Gajal 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.”
“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 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
"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
“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.