June 15

Emily Dickinson tells us hope is the thing with feathers… and although I’ve been an English teacher for over 20 years, I never gave much thought to that quote before. However, it’s been running through my head this entire weekend. You see, as our state begins to re-open, I took a ride to the Jersey shore. That’s right, I went not “to the beach” but as we from NJ say proudly, “down the shore.” Now I did not venture into the ocean yet- not because of social distancing, but because it’s just too chilly for me, but on Friday evening, I took a walk on the Seaside Heights boardwalk.

Now, I’ve been walking those boards since I could walk; I remember the old Log Flume and when the Beachcomber was built out over the sand, and the roller coaster that’s now iconic, due to the haunting image of it in the sea after Hurricane Sandy. I’ve had Midway fries since I had teeth and gotten sick after eating a candy apple and going on the Tilt- A Whirl…the list is endless. However, never in almost 43 years would I describe Seaside Heights as “paradise” or a “haven”. Fun, sure! Exciting, you bet! A little wild, depending on whether you ventured into Bamboo or one of the many other nightclubs just off the boards…absolutely! But a thing of pure beauty—no even my poetic soul never saw it that way.

Until Friday night…and perhaps that change has little to do with where I was and more to do with the fact that I was somewhere. I have a feeling, people all over NJ and all over the United States are experiencing or soon will be experiencing the same emotions as I was. Play a wheel of chance? Sure- step right up; never mind that I’ve thrown out bags of boardwalk prizes in the past almost 9 years. Ice cream before dinner? Of course you can have it- sprinkle or no sprinkles? Fudge, taffy, a quick peek at the rides- not yet open but with a promising sign saying “opening soon”…well it’s enough to make anyone’s heart flutter.

Paradise, I think , for many of us is just that tangible place we venture when we want to feel hope and joy. What makes a place paradise is how it makes us feel inside. What I saw on Friday was beautiful- I saw people smiling at each other, saying excuse me, casually exchanging words like “beautiful sunset” and “so nice to be out” as they stood six feet apart in lines waiting for a snack, a drink, or a chance to play a game. I heard children’s laughter- not just the sweet laugh of one child in her house, but echoing, ringing laugher that seemed to come from everywhere all at once. I saw grandparents holding tiny hands and I would swear I saw tears on some of their cheeks-just to be able to hold that tiny hand in theirs had to be paradise for them. I myself could not stop smiling, could not stop planting kisses on my child’s cheek as she laughed and ran up and down the boardwalk, and what’s more, I could not stop noticing that everyone around us was happy, content, and just full of joy to be outside. 

Reopening has to happen slowly, I agree with that wholeheartedly. Precautions have to be taken, and regulations have to be set in place. We cannot, as a state, as a country, as the human race just skyrocket back to the way we were before and forget our lockdown as if it was a bad dream we thankfully awoke from. We have to remember and be careful, lest we wind up repeating it in the not too distant future. We have to remember it for other reasons as well- those intangible reasons that don’t have as much to do with physical health and safety as they do with our state of mind and how, now more than ever, it can encourage us all to be better, more grateful, and more appreciative people. 

I didn’t know Seaside brought me so much joy until I was home in my living room for almost 100 days. Each of you, each of us, now gets to experience a series of “firsts” over and over again- and that’s a gift we’ve earned after all our weeks at home, and that’s a gift we should treasure. First hug between grandpa and grandson. First meal at a restaurant. First time seeing friends. First time back on a swing, on a golf course, in a hair salon…and most joyful for me, the first time I’m able to step into Our Lady of Mercy Church and attend mass…well, I think for a while it will feel a little bit like Christmas morning every time we gain back one of those things we used to do with no thought to it.

It seems, now, as if we’ve done a good job of weathering the storm; we can see the rainbow on the other side. We can have hope once again. We can feel joy once again. What we have to remember to try to do- as we move forward is to retain that happiness, to let our best selves shine through, to be kind and welcoming to others at all times, and of course to take moments to pray for those we lost—

Let us not ever once forget them for a moment, as they cannot be here today to celebrate the joy we will all feel as we slowly but surely reopen our world. 

