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.

Valedictorian Speech 2019

This week, I share with you the remarks from the Valedictorian of the Class of 2019- Miss Hannah Dobronsky.

Good afternoon Ms. Degnan, Mrs. Farrales, Sister Mary Lou, Ms. McLean, faculty, families, friends, and the beautiful class of 2019. I want to start by saying thank you to all of our guests for taking time to celebrate this special occasion with us and by reflecting on the magnitude of this ceremony.

Graduating from high school can mean something different for everyone.

It can be a time of great change as we pursue the next chapter of our lives.

It can signify that we are one step closer to finally turning our passion into a career. It can symbolize our hard work that we have accomplished these past four years. While each of these points is true of any high school graduation, graduating from Saint Dominic Academy means a little bit more. Most importantly, it means that we are prepared and empowered to take on any challenge that comes our way. I have had the privilege of knowing all of the incredible young ladies being celebrated tonight, and I can confidently say that each one has everything she needs to excel in the next era of her life. You all have become like sisters to me in every sense of the word; I know that each of you has the courage to get back up after a setback, as well as the character to help another who has been knocked down. I have seen unmatched resilience, creativity, intelligence, passion, and drive demonstrated time and time again by each and every one of you.

Not only have you taught me so much about what it means to be a strong woman, but all of you have constantly inspired me to be the best version of myself. This is the kind of class that can get through anything life throws at them. From arts to sciences, finance to communications, and in any other field we are going into, each of you is amazingly talented. I cannot wait to see the great impact you all will make on the world, and the success that is a sure part of our future. I will end by saying something that I think everyone needs to hear sometimes. There are many things that must be considered when you come to a crossroads and are faced with a tough decision. The best decision will always be the one that makes you happy.

It might take a long time to figure out what path satisfies this happiness, but each and every one of you deserves to follow your heart. It may not always be the easiest choice to make, but remember that you can always count on these sisters of yours to help you with anything, no matter how many miles away. I am so grateful to have known each of you these past few years, and today is not an end, but a beautiful beginning. Congratulations to the extraordinary class of 2019. Thank you.

Graduation Remarks 2019

Congratulations to the Saint Dominic Academy Class of 2019! Today, I want to share with you my remarks from yesterday’s graduation ceremony.

Good afternoon, everyone. My dear seniors, this is the last time that I will stand before you and be able to offer you advice, insight and “wisdom”, although I am not always sure how wise I truly am. What I can tell you, is when I look out at you, I see my own little girl, ten years from now. And so, I did some reading and some reflecting on what advice I will someday give to her, as she heads out into the world. I am certain all of your mothers and fathers have given you valuable advice and life lessons that you will carry with you always. Now, if you will indulge me for just a few moments…here are some life lessons I learned as a young woman, and as your “school mom”, I’d like to share them with you.

Spend the money on the dress you love. Your OWN money, not your parents money. There will be a day where you find the dress of your dreams..the one that when you put it on, it makes you smile. And then…you’ll look at the price tag and put it back on the rack. Pick it up again- spend the money, treat yourself. Because when you feel you look your best, that’s the moment when your inner beauty shines through.

Never miss an opportunity to tell someone how you feel. If you love someone, tell them. Even if they don’t say it back, and at times they won’t…you will always regret not telling someone you love them.

Your words carry tremendous weight, choose them wisely. At all times, in every situation. We all lose our tempers and say things we regret. Imagine how much happier the world would be if we stopped before those regretful words came out of our mouths, thought about them for a moment, and then bit them back.

If you know the answer, raise your hand. In the college classroom, as a parent someday at a PTA meeting, in a work meeting. ( Ok maybe don’t raise your hand, but speak up!) Share your knowledge, let people know how intelligent you are. Never be afraid to be right.

Karma is real. Don’t be a mean girl. Yes, yes, the movie is funny, I’ll admit it. But really, who wants to go through life like Regina George and her Plastics? I know you all- NONE of you are mean girls. Don’t let anything you face in life turn you into a mean girl!

Use sunscreen. It sounds silly right now, I know. But I am looking out for your future- and the last thing you want is a call from your doctor about skin cancer…take a moment to spray on that sunscreen and take care of the beautiful skin that you have.

Listen to your gut, even when it disagrees with your head and your heart. Instinct is a powerful thing; almost every creature on the planet with the exception of humans act on instinct. If you feel something is not right for you, listen to that feeling. Just make sure you know the difference between instinct and impulse!

Know the difference between a disagreement and an argument. Try your best not to have either, but a disagreement does not always have to be personal; you can have a professional disagreement with a classmate, a colleague, a family member, but not hurt their feelings. In arguments feelings are always hurt and we always say things we regret.

Eat the cake. This is advice I have to follow myself. Be happy with who you are, enjoy the things in life that make you happy. Don’t worry about calories or fat or things like that every day for the rest of your life. Cake, in moderation, is meant to be enjoyed!

