June 14

No, no, no…the blog is not under construction, but there is construction under way at Saint Dominic Academy. During the 2020-2021 school year, we happily welcomed MEDQUEST, our medical exploration program, to our school curriculum. Developed and taught by Ms. Roxann D’Alessio, this program had its inaugural year during the COVID-19 pandemic. As such, while some students studied in person and others undertook this first portion of the program virtually, the medical program was temporarily housed in the faculty room.

That is all about to change, as we begin this June to establish a MEDQUEST classroom on the first floor of Saint Dominic Academy. With state of the art medical equipment, sinks, exam tables, medical supply cabinets, EKG machines and more…this new facility will be both a monumental and worthwhile summer endeavor here at SDA.

MEDQUEST combines theory and practical application with externships and volunteer work to afford students the knowledge, insight, and experience necessary to pursue various health careers. MEDQUEST provides classroom instruction, practical labs, and field experiences, and some highlights of the program include learning about:

  • Vital Signs
    • Patient Care
    • Pharmacology
    • Medical Assistant Techniques
    • Medical Careers Exploration
    • Phlebotomy
  •  Wound Care
    •  Baby Care
    •  Surgical Instrumentation
    •  Electrocardiography
    •  Assisting with surgical procedures
    •  Suturing

The MEDQUEST simulation lab has four distinct parts: a reception area, an assessment room, a laboratory, and a hospital room.

CPR Certifications are obtained at the end of freshman year and they are recertified every two years.

Four years of the program qualifies students for a Medical Assistant Certification through the National HealthCareer Association.

Three years of the program qualifies students to earn an EKG Technician Certification through the National HealthCareer Association. 

The Medical Assistant Certification and Electrocardiography Technician Certification are lifetime certifications.

Some of the renovations have already been sponsored by one of our generous alumna, however we could always use the support of all of our alumnae, especially those who now work in the medical profession and who understand how truly important it is to have a program such as this one at Saint Dominic Academy. It is my hope that many of our alumnae will consider contacting our Advancement Office today to help make our medical program’s expansion a reality during the summer of 2021.

June 1

On Thursday, May 25, the Class of 2021 graduated from Saint Dominic Academy. Today, I’d like to share my remarks from the graduation ceremony.

Good morning, Class of 2021. As I said at rehearsal last week, since you already have your diplomas in hand, you of course have the option of tuning me out as I offer some final insights and what I hope are words of wisdom before you leave Saint Dominic Academy. However, I hope you won’t do that, as it’s been too long since I have had the chance to talk with all of you, face to face. And we all know how much I love to talk—so please, bear with me for just a few moments.

It’s hard to believe you are graduating—perhaps it’s because of the way the school cycle has worked from last March until now, but I have a hard time realizing that you are done with your senior year—and I’m certain your parents feel the same way. After all, I don’t feel any older than I did when you were in the 9th grade. Remember when I took some of you hiking with Dr. Shreck and the slug spit on Isabella’s hand? Wasn’t that just this past fall? I’m looking at your faces and Charlotte, weren’t you just in Annie? Nastaja, aren’t you still in the 8th grade? Persia…what season of AHS are we up to now? Miya…didn’t I JUST graduate high school with your mom? Alyssa—weren’t you just hyperventilating over a Physics assignment? Julianna and Amanda…weren’t you just the “baby sisters” of seniors and not seniors yourselves? Megan—didn’t I just call you and your dad on the phone to welcome to you to the freshman class? The list could go on and on—and I guess it doesn’t matter if I don’t feel older or if your parents don’t feel older, or if your teachers don’t feel older—the point is this—somewhere in these past four years, you grew up—from brand new “teens” just starting high school to mature young women who have weathered a world- wide pandemic, a historical presidential election, a change in the socio emotional climate of our country, and have grown stronger because of all of these things. 

In fact, maybe I don’t need to give you advice at all ( although I am going to) because I realize that due to all of the emotional growing you had to do, not just over the past four years, but over the past 16 months, that you are already far wiser now than I was at your age. Obstacles and unexpected life events have a way of pushing us forward into adult life and nobody has been pushed forward or asked to adjust to so much so quickly as the students across the United States over the past year and a half. That could mean, that by the time you are my age you’ll be much wiser than I could ever hope to be and that you’ll be the ones giving sage advice to others. But, for today, I’m up here and so, my very last task as your Head of School is to send you out to college and the world with just a few pearls of wisdom I’ve strung together through my 40+ years on earth. 

