care and healthcare management were presented through hands-on activities throughout the day.   The business-side of operations was provided in an overview by Renee Janicki Frawley ’96, who discussed the various career opportunities in healthcare that might not seem as obvious as becoming a doctor or nurse, but are just as important to the operation of the system of hospitals and healthcare facilities.  Following that introduction, Dr. Maria Carney, MD, P ’19 discussed her own experiences and what it takes to be a doctor in the 21st century and Mary Mahoney ’81 spoke about how her career as a nurse has taken her around the world and to the frontlines of many natural disasters and terror attacks. The cohort then observed rounds in simulations labs where they watched physicians practicing life-saving procedures.  The girls learned what to do for patients with specific needs, such as asthma attacks and heart attacks and acted out a real-life scenario on medical training mannequins. 

Throughout the week, Ms. O’Brien took time with the girls to reflect on each experience, often discussing the inspirational ways in which the SHA Alumnae have become leaders in their workplaces and in our society.  The group focused on the different ways they can apply these new skills to become leaders at Sacred Heart Academy. 

The program concluded with a dinner generously sponsored by Northwell Health at the Inn at New Hyde Park for all Emerging Leadership Institute participants and their parents, as well as SHA’s partners and hosts for the week.  Kathleen Gallo, RN. PhD., Senior Vice President and Chief Learning Officer at Northwell Health and Dean and Professor of Hofstra Northwell School of Graduate Nursing and Physician Assistant Studies and Deborah Schiff, P ’00, Senior Vice President and Executive Director, Ambulatory Strategy and Business Development, Northwell Health, and Sacred Heart Academy Trustee both addressed those gathered at the dinner.

“Optimism and resilience are essential to being good leaders,” Dr. Gallo said. “Being a leader is who you are 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It’s not an act. It’s not a part-time job.”

That same theme was repeated often by the many SHA alumnae who met with the girls throughout the week.  The participants heard not only why it’s important to develop leadership skills, but how to begin developing those skills at such a young age.  Through exposure to many different careers, the girls were provided with ideas of how to use their skills and passions for the greater good.  They have been challenged to seek out opportunities to step up and “Take the Lead” when they return to SHA as sophomores in the fall, and, based on the enthusiasm witnessed all week, we have no doubt that they all will.

Congratulations to the following students for completing the Inaugural Emerging Leaders Institute:


  • Julianne Amante
  • Elizabeth Bracht
  • Erin Cooper
  • Ava Cuccia
  • Grace Donovan
  • Colleen Dorrian
  • Abaigeal Fitzpatrick-Murray
  • Megan (Maggie) Fravert
  • Sofia Guzzo
  • Julia McCarthy
  • Katie McCartney
  • Grace Miller
  • Fiona Power
  • Melanie Smith Sultan