Advice to the Seniors

On May 19th, I had the honor of addressing the graduating class of 2017 at their Senior Honors Assembly.  I thought for a while about what I wanted to say to them; as I will address them twice more before they finally leave Saint Dominic Academy as graduates.  I knew that the Honors Assembly was my opportunity to give them some advice as they begin to prepare to head out to college and the world, but also my chance to give some advice to the young ladies in grades 7-11 at Saint Dominic Academy as they attended the ceremony as well.

Today, as we head into the days leading up to graduation on June 4th, I want to use this week’s blog to share with all of you the wisdom I shared with the students on May 19th.  It is not original advice, but comes from a source that we cherish as children and would do well to continue to cherish in our adult lives.

The most important messages from childhood are usually delivered via animation, with the nuggets of truth being wrapped up within the plot. When you are young, it is your parents, not you the child who sees how important and necessary some of these messages are. However, as you prepare to graduate from Saint Dominic Academy, you know in your hearts that you are also graduating in a sense from childhood to adulthood, and as such, you need to call to mind those childhood life lessons you learned and put them to good use in the future!

 

So today, I want to share with you some life lessons from the most magical place on earth and the filmmaker whose quest in life was to keep us young at heart always.

 

From The Lion King, we learned that “The past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it, or learn from it.”

 

From Winnie the Pooh we learned that “The things that make me different are the things that make me.”

 

From Hercules we learned that “Giving up is for rookies.”

 

From Monsters Inc we learned that “Nothing is more important than friendship.”

 

From Tangled we learned that “sometimes you have to face your deepest fears to make your wildest dreams come true.”  

 

From The Princess and the Frog we learned that “You’re never too old to wish upon a star.”

 

From Toy Story we learned to“ Reach for the sky!”

And finally, I leave you today with these two words of wisdom from Walt Disney himself. I want you to remember that growing up is mandatory but growing old is optional … and…all of our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.  Congratulations today ladies and I will look forward to talking with you again at graduation!

Tireless Volunteers- SDA PTA!

As some of you may know, in addition to my position as Head of School at Saint Dominic Academy, I also hold another title which is almost as special to me. I am Kindergarten Class Mom at All Saints Catholic Academy. I’ve been the class mom for Abigail’s class since she started at ASCA in Pre-K Three. If you’ve never been a Class Parent or a room volunteer in an elementary school,  I am here to say it is a great experience.  Coming up with creative Halloween treats, wrapping Christmas gifts for “ Cookies with Santa”, filling eggs for “Breakfast with the Easter Bunny”, and for the past two years, working in tandem with the other class mom to coordinate the graduation ceremony- I know that as Abigail gets older and is less interested in having me pop in and out of her school , the memories of these days, when her face lit up when I walked into the classroom, will be a gift I will treasure always.

As a working mother, I will admit it is a sacrifice at times to volunteer.  Most of the work that goes into my role as Class Mom is done in the late hours of the evening or the wee hours of the morning. At times, it is one more errand to run before I get home from work, or one more binge worthy TV program I do not see because I am writing reminder letters.  And knowing all that, I must say, I am in constant awe of the members of the Saint Dominic Academy Parent Association.  For, when I look at how much work goes into being a volunteer in the kindergarten, I have to multiply it by tenfold to fully appreciate how much work our volunteers here do!

This year, the Parent Association hit the ground running with the Welcome Back To School event, and did not pause for a breath all year. They coordinated the Calendar Raffle, they planned and organized the Communion Brunch,  they launched a Parent Facebook Page, and they added our new and hugely successful event – Designer Bag Bingo!  They held meetings, with me, with each other, in person and on the phone after their own long days at work. And the energy that they brought to the job was monumental; never once was there a hesitation, a question about whether or not they could achieve the desired goal.  This group set goals in July and now in May, have met and exceeded every single one.