7-11th Grade Message

Normally, this blog would be the text of the speech I gave at the Commencement Ceremony. However, since the ceremony is on our social media where everyone can watch it, it seemed redundant to post the written speech when readers who want to share in my “insights” for class of 2020 can hear them by watching the ceremony. So instead, I decided to share my final message of the 2019-2020 school year, which was sent to the young ladies in grades 7 to 11 last week. They’ve all been exceptional during this period of remote learning and I wanted to motivate them to keep up their dedication to their studies during the summer months…

You’ve made it to the last week of the school year. I know it has not been the easiest year, especially from March onward ( and even before March we had our share of “adventures” this year!) but you’ve done an exceptional job and you should each be extremely proud of yourselves. 

I wanted to take today, as you begin to daydream about all the “downtime” you’ll have this summer, to share with you- for those that don’t know- that I began my teaching career 20 years ago, in 2000 as an English teacher. While the first two years, I taught SAT prep, from 2002 onward, I have always taught at least one English class during my career. You all know this has not changed, as I continue to teach an English elective at SDA each year.

Nothing was more fun for me, when I taught English full time, than to select the novels that were going to be read over the summer. I always wanted the summer reading to be fun, to be enjoyable and to inspire in each student a love of reading. Your English teachers this year have done the same and have chosen some wonderful works for you to read over the summer months.

Mrs. Good will be sharing the list with your parents, via email and I know your teachers have shared the summer reading lists with you.  Because I feel that summer reading is so important and essential- I’m also sharing it here…along with some “thoughts.”

To Kill A Mockingbird- a classic- pure and simple. In my Film class, the father in this novel is considered to be the Number 1 Hero in Film…and when you read the book, you’ll know why!

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon-  In my top ten favorite books of ALL TIME! I miss teaching it so much- anyone who wants to chat about it over the summer…just email me. Ask any girl at SDA who took my 9th honors class about “Trisha” and they can give you an earful! You’re going to LOVE it.

Shoeless Joe-  As all American as apple pie. Sports, fantasy, family…I bet you’ll cry at the end. And if you don’t…ask your dads/grandpas if they cried at Field of Dreams!

Love Is a Mixtape- Goodness! I’ve not read it, although I’ve read others by the author. You let me know if I should give it a try!

This Side of Paradise- Anything by Fitzgerald is amazing! If you like this over the summer…wait until you get to the symbolism of the green light at the end of Gatsby’s dock next year!

On The Road-  Not going to lie- a hard read, but well worth it. And since we won’t be taking many road trips this summer, a virtual one with a acclaimed author is the way to see America over the summer!

Pride and Prejudice- I love it so much, when Abby was a baby she had the Baby Lit Board book version. It’s romantic, it’s got great leading ladies, and it’s witty. You will enjoy it!

The Metamorphosis-  read it for first time as a junior in high school- could not get over the concept so I disliked it very much. Read it again in college- it broke my heart.  Don’t wait till college to appreciate this book- it’s short enough that you can read it twice if you need to in order to get over the visual and get to the heart of the matter.

Never Let Me Go- So, you know how Facebook keeps your memories and reminds you of them? When I read this- it left such an impression that I posted about it and every year I am chilled for a few minutes when I reflect on this novel. You’ll like it…it will make you think.

The Alchemist- A must read- for AP for sure, but for everyone! 

The Glass Menagerie- know what would be fun? To get on a daily Zoom with your friends and read it aloud! Drama is meant to be read aloud and when you hear the words, you will feel the moods of the characters. The phrase “gentlemen callers” will be a part of your vocabulary  forever. 

Of Mice and Men-  Many have read it before, I know.  It has been a “staple” of English classes since I was in high school and with good reason. If you haven’t read it- get tissues for the last chapter. If you have- trust me and do the re-read…its interesting how your view can change in just four years ( see my blog on Wicked for more insights on changing viewpoints!)