Always carry an extra hair-tie. Or else, rock a short haircut! You can see what I have chosen…so either keep an emergency supply somewhere, or you’ll one day be me saying “I’ve got to do something with this hair always hanging in my face!”

Friday nights are for takeout. Sometimes Tuesdays are, too. And this becomes perhaps the best advice I can offer you, especially as you get older. Nobody expects you to do it all…work, dinner, homework, etc. Splurge a little once or twice a week and order in and binge watch an entertaining show. It will do so much to keep you centered and focused for the other 5 days!

Ask for help when you need it. You’re an independent woman, not a superhero. Call your mom, your dad, your friends…come back to SDA and say “Can you help me with.____?” As I just said, not one of us can do it all, not you, not I. There are days when, if my friends could not help me out a little, I’d be lost. You’ll have those days too…so never be too proud to ask for assistance.

Love yourself. The people in this room right now love you very much. That’s why they are here celebrating this day. You will meet others in life who love you very much. And someday, I hope each of you meets the one true love of your life. Alas, all of that love that is focused on you will never truly touch your soul, unless you first truly love yourself.

And that is it…the end of my list, the end of my time as your Head of School…but we know well that this sisterhood at SDA has existed for 140 years and so today is not an ending…it’s the beginning of your future as proud alumnae of Saint Dominic Academy. I am so very lucky and proud to have shared this journey with you. I wish each of you the best of luck, and I am always here if you need anything.

Congratulations ladies!

Memorial Day 2019

Today, let us pause a moment…

As many of us look to this day as the true beginning of summer,

Let’s reflect on those who gave their lives so our nation might live.

From the colonists until now, America would not be American without

Our brave men and women who proudly serve our country.

And so, let us pray…

Heavenly Father,

On this Memorial Day, we pray for those who courageously laid down

their lives for the cause of freedom. May the example of their sacrifice

inspire in us the selfless love of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Bless the families of our fallen troops, and fill their homes and their

lives with your strength and peace.

In union with people of goodwill of every nation, embolden us to

answer the call to work for peace and justice, and thus, seek an end

to violence and conflict around the globe.

We pray through Christ our Lord.

Amen

Senior Assembly: Remarks


You must find happiness where you are!



Moana

We started our year together, your last here at Saint Dominic Academy, with a theme inspired by the movie Moana. And I can think of no better way to address you today than to reflect not only on all the happiness you have experienced during your senior year here, but also, the other important lessons that a movie like Moana can teach you. First and foremost, I sincerely hope that each of you can sit before me here today, close your eyes, and recall one moment of happiness you found this year. After all, that was all of our goals, yours and mine together from September onward. While I am sure you can also recall moments of sadness, of doubt and of anxiety- as I can as well, I am going to ask you to reflect for just a second on that moment of happiness you have called to mind. … Carry it with you, into next week, as you get ready for the Prom. Carry it with you, as you go to graduation practices. Carry it with you, at our mass on May 28, and of course, at graduation on June 2nd. Remember that moment of pure happiness you had as a senior at Saint Dominic Academy and keep it close to your heart; as close as Moana kept the heart of Te’ Fiti.

And now, for those lessons…

1. Listen to that voice inside you; it’s your heart talking to you. Follow it- wherever it takes you in life. The road ( or waves) may be bumpy and you may falter on the path, but as long as that voice inside you tells you to keep going- keep your head up and sail onward.

2. Never ever be afraid of feeling different.  Didn’t Moana’s grandmother embody that idea?  She did not care if the village thought she might “drift too far”…she knew that as long as she was happy with herself, that was what mattered. For all of us women, that is a hard lesson to learn- and if you can truly learn it as early as possible, then your life will be full of joy.

3. You are stronger than you think.  Moana sailing across an ocean—is it that much different than going away to college- leaving your family behind, embarking on a new voyage or journey?  There will be times next year when you think to yourself “ I cannot do this”, when you say to a friend “ I literally cannot do this anymore.” Yes, you can. You can do anything you put your mind to; remember that always!

4. When you make a mistake, fix it.  You owe it to yourself, you owe it to others.  There’s no shame in making a mistake, for any reason. It happens to all of us- it happens every single day. Not one of us is perfect.  What makes us good people? The fact that we can own up to our mistakes and do our best to fix them.

And finally and most importantly-  The ones we love never leave us, they are in our hearts always.

I can tell you this is 100% true. Those who touched your lives in one way or another will always remain with you; their influence will shape the woman you become.  Whether a love one has left for a better place with God, or whether you and the friend whose hand you are holding now are going to be separated by many miles next year…if love exists, then you will never be without those you love.  Listen quietly, at night, when your soul is at peace. Your loved ones will talk to you, will guide you, and will put you on the path to become who you are meant to be.

