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Rising Sophomores Take the Lead in Second Annual Emerging Leaders Institute


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Take the Lead.  Sacred Heart Academy promises to empower all students to do just that – in academics, athletics, service, and in life. Last 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. This year, Sacred Heart Academy continued that tradition with the second cohort of the Emerging Leaders Institute, exposing the girls to fields in communications, finance, the arts, engineering and healthcare.  

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, and member of the math faculty, again served as the program’s coordinator this year.

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.

On the first day of the week - Monday, July 22 - the cohort of 23 students were welcomed at Sacred Heart with breakfast and an address by SHA alumna Stephanie Fidis '11, who gave her experience as a SHA woman post-graduation. Following that, the girls boarded a bus and headed to Manhattan, where they met more SHA alumnae at ESPN Radio. 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. They also met with Megan Powers Garofalo '09, Colleen Donnelly Raphael '10, Molly Ckarke '12 and Katie Gallic '10. The students discussed today’s social media, digital, and electronic trends. 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 Tuesday, the girls arrived at SHA bright and early to travel into Manhattan once again, but this time to visit the New York Stock Exchange. There, they learned the ins and outs of finance and stock and got to tour the Stock Exchange's famous floor. They even got to see the opening bell ring. After an exciting morning at the Stock Exchange, the girls boarded the bus again and traveled uptown to Radio City Music Hall, where they took an in-depth tour of the iconic entertainment venue. They also met a real Rockette, SHA alumna Kristen Smith '11. Miss Smith told them her story about becoming a Rockette and what it takes. She also told the girls how Sacred Heart gave her the confidence to go for her dream.

Wednesday didn't start quite as early. Our Emerging Leaders visited the Sisters of St. Joseph Motherhouse and Farm in Brentwood, where 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. S. Karen took the girls on a hike around the farm to soak in the beautiful sunshine and appreciate everything in nature God has given us.

While out in Brentwood, the cohort stopped at East/West Industries in Ronkonkoma. Teresa Ferraro '80, co-president of East/West Industries, greeted us with a warm welcome. She explained that her father founded East/West Industries to build military aircraft equipment to ensure the safety of the military personnel operating the aircraft. Mrs. Ferraro said that working in a male-dominated industry can be challenging, but incredibly rewarding, and she has the confidence she built from her foundation at Sacred Heart Academy. Mrs. Ferraro took the girls on a tour of the facility. The girls got to explore and take pictures in a real aircraft that is no longer in use.

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, FACP, P ’19 discussed her own experiences and what it takes to be a doctor in the 21st century. The students then took shuttles to the Sandra Atlas Bass Heart Hospital at the North Shore University Hospital. There, the girls were greeted by SHA alumna Claire Durecko, RN, '03 and cardiologist Evelina Grayver, MD. Both ladies talked about what they do in the cardiology department and what it's like to be a woman working among the majority of male doctors in the field. The cohort then took a tour of the Cath Labs, dressed in full sterile clothing. After lunch, the girls learned about pediatric critical nursing and the SkyHealth Air Medical Program from Colleen Whalen, RN. The day at Northwell concluded with learning about nursing opportunities in the 21st century from Mary Mahoney, DNP, RN, '21.

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., Executive 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 2nd Annual Emerging Leaders Institute:


  • Cara Griffin
  • Meghan O'Sullivan
  • Mary Lucille O'Brien
  • Ann-Christy Gaston
  • Emma Smyth
  • Molly Lang
  • Sydney Koehler
  • Caroline Ingram
  • Chinatu Uche-Okoroji
  • Okemsinachi Uche-Okoroji
  • Naomi Barclay
  • Jasmine Cantos-Mendoza
  • Erin Barker
  • Maeve Doherty
  • Riley Wilson
  • Bridget Thieke
  • Kristi Weiburg
  • Julia Valente
  • Eliana Coleman
  • Olivia Rameau
  • Haley Leimbach
  • Kaylin Spinelli
  • Cayla Midy