Well, ladies- there’s my unsolicited advice on your summer reading and thank you for allowing me, not just as Head of School but as an English teacher at heart the chance to share with you my thoughts on the stories set before you this summer!

Memorial Day

Let’s take a moment today, to reflect on the following numbers:

American Soldiers Killed In War 

American Civil War 1861-1865:  755,000 lives lost

World War II 1941-1945:  405,399 lives lost 

World War I 1917-1918:   116, 516 lives lost 

Vietnam War 1961-1975:   58,209 lives lost 

Korean War 1950-1953:  36, 574 lives lost 

American Revolutionary War 1775-1783:   25,000 lives lost 

War of 1812 1812-1815:  15,000 lives lost 

Mexican American War 1846-1848:  13, 283 lives lost 

Iraq War 2003-2011:  4, 576 lives lost 

Phillipine American War 1899-1902:  4, 196 lives lost 

Spanish American War 1898:  2, 246 lives lost 

War in Afghanistan 2001- Present: 2, 216 lives lost 

The Gulf War 1990-1991:  294 lives lost 

Together, let us pray for the 1, 438, 509 men and women who died serving and protecting our country. 

Today, Memorial Day – they live on in our hearts and their service is not forgotten, 


“All Powerful God,
We honor today those men and women—
Our sons and daughters,
Husbands and wives,
Fathers, brothers, sisters, mothers—
Who have laid down their life for their country.
Whether weary or emboldened, quiet or defiant,
Vulnerable or ready when You called them home,
Their sacrifice is too humbling for words
except these uttered in prayer.
Loving Lord, bless them forever in Your eternal peace…
Cherish their spirit, honor their commitment,
send them our love,
and will never forget the service that they gave.”

A look back…

I knew this video was coming; when it arrived in my inbox on Friday afternoon, I was ready for it. I had some tissues next to me and Abby curled up against my side. As soon as those baby faces flashed across the screen, I had tears on my cheeks. No, I was not watching old family movies- I was watching a video, designed by Nicole Borrero class of 2020 and the Saint Dominic Academy Yearbook Staff. It showcased our beloved seniors from 9th grade until now. Their 9th grade year was my first as Head of School and I can look back and reflect how much growing and maturing has taken place, both on their part and my own. 

Four years ago, I was sending a child off to kindergarten, and their mothers and fathers were sending these graduating seniors off to their first day of high school. Four years ago, I was nervous and unsure as I sat behind my desk with that title of Head of School on my door. Four years ago, they were perhaps just as nervous as they sat in ELAN with Link Crew members, getting ready for the start of their freshmen year. We made it through- they and I and after four years have grown, become more confident, and have had many life changing experiences- some that made us cry and some that made us stronger.

I’ve said it often over the past almost 70 days- these young ladies in the class of 2020 are the strongest young women I have known and these obstacles that were hurled into their paths this past March would have made many people just break down and weep. I know I’ve done just that, late at night, on more than one occasion from March until now. Perhaps many of them have as well- but you’d never know it from their dedication to their classes, their spirited Instagram posts, their energetic emails to teachers and administrators, and most of all their continued love for each other and for the sisterhood of Saint Dominic Academy.

As I heard the end of the slide show, one thought hit me so hard I was almost knocked off my stool. As photos of Disney came on the screen, I realized- these are the last photos of the class that will appear in the show- at least photos of them together in large groups. And if I had not already been crying, that would have done it. What I have to believe, and what the class of 2020 has to believe- with all of our hearts is that those won’t be the last…not really. We will find a way to gather again- although we’re unsure when it will be. In the meantime, the memories captured here in this video will, I hope, make you smile, make you laugh, and I’m sure make you cry. And if the group photos contained within it end in the most magical place on earth, then that’s not a bad place to hit “pause” until we are all together again.

My love and congratulations to the class of 2020 on finishing all of your classes at Saint Dominic Academy…consider this blog a virtual hug from me to you.