I will miss you very much next year; and if you need Saint Dominic Academy for anything…”set the course…you know the way”

Athletic Honors at SDA!

Two years ago, at my first Athletic Dinner as Head of School, I told the following story about our Athletic Director, John Nagel:

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 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….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!

Today, as we prepare to celebrate our student athletes at our annual Athletic Dinner tonight, I am so very pleased and proud to be able to share the news that Hudson County has bestowed up our beloved Coach Nagel another accolade to add to his list of accomplishments. Last Tuesday evening, the running path at Lincoln Park was dedicated to John Nagel, in honor of his over 40 years of service to track and field as well as to girls’ athletics in Hudson County.

Tonight, at the dinner, he will speak very little about all he does for the young women at Saint Dominic Academy. His “MO” is to take a backseat always and let our young ladies shine…as well they should, for we have dedicated, determined and fearless athletes here at Saint Dominic Academy. However, I would be remiss if I did not laud this achievement; through my blog this morning and in my remarks at the end of the dinner later tonight.

Congratulations John, on this outstanding recognition and honor. The alumnae who have had the pleasure of running for you over the past 42 years know it is richly well deserved. Thank you for your dedication to Catholic education, to education for young women, and for teaching the young ladies of Saint Dominic Academy to “run like a girl” for many generations. We are lucky to know you!

Mother’s Day 2019 …

Well…isn’t that the truth!? Am I right, moms? As my own daughter gets older ( 8 in August!) and tests her boundaries, with little eye rolls, sassy hands on her hips, the dreaded foot stamping…I realize, my mom was right about everything! I love my little girl more than anything in the world, but when she gets into “that mood”, I look at her much the way Victor Frankenstein looked at his creation, as in “ What have I created here!?” And then I look at my mother, who is smiling in a way that lets me know she is remembering the past and seeing she and I at that same time period. Suddenly I realize; I have a mini-me and what I am putting up with is just what I put my mother through a little over 35 years ago.

Moms of teenage girls…our 7th– 11th grade moms here at SDA…I know you will tell me it gets worse before it gets better! Moms of our 12th grade girls, awaiting the moment in August where your little girl, the one you sent to kindergarten with ribbons in her hair and a cutesy lunch box and back pack goes off to college, I know you will tell me it goes too fast, enjoy every minute of it. I think my own mom would tell me an honest mix of both of those statements: Yes, it goes too fast, but no, you are NOT going to enjoy every minute of it. Goodness knows, I am sure there were many moments in the past 42 years that my mother did not particularly enjoy where I was concerned, but looking back now all I can remember is that she has ALWAYS been there. We are each other’s constant contact, line of support, and best friend- there is nothing that happens in my life, good or bad, that I do not want to talk over with my mother.

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 woman. 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. Whether you are still lucky enough to have your mother with your, or whether this coming Sunday, you will spend some quiet time with loving memories of your mother, you know the love I am talking about that exists between a mother and daughter. I know you cherish it just as dearly as I do.

Daughters of SDA, you may yet be too young to understand that the bond you have with your mother is a bond that will not exist with anyone else…until you are blessed with a child of your own. So for now, just trust me when I tell you, as both a mom and a daughter… 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. Every one of us mothers know…that the true definition of mother is this: one who gives of her heart daily without expecting to or wanting to be thanked. As we head into Mother’s Day this coming weekend, I do think that all of us daughters take a moment 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!

Changing Perspectives…

I was way back when it was on, a huge devotee of the television show L O S T. Yes, I will freely admit it; I have the L O S T encyclopedia at home and any young lady who has passed through my Siena Honors English class knows that “fear only gets five seconds.” Over the past few weeks, I rediscovered L O S T on my Hulu and decided to give it another go around; it had been a long time since I visited the island, got involved with “The Others” and discovered that Desmond might truly be the world’s constant. If you were a fan when it was on, another visit is recommended. And, if you for some reason were lost while L O S T was on and did not get to know Jack, Sawyer, Kate, Hurley, Charlie and the rest of the island crew, then I recommend heading over to Hulu to watch now.

And yet, what has caught my attention the most is how much a person’s perspective can change as we grow older, grow wiser and our lives move in different ways. When I first watched the show, I was an ardent despiser of the character of Michael, father of Walt (who is ten years old when the plane crashed on the island.) I was not alone in my dislike; most fans could not stand Michael; stubborn, thick headed at times, and solely focused. He had no sense of teamwork, minimal sense of how to take other’s feelings into consideration, and looked at offers of comfort and help as affronts to his ability to parent his child. When he did something truly terrible ( no spoilers, I promise!) at the end of a season, I was shocked and appalled by his behavior, but not surprised. After all, in the early seasons, wasn’t Michael supposed to be one of the characters we never really warmed up to?

