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SHA Stories

#SHAstory is a campaign that highlights SHA alumnae, faculty, staff, current students and other members of the SHA community as they tell their story about what they do now, their journey toward their current position in life, and how their experience at or with SHA has impacted their lives.

Dr Kumar familyGajal Kumar '02 a trauma surgeon and mom of two is also a Six-Star finisher who has completed six of the world's largest marathons.  Balancing the time to train with young children and through pregnancies, while also managing a busy and stressful career, can be challenging, but Gajal credits SHA with helping to build her strong foundation and giving her the self-assurance to “Take the Lead.”

 

Dr Kumar Running

“I will always look back fondly and thankfully at my time at SHA, Gajal said.  “Not only did the environment allow me thrive academically it also provided me with the confidence to reach for my goals no matter how lofty.”

 

Her story was featured in Abbott World Marathon Majors where she shared how she finds balance through running.

 

Read the Abbott World feature on Gajal here.

"Originally, I was a computer science major at a different school. Computer science is a very male-dominated field, so I had a pretty hard time. I would come into class every day and all the guys would whisper and laugh at me. No one ever really took me seriously because I was a female.

One day in my precalculus class, we discussed a concept that I remember learning about in Mrs. Miss’ class senior year at Sacred Heart. Mrs. Miss taught us an acronym for horizontal and vertical transformations. The acronym was HIVO, which stood for Horizontal-Inside-Vertical-Outside. In this class, whenever someone would answer a question, the professor would have those in the class who agreed with the answer to stand up and explain why they agree. On this particular day, we were learning about vertical transformations and one guy answered a question. Everyone in the class stood up in agreement and I was the only one still sitting. My professor called me out in front of the whole class of about 50 kids and said, 'We just went over this answer and agreed that it was correct. Why are you still sitting down?' I told my professor that the answer was wrong and explained why using the method that I learned at Sacred Heart. My professor then asked the class if they agreed and all the guys in the class started laughing. But she told everyone that my answer was the only correct answer and that they can all take a seat. I just smiled. It was the highlight of my freshman year at college, especially being in a male-dominated environment. I have Sacred Heart to thank for giving me the confidence to stand up and speak my mind in a class where I was in the minority."

-Bernadette Conway '17

"I graduated from Sacred Heart Academy in 1958. I have wonderful memories of my years here. At the end of my high school experience, I made the choice to join the Sisters of St. Joseph in Brentwood. Then the next choice that came along was when the sisters asked me if I would teach the deaf. So I went off to Boston University and got a masters in deaf education and came back to work with the deaf. And I eventually started working with the deaf in Brazil.

When you live in poor areas like I did, children come into your life. You feel for them. You wonder about them. They don’t go to school and they don’t have food and they need help. One of the children that came into my life was a baby named Miriam who was left on my doorstep. After you have the baby for a month or so, you really fall in love with the baby. Great effort was made to find out who her parents were. We went to children’s court and eventually adopted Miriam. When Miriam was about 3, I began to realize something was wrong and slowly, we came to the realization that she had brain cancer. Miriam died after 40 days in a hospital.

Very often, people do something in memory of the child and that’s what this daycare center is; the daycare center that the students of Sacred Heart are assisting through their SHAlloween event. It’s called the Miriam Imelda Educational Center because it’s named after this little girl."

-Sister Virginia Barry, CSJ, '58
Founder of the Miriam Imelda Educational Center in Recife, Brazil, for the educational, social and spiritual support of children who come from extreme poverty.

"I decided I wanted to be a dean once I had been the homeroom teacher for the same Class of 2013 homeroom. I enjoyed spending every morning for four years with the same group of girls, watching the them grow and getting to know them better. I also saw and admired the bond they shared with their dean, Mr. Conway. I thought it would be nice to have that relationship with an entire class. When I first met the Class of 2019 at their freshman orientation, I told them that one of the hopes I had for them was that they set themselves apart from other grades in a positive way and they have done just that. I have enjoyed the past three and a half years. I am not ready to start thinking about June 1 when they graduate. I really do not know what I am going to do next year when they aren't here. So for now I will focus on the time that we do have together. I can't wait for their senior prom, especially since it will be at the same place as my wedding."