Let us remember…


Over the past two months, if you haven’t looked at, posted, recieved a text featuring, or laughed over a coronavirs themed meme, then I’m going to assume you either have no internet access or you are a more focused person than I am. They’ve been making the rounds pretty much since the stay at home orders began and there’s no sign of them stopping anytime soon.

Have you seen the one that jokes about the summer and shows Godzilla walking across the ocean?

How about the one, that came out early on, saying we’re three weeks away from knowing everyone’s real hair color? ( I personally have passed that point..I am in need of some dye, ASAP).

How about the ones showing Tom Hanks from Cast Away and giving us a countdown to when a volleyball will become our new best friend?

Or the ones with the home layouts, renaming every room so it seems as if you’re going somewhere other than your house?

Then there’s the memes that joke about cruise prices going down, about people going to Zoom meetings from their beds, about dogs loving their humans being home and cats hating it.

For Disney fans, there’s the one that changes the lyrics to the Gaston song, and just try to read it without singing it in your head! Or Elsa has the school nurse, freezing kids coming near her because they might be carrying the virus. Or the Monsters Inc spoof…instead of a 2319, we have a COVID- 19. 

The fake diary entries detailing how people are eating their stockpiled snacks, the ones that tease about the panic over toilet paper and hand sanitizer… the ones where women list the things that are driving them crazy about their husbands….chewing, snoring, basically existing. 

And then of course there are the myriad of “Home Schooling” ones. You know, the things such as “ don’t worry if my kids are in the same pjs every day, my home school has a uniform.”  ” Don’t worry if you see me talking to myself, I’m having a parent teacher conference.”  ” If you see my kids locked outside, don’t panic, we’re having a fire drill.”  “Alexa…homeschool my children.”  ” How do I get my child transferred out of my class?”  The list is endless…there’s a new one every single day. 

My personal favorite was one that I sent to the SDA faculty and staff a week or so ago. I’ll share it…

personal assitant meme

I’ll admit it; I’ve texted the memes, I’ve laughed at the memes, I’ve posted the memes, I’ve shared the memes. Why? Because we all need to laugh a little bit and because some of them truly do capture the reality of this almost unreal situation. We need to smile, we need to find a reason to laugh, we need to not focus on the internal frustration, stress and anxiety that each one of us must be feeling on a daily basis.

However, there’s perhaps one more thing we need to do. There’s a time, every day when, at least in my house, I get very serious. It’s every day, when our Governor announces the death toll for NJ.  8, 952 people in New Jersey have died from COVID-19 since March. That’s a high number, a serious number, and a number that will hit 10,000 before this week ends. 

And so, perhaps in the midst of our frustration, in the midst of our smiles, there should also be the following:

Moments of prayer– for our essential workers, for those suffering with the virus, and for the families of those who have lost someone.

Moments of silence– for the over 8,000 people in our state alone who have lost their lives and for the lives lost all across America and the world.

Moments of mourning– for all the things, big and small that have been taken from our daily lives- lunches with friends, hugs from grandparents, First Communions, Graduations, Weddings, and even the ability to go lay flowers on a family member’s grave as they are laid to rest.

The Bible tells us:

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace…

At any given moment over the past two months, it has been each of those times for each of us at some point or another.

Let us all, remember, each and every day to pray…prayers of thanksgiving that we are still healthy and safe, prayers of sorrow for all those we have lost, and prayers of petition, that the days and months ahead get brighter for us all. 

Every day, let us remember to find time for God.

Sisterhood

This past Friday our seniors were surprised with a beautiful “gift” from their alumnae sisters. The work that went into this, the words of encouragement, praise and positivity, and the thoughtfulness behind the 15 minute video truly exemplify the SISTERHOOD that is Saint Dominic Academy. Is this time of year ideal for our class of 2020? Of course not, but they have over 140 years of sisterhood holding them up, bracing them against this current crisis, and embracing them virtually, with love, with good wishes, and with prayers from heaven. 

