In September of 1993, I left The Academy of Saint Aloysius after completing a day of 11th grade. I boarded a bus headed for Saint Peter’s Prep; I was the only girl from my school who was trying out for their musical production of Carousel. ( I got in, by the way!) What I didn’t know, as I got off the bus and walked toward Grand and Warren, was that I would make a friend in the Prep cafeteria who would truly become a friend for life. Anyone want to venture a guess as to where she went to high school? You are right! She was a junior at Saint Dominic Academy!
As I walked that day into a sea of unfamiliar faces, I was very nervous. Now, over 20 years later, I have no trouble at all stepping into a room and feeling comfortable, but back then it was a bit of a different story. (On a side note, I think I gained a lot of my self confidence from those theatrical productions at Prep! Thanks SPP!) When I think back on that day, I am surprised that I just did not turn around and leave. Luckily, I did not make that choice but instead stepped into the ladies room (yes, way back in 1993 Prep had a ladies room for us girls to use!) to calm myself down before heading into the audition process. Lo and behold, there was another young lady who, I can only assume, was also calming herself down. Her friendly face smiled at me via the mirror. Blond hair, glasses just like mine, and over the top of her SDA blazer, a full face of makeup- just as my fully made up face perched over the top of my ASA sweater! (This was the early 90’s, so think 90210 for how the makeup may have looked! Someday, I may have to burn those pictures of me…but that’s another story!) She, being the braver of the two of us, introduced herself first and we walked into the Prep cafeteria together. The rest, as they say, is history.
We sat together at rehearsals, we were in many scenes together during the production, and by the time the curtain rose on Carousel, the first weekend in January of 1994, our friendship had become a gift to me. It is a gift that has lasted, through a spring production of Beckett, through the following year’s Fiddler on the Roof, through proms, graduation, college, work and adult life. I can remember dancing at her wedding, attending the baby shower for her first daughter, us holding each other’s newborns, and although our lives have gotten more and more hectic and what was once monthly dinners have turned into twice a year get-togethers, where we watch our daughters, spanning ages 12-5, play together, she and I have maintained a friendship that began 24 years ago.
This past Wednesday here at Saint Dominic Academy, students in our 8th and 10th grade STEM classes boarded a bus early in the morning. Their destination? Union, NJ, home to the Titan Engineers PC, founded, owned and operated by a 1994 Saint Peter’s Prep alumnus, and his wife…the same SDA girl I met in 1993. What a wonderful moment it was for me here as Head of School, to send these young ladies off on this field trip.
Friendship, I have learned, spreads its mantle far and wide. Sometimes, not through any fault, but rather because of distance, life, and different paths, that mantle stretches too thin and the friendship cannot be fully maintained. However, there are sometimes when that mantle comes full circle and this friendship story is one of them. Here I sit in my office at SDA, an office that was just being built when my friend walked these halls as a student, and there she is in Union, NJ, waiting to open the doors of the company to this new generation of SDA sisters, proud as an alumna to be able to welcome them for the day.
When I think of SDA and its generations of dedicated and loyal alumnae, I realize what wonderful life lessons the young women who have walked these halls have learned over the years. Yes, we do strive to provide the best education of course, but SDA also teaches a valuable lesson about sisterhood, kindness, and the ability to make a stranger feel welcome, at ease, and at home. It is no real surprise to me, as I look back on the friendships in my life that have lasted, that one of my closest friends is an SDA graduate. She learned the value of sisterhood here, within these walls, and shared that lesson with long me before I joined the SDA family as an adult. The story of our friendship is a showcase of what makes Saint Dominic Academy so very special for so many students and for our alumnae as well.