-Ms. Rachael Grazioli
Dean of the Class of 2019

"UDance, hosted at the University of Delaware, is a year-long effort dedicated to unifying the commeny while raising awareness for childhood cancer. It culminates in a 12-hour philanthropic dance marathon every March at UD. Musicians, celebrities, and politicians join in every year to take a stand against pediatric cancer, but most importantly, the “B+ Heroes”; children who are currently battling cancer or have shown no evidence of disease in the past, participate to truly remind everyone what UDance is all about.

"As a student at UD, I have been continually raising money throughout the past year to support UDance. My job is to raise as much money as I can before March 24th. Then, on the day of UDance, I will participate in the 12-hour dance marathon with the rest of the UD community. Last year I was able to raise over $500 for UDance. I am also proud to say that I cut off 8 inches off my hair to donate to children living with pediatric cancer. As a community, UD students and faculty were able to raise $2,019,219.45, a total that greatly surpassed the total from the previous year.

"The day of UDance 2018 was probably the most memorable day of my freshman year at college. Everyone at the event is exhausted from dancing for 12 hours but we never let it show. What really kept all of us going was knowing that our exhaustion from one day was nothing compared to what the B+ Heroes had been going through on a regular basis. Seeing the B+ Heroes dance around up on stage was a truly inspiring experience.

"Being a SHA alum has shaped who I am in ways I never could have imagined. Having been in an all-girl atmosphere for four years gave me such a strong foundation for the confidence and motivation that I have today. The competitive yet supportive academic environment at SHA always pushed me to be the best version of myself that I could be; it taught me that I should never give up until I have reached my goal. Besides the strong academic confidence that SHA gave me, I believe that I am independent and courageous woman today because of the strong all-girls support system that I had for my four years at SHA. I truly believe that I would not be where I am and be who I am today had it not been for my time at SHA."

-Kayla Fitzpatrick '17
Sophomore at University of Delaware

"When I first started here, the chorus and instrumental ensembles were clubs that met after school once or twice a week, which was typical because of attendance and other conflicts. Myself and the other teachers in the music program kept trying to come up with ways to hold the students a little more accountable. We realized that the way to do that was to make it a class that meets during the school day. That way we eliminate any of the sports and clubs conflicts.

"Last year, we were able get chorus three times a cycle and instrumental three times a cycle into the schedule. This was huge. I think the day that Mrs. Sullivan told me that was going to happen was the best day I have ever had at Sacred Heart! I was so excited! Knowing that the students will actually be there in class was great. It has really worked well, and we are already seeing the results as far as how long it’s taking us to teach a piece of music and being prepared for a concert. The dividends have just been huge from this change.

"I started teaching at Sacred Heart in fall of 2006. This is my 13th year. I was a little baby right out of college when I got here, but it’s gone by in a flash. It’s really great to think about where the music program was when I started and where it is now and how far it’s come. We still have a list of hopes and dreams and goals we want to accomplish in the next couple of years. But we’re just excited to see where
the next few years take us and the music program."

-Ms. Terry Shirreffs
Chairperson of the SHA Music Department

"Tap 2 Pointe Dance Center, which is where I started dancing when I was three, were involved in the Nutcracker at Sacred Heart and had provided little girls for the party scene, for the flower scene and for the angels. So as soon as I was old enough to be in the Nutcracker, I was put into that. Just meeting the students from Sacred Heart as a little girl was very exciting to me. Meeting these role models made me want to be like them and I knew I wanted to go to Sacred Heart because of them.

"A big part of my Sacred Heart career was being the president of The Nutcracker and being president of the Dance Theater Board. That was definitely one of my biggest accomplishments there. The Nutcracker definitely helped me move in the direction of my career in dance. It made me want to be submersed in this world.

"I just graduated from Marymount Manhattan College in May of 2018. So far, I’ve danced with 3 part-time dance companies: Roschman Dance Company, Hanna Q Dance Company, and Barkin/Selissen Project. I’m also doing a lot of modeling as well. I didn’t think I was going to get into the modeling world. I thought I was just going to focus on dancing. But the opportunity presented itself and I walked in my first fashion show during New York Fashion Week last September.

"I’ve been working with Bloch Dancewear and modeling with their company with different clothes and product testing and making connections and networking. And they’ve been connecting me with other people. My career has been snowballing but it’s definitely been eye-opening. I thought I was just going to do dance and be in that dance world, but I’m branching out to fashion, art, and dance. I’m doing it all and it’s super exciting.