My thanks to Gigi Correa Diaz for putting together this gift for the seniors…I hope all of you enjoy it as much as the young ladies did.

Holy Week Prayer Service

As we entered into Holy Week yesterday, with Palm Sunday masses on our televisions instead of in churches, many of us may feel as if Easter and the joy it brings will not fully touch our lives this year. Amidst all this fear and sadness and frustration- we must remember all that Jesus suffered during this week. Betrayal from a close friend, denied by another close friend, teasing and mocking, beatings and whippings, the passion of his death on Good Friday and the despair his mother and friends felt when His life was over. We think all too often these days of our own sadness and suffering, however we know deep in our hearts that nothing we face can ever be as hard as the fate Jesus knowingly faced and carried out, in order to save us all. 

Normally, the school would gather together this week and pray before recessing for Easter break. We’d plan a mass of celebration for the week we returned from break. Although we cannot gather together physically, the students, faculty and staff will gather together to pray this Wednesday, April 8th from 11 to 11:30am. Each member of the school community will have a copy of the prayer service, and our remote classes will cease for 1/2 hour, so that we can all pray together. Additionally, the prayer service, led by four senior young ladies, and their mothers, who are all SDA alumnae, will be posted on our social media via a You Tube link. While the school prays together, they will use this link to see the prayer service led by thier SDA sisters, past and current. 

Today, I invite each of you to mark the day and time on your calender, look for the link Wednesday am on our social media and join the young women of Saint Dominic Academy and their teachers as we pray together during Holy Week. I call to mind today what I was taught during my elementary years at Our Lady of Mercy. CHURCH is not a building, but a community coming together. So please, come together with us, pray with our school community, and together we can look toward brighter days ahead, gifted with God’s love.(Prayer service is below!)

Prayer Service Program

Work From Home Adventures Pt. 2

Here I am, another Friday afternoon and its the end of our second full week of remote learning. Our second full week of me teaching 3rd grade (I’m getting better at the math!!), of no dancing school, no playground, no play dates with friends, no date nights, no mom hangouts…I know the list is endless and each of you could add to it. It’s been so hard, and in spite of the warm sunshine today, I have a feeling it will just get harder before it starts to get easier.

Each of us must be missing so very much the things we used to take for granted. I miss the hour of downtime with my friends while our daughters went to dance class on Wednesday nights. Just that one hour a week where we could talk without cutting up chicken tenders, or monitoring how many toys were pulled out of a closet now seems to have been an hour of pure bliss. I miss going to a restaurant and having someone there do the cooking and the cleaning. I miss looking at a wine list and picking a new and interesting wine to pair with dinner; even though prior to this, I almost always ordered the same type of meal and same glass of wine when I went out to dinner. I miss the ability to go to the store: T J Maxx to browse around, Costco for bulk supplies, Michael’s for seasonal decorations, and I even miss hearing Abby beg and beg for a toy every single time we walked into any of those stores. All things I took for granted before; I miss now.

And then there’s those intangible things as well. I have not gone this long without hugging my mother or my father in my entire life. It’s making my heart literally hurt. I can’t go put flowers on my grandfather’s grave. I can’t go to church and exchange a smile and a sign of peace with total strangers. I can’t buy Abby an ice cream cone from an ice cream truck and then scold her when it drips on the floor. It seems, right now, all of our lives are just too full of “ We Can’t” situations and although each of us is trying so hard to stay strong and positive, it can truly be a struggle.

I am writing this not to whine and to bring people further down, but just to give you some examples so that my upcoming statement sounds “impressive.” Until yesterday, March 29, at 4:15pm, I had not cried about all of these “I Can’t” issues. I’ve worked hard to get up, be positive, teach Abigail, and try to help her and in so doing, help myself, adjust to this new normal until it goes away. I’ve smiled, I’ve sung songs, I’ve learned new dances via the Apple TV, I’ve played Barbie and with our new Star Wars DROID, and together she and I have used up an entire box of Crayolas. I’ve been a “strict” 3rd grade teacher and made her complete each and every task each day- even when she’s tired and losing interest. I’ve held my own classes at SDA to that same standard as well. All this, I’ve done and each of you have lists like this as well. The one thing I had not done was cry. What was the point? Yes, I’m sad, yes I’m frustrated, yes I miss my friends and family so much it hurts, but what good comes of crying over it?