For years, Catholic education has relied in part on the volunteers within the school who are willing to give back; to join a committee, to organize a fundraiser, to coordinate an event for students and without these volunteers in place, how could any school truly run well?  Parents are an essential part of the Catholic school community; it has always been that way and it will never change. It is our Parent Association who helps those who lead read the pulse of the school and who help to keep energy and excitement for school activities at high levels throughout the entire year.  

And so, as the end of the school year is always a time for heartfelt thanks, today I want to express my thanks, my gratitude and my appreciation for those members of the Saint Dominic Academy Parent Association this year.  They are as follows:

 

 President- Jennifer Bailey  Board Member- Maria Sasso
 VP/Secretary- Lori LoCascio  Raffle Coordinator- Mary Dowden
 Treasurer- Stacey Swope  Social Media Coordinator- Peggie Marano

 

 Communion Brunch Chairs:  Back to School Chairs:
 Kelly Lekic/ Cathy Sabia  Eileen and Chris Gill

 

 Designer Bag Volunteers:
 Lisa DeBari/ Gigi Diaz/ Janine Colletti/ Laura Herrera

I thank each of you for a wonderful year and from one parent volunteer to another, I hope you know how very much you are appreciated and valued by all of us here at Saint Dominic Academy!

SDA Athletics!

In 1997, I was 19 years old and in my 2nd year of college. I also began working at the Mayor’s Office in Jersey City. I remained there until I was 22, first as an intern and then progressing to the administrative assistant to the Director of Communications. It was during my tenure working for the City of Jersey City that I first had the pleasure of meeting Mr. John Nagel.  A busy man, always in a hurry to head into this meeting or to that event, (much like today, 20 years later!) he always had a moment to stop and say hello.  If something great was accomplished by a member of Communications, he was the first to give a quick but thoughtful word of praise or congratulations.  If I needed information for a press release or a seal of approval from his Department on an upcoming promotion for an event, Mr. Nagel, (as I called him back then) was always able to assist me in order to get the job done well and to ensure that the Mayor’s Office looked good!

How nice it has been this year, twenty years later to be able to once again work together with John Nagel, our Director of Athletics.  Time has changed both of us, now I call him John and he jokingly refers to me as “Madame President”, but the same exceptional working relationship has not changed.  The dedication to the job and the effort to ensure that SDA’s athletic program both looks and is exceptional has not changed.  As a member of the SDA family for forty years now, (he began his time at SDA the year I was born!) as well as our Head Track Coach, Mr. Nagel has worked to uphold the mission of Saint Dominic Academy and its commitment to producing well rounded young women.  He reaches out to girls who otherwise may not get involved and encourages them to reach their full athletic potential.

He leads by example as a coach and models how he expects all of our coaches to act.  By emulating how to be a motivational coach,  all of our young athletes, regardless of what sport they play, know that they are supported by a coach who truly cares for them, who wants them to be successful, but  most of all, who wants them to truly enjoy the sport in which they are participating.  What a wonderful gift to be giving our young women; the chance to be leaders on the various athletic fields and to engage in healthy competition, but at the end of the day to know that, win or lose, their coaches are proud of them!  I think every young lady who has played on one of our sports teams can walk away saying “I had fun!” That’s Mr. Nagel’s goal as AD; to make athletics fun. And hey, if we have an impressive collection of trophies here at 2572, then so much the better!

From Dance to Softball, from Track to Tennis, he oversees it all, with a smile, a kind word and a space for every young lady who wants to try a new sport. Tonight, we will gather at our Athletic Dinner to honor our young athletes and celebrate all they achieved this year.  Mr. Nagel and the coaches will coordinate the event and guests will see, they each downplay their role in creating successful student athletes in spite of all of the time they give to our athletic program.  And so, I want to take a moment to thank all of our coaches for all they do each day for our students and for how dedicated they are to the athletic program at Saint Dominic Academy. You make our school well rounded, successful, and a welcoming place for everyone!