"Discipline, work ethic, time management were super important at Sacred Heart and I just carried those values with me. I didn’t have to think about it anymore. It is just a quality that I have. And I think also commitment and passion for what you do are very important. I feel like people when you talk to them and network with them, if you’re committed to making that connection, people are going to want to work with you. People will call you out on it saying you have such great work ethic and you’re surprised because you don’t think about it anymore. It’s just in you."

-Amanda Sommers '14
Dancer and Model

"I always wanted to go to Sacred Heart and it was an easy decision to make since most of the girls from my class at St. Anne’s were coming here. I had a great time, learned a lot, and made really good friends that I still have to this day. If it weren't for Sacred Heart, I wouldn't have gotten into Fordham University, and that really set me on a good trajectory.

"I've always worked in educational fundraising. I had a conversation with Kristin Graham, Sacred Heart's president, and I was really excited to have the opportunity to raise money for a place that I know so much about. With all that's going on in the world, I think it's really important to prioritize girls' education. I'm really proud of the work that we're doing at Sacred Heart, and I'm proud to be able to come back and do what I love in a place that I love.

"My parents were happy for me to return to Cathedral Avenue, too. I started working at Sacred Heart in January 2018, just two weeks before my birthday. For some reason, my parents had kept my loafers all these years and as a gift, bronzed them, made them into bookends and gave them to me for my birthday. They proudly sit on my desk in my office in the Joseph House.

"I only have happy memories from Sacred Heart. I was on the Gold Team, and took advantage of so much that Sacred Heart had to offer, all while having a good time. I remember specific teachers, projects like the Stock Market project we did with Mr. Powers and books we read with Dr. Minogue. I'm still finding it very hard to call Mrs. Sullivan by her first name. She's told me repeatedly since I started working at Sacred Heart to call her ‘Emma,’ but I just can't do it!

"It's great to be back at Sacred Heart. I smile every time I go into the school building because it's nostalgic but different at the same time. I love seeing the girls and how enthusiastic they are. So much has changed since I was a student, yet the foundation, the energy and the girls are the same.”

-Daria Moringiello Mulhall '00
Director of Development

"I went to school at Fordham University and I got my masters in Theology there. There is a Sister of St. Joseph at Fordham, Professor Elizabeth Johnson, and she is one of the treasures of the Fordham Theology Department. She is one of the founders of Catholic feminist theology and one of the first women to get her Ph.D. in Theology from a Catholic university. She is not only an amazing human being, but also an amazing educator.

 

"So when I was looking for a Theology teaching job, I noticed that Sacred Heart had an opening. When I researched the school, I found that it was sponsored by the same congregation as Beth Johnson. I asked her about it, and she said that I would be an invaluable asset to the school. When I came Sacred Heart and walked through the halls, I felt the supportive, welcoming environment. This is a special space where we’re giving our young women a language against those agents in the world that are against love, inclusivity, justice, and peace; it this message of love, inclusivity, unity, peace, and justice that we believe can change the world. It’s still my first year teaching here and just in my first few months, I saw how the mission of the Sisters of St. Joseph was picked up by the students as they hear about it every day.

"This kind of environment makes me think of my own high school and college experiences where this mission of inclusive love wasn’t always communicated. I think of how that would have changed by own life at that time, and how we can form students to change the world when they leave Sacred Heart. One thing that Sister Jean Amore, CSJ, said at a meeting that has stuck with me was we don’t have our mission because the world wants it, we have our mission because the world needs it. It’s hard to put the finger on why this mission isn’t so well received in society but all that we can do is just take it to one day, to one conversation, to one person, and to one experience at a time. It’s like what Mother Teresa said: 'If you want world peace, go home and love your family.' If you want to bring the mission to the world, go home and bring it to your family.

"A fun fact about myself is that I wear my Gryffindor lanyard from Harry Potter world! I read the Harry Potter books when I was in elementary school, and when I took the Pottermore quiz back then, I was a Gryffindor. But I took the quiz when I went to Harry Potter World last summer, and I’m now a Ravenclaw. But I feel like I have to give my allegiance to what I originally was when I read the books. And the Gryffindor colors are red and gold, so it’s a perfect fit for SHA!"