My readers know that Abigail has been doing Theater since she was five years old. She does SDA theater and has been very active in a Theater Group in Bayonne. Earlier in the week, parents got email from that theater teacher, saying there would be “Virtual” Theater Group on Thursday afternoon. Now, after a day of virtual learning with Mom and being made to eat her vegtables and clean her room, and so on, I was not sure how Abby would feel about having to go to this remote activity. But, I told her I wanted her to go and that it was important, I thought, to try and continue the activity she loves so much, even if it was in a new way. I logged her in on the IPAD, downloaded the script on my phone and prepared to clean my floors while she went to Theater.

Then, I heard voices, the voices of kids as small as six and as old as thirteen, singing together in this Zoom meeting. And the tears just spilled down my cheeks and I cried and cried. I’m crying now as I write this. It was the most beautiful moment of this whole mess thus far. These kids coming together, because they WANTED to, and trying to learn something new and keep up their routine of performing, even with all this chaos in the world around them. I cannot fully express in words how beautiful it was, and how it gave me so much hope that I didn’t even know I needed.

The show WILL go on…for all of us. This show we call life WILL go on…of that I have no doubt. We’ll emerge from this changed in ways that we may never be able to fully articulate and more appreciative of things we took for granted before. In the meantime, the amazing director of Abby’s Theater Group and those little voices have given me the hope I need to continue on in these scary days. They reminded me that no matter what “show” we each participate in: work, sports, dance, school…THE SHOW MUST GO ON!

Work From Home Adventures Pt. 1

I wondered all week, was there even a reason to write this blog? In the grand scheme of things right now, who is going to be looking to me for any words of insight, wisdom or even just matter of fact information? All week I had a debate with myself in my head and here it is Friday at 3:00pm and I’m sitting down to type. Why? Because, for the past week all of us have had to adjust to the “new normal” and if we are going to go to school remotely, have meetings remotely, and even see our loved ones remotely via social media apps, then there’s no reason for me to not continue to do what I have done since I became Head of School, and reach out remotely on a weekly basis to share some thoughts.

What has this “new normal” looked like for all of you? I can only imagine, but I can share what it’s been like for me and how quickly my child has adjusted in the past seven days. Her new “teacher” is Miss Mommy and she understands that sometimes the teacher needs an extra few minutes to “review” the math lesson before it is taught to the student. She understands what a virtual tour of a museum is, she understands how to submit work online via a laptop and email and she even knows how to log onto her school website and see what tasks she has for the day. All things my 8 year old did not know how to do a week ago. She’s having “library” each day with a book selected by yours truly and music class this week involves learning the score to “Wicked.”. Even with all this change in routine, she is restricted to one hour on her tablet daily for fun on the internet. 

This week, I’ve seen Barbies having a pool party, Fisher Price toys stowed away long ago come back out for a full afternoon of Disney themed fun, and American Girls go camping under a bed. I’ve seen snowmen built out of Play- Dough and countless pictures colored in intricate detail. I’ve played Clue and Monopoly and Trivial Pursuit and Mad About Movies. I’ve taught a different “princess” each day- no uniforms means costume time at “school” and it’s been fun to teach Princess Leia, Princess Belle, and Princess Mulan so far. ( We had a visit from Hermoinie one day- Harry Potter styles and she rocked green on Saint Patrick’s Day of course!) I’ve seen hard work from an 8 year old- 4 plus hours daily on all her subjects.