This time around, almost ten years after the show ended, it is amazing how my perspective has changed. I was not a parent when I first watched L O S T. I am now. And that changes everything! Now, re-watching, I see Michael as heroic, single minded in his determination, yes…but his determination is to ensure that regardless of what happens to himself or to any other adult, his son is kept safe and is able to somehow find a way off that island. (Does he or doesn’t he? You’ll have to watch!) I tell you this story, not because I wanted to blog about L O S T, but because it truly struck me how my perspective on something could undergo such a monumental change in less than a decade.

And so, that thought led to (as if often does) other thoughts about changing perspective and as I write this blog to be published on April 29, I have our class of 2019 in mind. For their perspective, and yours as their parents is about to undergo a monumental change as well. That shift in perspective, from high school student to young adult out in the world, and from parent of a girl in a uniform to parent of a young woman heading off to college is quite a shift. When you sent these ladies to us, many of them wore ponytails and braces, still looking like their 8th grade graduation photos. And they themselves saw children when they looked into the mirror. Four short years later, what a different perspective each of our graduating seniors must have; on themselves, on what they want to do in the future, and on life itself.

These past four years have been years of growth and change for each of our young ladies and as they finish their very last month of high school, it is astounding to think that they have celebrated so many victories, overcome so many obstacles, and had so many varied experiences in the past four years. Every situation each girl encountered during their time here at Saint Dominic Academy, whether it was a friendship forged, a heart broken, a successful college acceptance, or a failing grade had an impact on the young woman who is now heading out into the world. How we see these young ladies has changed from 9th grade until now. Imagine, for a moment, how their self perspective has changed over this time!

I know, as a mom of a girl, that the young lady who graduates in a month will always be your little girl and that perspective will never change. Take the time, I encourage you, during the month of May to talk to the beautiful young woman who is about to embark on her path to young adulthood; ask her how her own life view has changed during these culminating years and what her dreams are for the future. I hear your daughters talk…they have amazing things to say! Let their voices over the month of May leave a lasting impression on you!

#countdowntillgraduation #classof2019

Happy Easter!

We rejoice together in the Risen Lord!

On behalf of Saint Dominic Academy, Happy Easter!

We will carry you in prayer this entire spring!

Reflections for Holy Week…

The importance of Holy Week does not change from year to year…it is the most somber and Holy seven days of the year in the Catholic Church. When I reflected on the reverence of this week last year, I received a great deal of positive feedback on the thoughts I shared. I feel perhaps, the reflections from Palm Sunday to Holy Saturday that I meditated on last year and shared with my readers should be shared again as we once again enter into this time of prayer and reflection.

This week, the Catholic church enters into the most Holy Week of the year; a final meal among friends, a reflection and betrayal in the Garden, a trial, a death sentence, and the long, painful walk to death on the Cross. These days commemorate the suffering of Jesus Christ and ask each of us to pause and reflect on His sacrifice for all mankind. It is important for us all to reflect and repent during this darkened time so that we can truly embrace the Light and Life that comes forth in Joy on Easter Sunday.

Jesus knew, when He traveled to Jerusalem for the final time, that the end of his life was drawing close. We know, from Church readings that while Jesus was committed to His Father’s plan for the salvation of humankind, he still carried within His own heart great fear. We would expect nothing else; the fear of dying in such a painful manner, the fear of betrayal by a close friend, the fear of being mocked, ridiculed and beaten for His words of love would cause even the bravest of us to perhaps turn and flee the fate that awaited in Jerusalem. However, we also know from the Gospel that Jesus did not turn and flee; His presence at the Last Supper, where He washed the disciples’ feet, where He shared with close companions His Body and Blood were actions that signified His acceptance of the plan His Father had in store for Him. And although He asked in prayer to have the cup “pass from my lips”, Jesus turned His cheek to accept Judas’ kiss of betrayal and walked willingly toward His fate at Golgotha.

This week, each of us should take comfort in the suffering of our Lord, for it is that very suffering that should give us hope in difficult times. Whether we are mourning the end of a relationship, the loss of a friendship, a physical illness, the death of a loved one, or even a small sadness that touches our heart only and leaves other hearts unmoved, our sadness is not unnoticed by God. We must remember, this week and always, that the events that led to the crucifixion of Jesus and His agony on the cross give all of us hope for a better tomorrow. When we offer our individual sadness, our silent pain, our tearful mourning to God, we are reminded that if we trust in our Father, His love will sustain us, not just during the trials of Holy Week leading to the Easter celebration, but always, for His sacrifice for us is continual.

As we wait this week for the stone to be removed from the tomb early on Sunday morning, let us be thankful for the sacrifice God has made for each of us and keep each other in prayer daily. We may not know the sufferings of others, but together, we can offer our sadness to God and receive the gift of joy on Easter Sunday.

In prayerful anticipation for Easter…

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