-Mr. Ken Tompkins, Theology Teacher

"I graduated from Sacred Heart in 2014. I applied to the Naval Academy when I was at Sacred Heart and was waitlisted. I attended Fordham University for 1 year, participated in NROTC, reapplied to USNA and was accepted. I finished out my year at Fordham and then July 1, 2015, I started Plebe Summer at the Naval Academy. From there it’s been an incredible 3 and a half years with amazing opportunities. I was able to do a 21-day sea kayaking expedition in Alaska, and I got to spend a month on an amphibious transport ship in San Diego learning how the Surface Navy worked. Last summer I spent 1 month in Quantico, VA with the Marine Corps. I was also a detailer for Plebe Summer for the class of 2022 and served as a company commander.

 

“All midshipmen are required to take a core curriculum including electrical engineering, thermodynamics, cyber operations, and weapons engineering. I will be graduating with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering. When I commission, I’ll be commissioning as a Second Lieutenant in the Marine Corps. In the Fall, I will be going to The Basic School in Quantico, VA. Following TBS, I will go to Flight School in Pensacola to train become a Marine Corps Pilot. It’s a unique path that I’ve taken and I’m very grateful for how everything worked out.

"At Sacred Heart, I began to learn how to be a leader and how to work with my peers. I was mentored by incredible teachers and coaches. Because of my time at Sacred Heart, when I got to USNA, I was confident in who I was and knew how to work hard.

"I can look back on my time at Sacred Heart and really value all the lessons that I learned there about leadership and the value of being on a team. While I was at Sacred Heart, I was on swimming, Red Aerobics, and lacrosse. My favorite memories involve being on a team, and I am excited to begin my career as an officer in the Marine Corps.”

-Claire Villani '14

"I've been awarded the Presidential Scholarship as a member of the Fall 2019 class in the Viterbi School of Engineering at The University of Southern California where I will be majoring in Biomedical Mechanical Engineering with a minor in Psychology. Additionally, I’ve been accepted into the accelerated 5-year Master Program and I have been granted an Engineering fellowship that allows me to conduct my own research alongside the University’s professors. 

"When I found out I was accepted into USC and awarded the USC Presidential Scholarship, I was extremely honored. The Presidential scholarship emphasizes academics, leadership, and community service - all aspects that I was provided and motivated to explore at Sacred Heart Academy. SHA has helped me get where I am today by constantly challenging me to work harder in the classroom, empowering me to hold leadership positions, and encouraging me to take part in numerous service activities. The opportunities provided to me by Sacred Heart Academy were the defining characteristics that were key to my acceptance, scholarship, and fellowship at USC.

"I am extremely grateful for SHA’s empowering and supportive community that has helped me grow as an individual and become more confident in and out of the classroom."

-Lizzy Crosby '19
"I am honored to have been named a Johnson Scholar and awarded a Johnson Scholarship for Washington and Lee University. Following submission of my application and scholarship essays, I was among 200 finalists who were invited to campus for the weekend in March. Scholars are chosen based on their 'academic achievement, demonstrated leadership, and their potential to contribute to the intellectual and civic life on campus.'

"With only 1,800 undergraduates, Washington and Lee is among the only liberal arts colleges that offers classes in an accredited business school - the Williams School of Commerce, Economics, and Politics. While at Sacred Heart, I have developed a variety of academic interests and a desire to study business. Washington and Lee will allow me to explore both. I also love Washington and Lee’s 'Spring Term,' which is a four-week semester each year when I can immerse myself in a single subject that will broaden my abilities and often includes an opportunity to travel. At the heart of my choice was the people and the honor system. The 'speaking tradition' on campus invites friendly greetings with strangers and opportunities to develop friends while walking to class or to the dining hall. Finally, honor, civility and integrity are core values at Washington and Lee that I share. Beyond promises not to lie, steal, or cheat, at Washington and Lee members of the community are bound by their word. 

"For me, a recommendation from a Sacred Heart Parent, four campus visits, ice cream with a former faculty member, and a handful of chance conversations with alumni made Washington and Lee University synonymous with community, excellence and trust. It is also the perfect place for me to spend the next four years."

-Emily Moran '19
"I attended Sacred Heart Catholic Academy of Bayside from Kindergarten to 5th Grade, followed by Sacred Heart Academy for high school, and now, I'm off to Sacred Heart University. At SHU I’m majoring in Nursing, with a minor in Psychology.
 
As for attending all Sacred Heart schools, it was never something I planned or intended to do, yet something that is unique to me and adds to my story. Each gave me a nurturing environment to learn and mature. Who knows? Maybe it is in the name!"