And to my friend of 20 years, Mr. John Nagel- your dedication to the mission of Saint Dominic Academy is extraordinary. For 40 years, you have been teaching the women of SDA how to “run like a girl” and I know you will continue to lead our athletic program to great things in years to come! Thank you John, for all you do for SDA!

All That We Have We Owe To Our Mothers…

My 20th blog post focused on my father. In it, I described one of my first memories of he and I as follows….  My earliest memory of my father is from when I was just a little over two years old. He took me out for the day, probably because, as an early talker, I was wearing my mother out.  In July of this year, I will have been wearing my mother out for forty years! I started talking at 10 months old. By 18 months, I was singing full length songs to my mother. (None who know me are surprised by this revelation!) While I am no longer in the habit of belting out a show tune for her questionable enjoyment,  I will admit that I have not stopped talking, and talking and talking.   And yet, she always has time for me and never once, in forty years has she been too worn out to listen.

When I was a little girl, my mother was my playmate. (My two brothers were often not; I mean, how exactly do you play DINOSAUR?) She played Barbie, she played Strawberry Shortcake, and she played Care Bears (once! I did not really understand how to play with bears. I mean, bears can’t talk…but I digress!)  When I was in the hospital at age six, she promised me an almost impossible to find Cabbage Patch Kid and she did indeed find it. (How we could have afforded it, I still wonder.)  She was more wonderful than any fairy godmother because she made my little girl dreams come true; sometimes using nothing more than her imagination and whatever was handy in the craft drawer.  She was a wonderful best friend!

High school arrived, and the road, although still strong and sturdy, had a few bumps every now and then. We did not see eye to eye on a great many things; how long I should talk on the phone each night, how much lipstick I needed to wear to school, whether Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” was an appropriate movie to see (She voted no and she won!)  whether or not prom dresses should be peach and fluffy ( I voted no. I .and won!), but we were still close. She was my strongest supporter;  smiling proudly at every production I was in, even if I only had two lines, bringing her friends to see me, putting daily notes of support in my suitcase when I went away to a two week summer program.  She was again, my best friend, my confidant, and she listened tirelessly and ceaselessly to the whirlwind of my high school life.

As I got older, finished college and began my teaching career  and she became principal of a high school in Montclair, we did not, as life got more hectic, grow a little bit apart, but instead became even closer. Her advice was the first I sought, before my friends, even before my father’s.  Hers was the shoulder I went to cry on or the first phone call I made when something wonderful happened.  It is hard, even now as I write this to fully capture in words all that my mother has brought to my life and all she continues to bring to my life every day.  I know for a fact, I would not be sitting in this office at Saint Dominic Academy if it were not for her constant guidance, influence and support.  I consider myself a strong, empowered and independent woman and I think most who know me would agree.  However, I also know that I would be lost without the daily grace and love that my mother brings to my life.

Mothers who are reading this, I would imagine that many of you feel the same way about your own mothers. Daughters of SDA, young ladies in grades 7-12 who argue daily with your moms about some of the same petty topics I argued with my mother about, trust me when I say, your mother is your first line of defense, your biggest cheerleader, and the woman who will shape the way you mother your own child one day in the future.  Even when you fight with your mothers, (and, of course you will) and even when they fight back (and of course…they will!), there are no words strong enough to capture the love your mother carries within her heart for you.  It is all encompassing, it is infinite and it is yours whenever you need it most.  I know that, as a mother, because I learned it from my mother.

Motherhood is a thankless job at times, but it is also the best job in the world. I know my mother will read this blog and before she tells me whether she likes it, she will fuss at the fact that I used her picture or that I went overboard with sentiment. She is a private person, one who gives of her heart daily without expecting to be thanked.  All mothers do this and on this Monday  leading into Mother’s Day on May 14th, it is time all daughters took the time, not just to send a card or wrap a gift, but to look our mothers in the eye and say thank you for all they do for us and for how much they love us.