What I haven’t seen perhaps is what surprises me more than all that I have seen this week. I have not seen whining about the work. I have not seen foot stomping, door slamming, or frustration at the fact that her new teacher is not always as quick to understand some of the lessons and the requirements of the 3rd grade classroom. I have not seen arguments about bedtime or refusal to brush teeth or a desire to sleep until 10am. She’s adjusted- quicker than I have as an adult and she seems to know that this is the way it will be, until it isn’t anymore. Complaining will do no good. Crying will do no good. We have to try our best to adjust to the new normal until we can go back to our old ways of life.

It’s been a hard week, of this there is no doubt. And we have harder weeks ahead, you and I- as parents, as employers and employees and as the home school “principals” of our daughters’ educations. We have opportunities as well- to draw closer to our loved ones, to really see what our children are learning each and every day, and through that process, learn some new things ourselves. I’ve learned in just 7 days, to be more patient, to be more creative, and to set up a daily routine that makes my daughter feel secure in this new, scary world we are inhabiting right now. I’m sure you have all learned that as well…and I’m interested…

What has your first week been like? Email me: sdegnan@stdominicacad.com and share your wisdom, your insights, and your experiences. This blog will benefit from shared stories right now and I’d love to have your voices heard when I sit down to write next week.

Be well, be safe, be healthy. And try, every single day, to BE HAPPY. Hug your children, kiss your spouse, and just thank God for the days together. You are all in my prayers. 

Remarks to the 8th Grade

Last Friday, our 8th grade students celebrated their Moving Up Ceremony. As they transition to high school, I was invited to give them some advice on how to approach their future as young ladies. Today, I share with you the words I shared with them.

Good morning ladies and congratulations on your Moving Up Ceremony. Today marks a very monumental day in each of your lives, as you make that transition from middle school to high school. I am certain if you asked any of our seniors who graduated this past Sunday, they would tell you that the next four years will go by in the blink of an eye. It may seem to you that it took forever for you to reach high school, however, the older we get the faster times seems to move. So, treasure the next four years because they will pass by quickly.

You’ve heard me during the year offer advice; to the entire school, to the graduating seniors, and today I have some advice that is just for you. Let me begin by telling you a little bit about my favorite TV show. It’s not on anymore, but it ran on network TV from 1999-2006 and now, thanks to Netflix, etc, I can binge watch it whenever I feel the need to be inspired. My favorite TV show is Aaron Sorkin’s The West Wing…which I am sure most of you are not familiar with, but perhaps some of your parents are. In reflecting on the advice I wanted to offer you today, two key phrases from that show really stood out to me and so, I will share them with you.

The premise of the show is a good one; White House Senior Staffers advising the president, the President faced with difficult decisions and the day to day running of both The White House and the country. President Bartlett, the fictional president on the show, is fond of asking his staff the following question many times throughout the series.

What’s Next? At times he means simply, what’s next for the day, and at times he means what comes next when he is faced with a difficult decision to make. I want each of you to take just a moment now to look toward September and think…what’s next? What is next for you as a student? What’s next for you as a friend? What’s next for you, within your own heart, as you grow as a person. All during your high school years, the pace may be frantic at times. You’ll have to make difficult decisions sometimes. What you can never do is just stop and shut down. You always have to be ready to ask yourself what’s next? and then move on to the next goal or challenge, whatever it may be. I ask myself that question every single day and it keeps me motivated.

The other piece of advice from the show I want to share with you is a very simple one. At times, throughout the series, someone will ask the President what he is thinking about. His answer is always the same…Tomorrow.

And today, on this very special occasion, that is what each of you should be thinking about as well. Not just the literal tomorrow; waking up to no school, no homework and a summer ahead of you, but of all the tomorrows that are yet to come in your life. Look forward always and think about what the future may hold for you. Be ready to greet each and every day with the mindset that tomorrow is always fresh, with no mistakes in it. Imagine what you can accomplish in a lifetime of tomorrows. And let that be your motivation to succeed every single day.

Two short phrases; that is my gift to you today. Ladies, whether I will see you in September or your future is outside of Saint Dominic Academy, I hope you remember always to ask yourselves What’s Next? and to always, always, focus on Tomorrow.

Congratulations and God bless each of you.

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