 
-Theresa Cash, '19
Sacred Heart trifecta student
"East/West Industries is a woman-owned family business located in Ronkonkoma. My parents started the company 50 years ago, and I have worked at East/West for about 35 years. After I graduated from Sacred Heart, I went on to Adelphi University and studied Business Administration. One day after graduating from Adelphi, I went into East/West to help out for the day. My father told me, 'there were some very important people coming into East/West.' What I didn't know, was that a pilot and co-pilot that had recently ejected from an aircraft wanted to come in and shake the hands of every individual at East/West that had an essential part of saving their life. Whether it was the receptionist that took the call for the order or the technician that assembled the survival kit or the inspector that checked out the oxygen system or the shipping clerk that packed the survival kit - they all played a vital role in saving their life. That was indeed the pivotal moment that I realized that what we did at East/West was incredibly valuable. At that moment, I realized I could follow my dreams by continuing what my father had started, to be the best 'solution provider' for the aerospace and defense industry.

"East/West manufactures products that save the lives of the men and women who serve in our military, including the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines. Our products are the life-saving products that bring military personnel home safely. Products such as survival kits that the pilots and co-pilots sit on when they’re flying an F-18 aircraft. The incredible Blue Angles that fly by during the Jones Beach Air Show on Memorial Day are F-18 aircraft. The beauty of this is, we have 82 employees, and every single person has had their hand in some part of that product. These products are made right here in our Ronkonkoma facility. It’s pretty cool to sit on the beach on Memorial Day, look up at the beautiful Blue Angels and say, 'I’ve had something to do with a product that is on that plane.'

"There are so many other products we manufacture, such as helicopter seats and fixed-wing aircraft seats all designed to protect the men and women who are protecting our freedom. We make sure that the products they sit on and the products they breathe from get them home safely, should they find themselves in an emergency. Everybody knows someone who’s been in the military, and we want to make sure those people come back safely to their families.

"East/West also focuses on two main areas; hiring our veterans and mentoring our youth. Hiring our veterans is extremely important since it is our goal to help those men and women that served in our military make that transition from military life to civilian life. This transition can be challenging, but allowing them the opportunity to share their experience with our equipment with those manufacturing the equipment is a valuable relationship. Mentoring has always been a great passion; I always believed that giving back in the way of mentoring, is something that I learned at Sacred Heart. When I received a leadership award last November, I invited people that helped me throughout my journey in life. One person I invited was a friend and former classmate from Sacred Heart since she too was an essential part of making me who I am today. I surrounded myself with strong, powerful women whom I shared common goals and aspirations, and Sacred Heart has carried me through my journey to success. 

"The class of 1980 has always been a special class; not only throughout our four years, but we have also continued to share our experiences to this day! We plan dinners and trips on an annual basis to make sure we stay connected to those that have been part of our lives. We all talk about “how we may not have realized how powerful the SHA bond was at the time, but we all treasure the friendships and connections we have made in those four years.” Sacred Heart creates that foundation of what you will carry on into your work life, whether that’s structure or leadership or working together. The spiritual part is significant as well, and I always say you need to have faith, whatever your belief is."

-Teresa Ferraro '80
President of East/West Industries
“Being the inaugural recipient of the Mary A. Haigney Endowed Scholarship has allowed me to develop new thoughts and ideas in a school that has nurtured my creativity and individuality. It has provided me with endless opportunities and has challenged me to be better, to see the world differently than others. This fall, I will be a freshman in the Honors Program at St. John’s University where I plan to major in Psychology. As a first-generation college student, I know that the success I will achieve is not only a testament to my hard work, but also to the support of my family and the foundation I have been given at Sacred Heart.”

-Rosivel Galvez ‘19
Inaugural Recipient of the Mary A. Haigney Endowed Scholarship

“My name is Margaret McKenna and I am an Executive Assistant at Bloomberg L.P. This is a great time to be a woman in today's working environment. I previously worked at a major financial services firm and I am now at Bloomberg L.P. At both firms, they can’t hire women fast enough. Whether it’s using the terminal or in another capacity such as using your media skills, math skills and/or social skills, there’s a fit for you certainly at these companies and more. I highly recommend that you submit your resumes as soon as possible. There is a very high probability you may be their future CEO!”

-Margaret McKenna '78
Executive Assistant at Bloomberg L.P.