Even then, it is not enough, but daughters, it is the best we can do.  And so, to my own mother, a very public thank you:  Mom, if I can be half as good a mother to Abigail as you are to me, then I will be a great mother. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for being my first and best friend. I love you!

And to all of our SDA mothers, who wipe away tears after a heartbreak and who listen to the stories of teenage drama, and who find that extra fund to make her little girl’s dress or shoe or whatever dreams come true, I thank you.  Thank you for raising such beautiful young women, each day they walk the halls of SDA they are a testament to how wonderful each of you are.  And I wish you the happiest of Mother’s Days because now, as a mother myself, I truly understand how much you deserve it!

SDA: A School That Rocks!

Over the Easter break, I had the opportunity to take my daughter to see School of Rock on Broadway.  For those of you not familiar with the Jack Black movie or the musical inspired by that film, here is a very brief plot summary from the Internet Movie Database.

After being fired from his own band, the guitar player Dewey Finn needs to raise some money to pay for his rent and his bills. When his friend and school teacher Ned Schneebly is called to a temporary work in an expensive private school, Dewey pretends to be Ned and accepts the job. He finds talented young musicians in his class, and he decides to form a rock-and-roll band with the students and win a competition called “Battle of The Bands” to win the prize and be recognized in the show business.

The show, whose music was written by that icon of the Great White Way, Andrew Lloyd Webber, was a wonderful experience for the both of us.  While she enjoyed seeing the pint size actors and actress rock out to songs like Stick It To The Man and You’re In the Band, I was inspired by the subliminal message contained within the musical, a message I thought was lacking in the original film.  What struck me were several of the musical numbers, performed at different times by the faculty at the fictional Horace Greene School, and the students in the class, who are benefitting from the day to day rigor of their education, but not fully awakening their minds to the idea that learning can indeed be fun.  While the faculty shares with the audience how tight a ship the school is (Here at Horace Greene), the students, wise beyond their years at age 10, lament that nobody asks them for their thoughts, ideas or insights- not their teachers nor their parents (If Only You Would Listen).

I have to say, I had tears on my cheeks at that moving number and I thought to myself, I am glad to be in a place where I know the entire community, teachers and parents, make an effort daily to listen to the children of SDA.  Now, while I don’t think that teaching rock music alone is the way to reach every student- (Mr. Finn’s schedule was Rock History, Rock Appreciation and Theory, and Band Practice), I am in agreement that sometimes unconventional teaching reaches students in ways that rote memorization and by the book tests do not.  

The overall messages that School of Rock sent, to me and to Abigail, as well I hope to the other parents and children in the sold out theater was that learning can be fun when a teacher is truly inspiring,  that when he or she brings a passion for the subject matter that can be shared with the students in the room magic happens, ( or as Mr. Finn called it musical fusion) , and that when together, the students in the class and the teacher who leads them, share a bond of respect, understanding and compassion, then the best type of learning takes place!   And I think, in classrooms at 2572 Kennedy Boulevard, this type of inspired learning is happening on a daily basis, and it has been happening since 1878.  While I do not hear any drum solos or electric guitar chords blasting through the hallways (thank goodness!), I do see and hear innovative, intriguing and extraordinary lessons occurring in the classrooms at Saint Dominic Academy.  

This week, on May 3rd, Saint Dominic Academy will be having an Open House for prospective students and their families!  You, our current parents, our alumnae, and those who are connected to SDA in one way or another, can lift your voices this week and invite a family you know to come see all the reasons that Saint Dominic Academy is truly a school that rocks!  Open House will begin at 6:00pm and it will be a showcase of all we have to offer students in grades 7-12!  I hope that you will help us spread the word and make the event a stellar and successful one for the SDA community!

Oh, and if you are looking for a way to, as the musical said live hardcore, for a few hours on a spring afternoon or evening, then I recommend taking your daughter to see School of Rock!  It was an amazing show, one of the best I’ve seen, and I do plan to see it again, and rock out with Mr. Finn and his pint sized band!