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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.

"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