  • Inner strength has nothing to do with the following: age, size, color
  • Inner strength has to do with one thing—the ability to meet things head on. Each of you has already found that inner strength inside you—you’ve met more obstacles head on then you should have had to at your ages. So, don’t lose sight of it. Meet everything that’s thrown in your path head on. Call upon the inner strength that got you through these past months and as you grow more mature, your inner strength will grow stronger. 
  • Making mistakes is not the worst thing you can do. Everyone makes mistakes. The worst thing you can do is to not own up to your mistakes.
  • If you don’t own up to the mistakes you make along the way, you’ll never learn from them. And, if you don’t learn from them—I can tell you from experience, you’ll just wind up repeating them in a myriad of different ways. 
  • So, make mistakes—we all do—own up to them, learn wisely and move on. 
  • Be resilient. Your feelings are going to get hurt—and I have to tell you, they’re going to get hurt often. That awful sensation does not stop as you get older. It’s hard to be resilient when people hurt you; hard to hold your head up, smile and let it roll off your back. I know—because it is the single hardest thing for me to do, and I’ve been trying for over 40 years. And every day, I keep trying….and every day you should too! 
  • Try not to let them see you cry! Now I don’t mean never cry—that would be crazy advice from a woman who cries at commercials on a regular basis. However, what I’ve learned is that there is a time and a place for a good emotional cry and there’s a time to blink back those tears—and if you are in a situation where someone can use your heartfelt emotion against you and paint it as a sign of weakness—then blink back those tears. Don’t let someone use your good heart and caring empathy to their advantage and your disadvantage. How do you know that’s happening? Trust me—you’ll know. People who want to manipulate you will show their true colors early on. 
  • Be smart-be quick thinking-be safe. It’s sad that in this day and age, you’ll be given this advice over and over again, but as beautiful and kind hearted young women, you need to hear it. Keep your wits about you—at college, at parties, when you’re out with friends, even when you’re on dates—and trust your instincts ALWAYS…if something unsettles you, then remove yourself from the situation right away. We cannot always avoid the danger that life puts in our paths as women sometimes—but we can be aware it exists, we can know to make the safest choices for ourselves at all times and always, we can work for change so that this advice doesn’t have to be handed out in the future. 
  • Finally, and most importantly—find a good friend and be a good friend. I know each of you has a close circle of friends right now—but as you head off to college, although you’ll keep in touch, it will also be time to expand those friendship circles. So, right now, think of your closest friend in the class of 2021—what joy does she bring to your life? How does she make your days better? What about her makes you smile, makes you laugh, makes you a more empowered woman? Do you have the answers? Yes? Good! That’s the friend YOU want to be when you get to college—and people like her are the friends you want to make. 

There are a million more life lessons I could expound upon, but our time together has grown short. I’m no longer your Head of School, and I’m no longer the one who has to work to shape your educational and spiritual path within the walls of SDA. However, I hope you know that I, along with everyone else at SDA will ALWAYS be here for you—and that Saint Dominic Academy will always welcome you home. Congratulations, ladies and much love to you always.

May 24

14 months since the St. Dominic Academy Glee Club’s members last met in person, a few girls got together to sing one last song for the 2020-2021 school year. They sang ‘The Rose’, one of the Club’s classics, as a farewell to the senior members and the entire SDA class of 2021.

This in-person performance is only the beginning of post-quarantine SDA and future Glee Club endeavors!

May 17

It took way more than “just a pinch of pixie dust” to get here, but we are here at last. This coming weekend, May 21 and 22, will be Saint Dominic Academy’s musical production of Peter Pan. This is the fifth production directed by Ms. Stephanie DeSarle and as if flying off to Neverland was not a hug enough feat, this year’s musical is all virtual- pre-recorded and streaming through an online platform. No small task at all, our cast and crew has been working since December, recording vocal tracks, acting silently while the tracks were dubbed over their movements, and then recording individual scenes via Zoom, all for a seamless virtual production. It’s been a task like none we’ve taken on before and the entire production has been done in house, using the skills of both our Director and our student performers and stage crew.

With students from four different schools participating in our show, we are looking forward to a magical two nights in Neverland- leaving our safe nursery where Nana loyally guards the “Darling” children and flying off to a land where warriors protect Lost Boys, where pirates lurk around every tree stump, where crocodiles tick tock and animals march, where Pan vows to never grow up, but finds himself becoming the protector of his young “family”, along with Wendy and the infamous Tinkerbell. For a show that touts a song called “ I Won’t Grow Up”, as I worked with our cast, it became more and more clear to me that the story truly is about growing up—certainly for Wendy, John and Michael, as they leave the safety of London to have a magical adventure of their own, for the Lost Boys, who realize maybe having a family is better than playing all day, and for Peter Pan himself, who finds the strength to let his friends go home to London, even though he desperately wants them to stay with him. 

For all of us who have had to let go, of our childhoods, of a safe place, of a secure position and venture out into an unknown world, this musical strikes a chord with us. Here at Saint Dominic Academy, where we truly BELIEVE in the power of girls, I ask that you clap your hands for us, not only if you BELIEVE in fairies so we can save Tinkerbell from peril, but if you truly BELIEVE in the power of our students abilities to bring joy to your lives through their performances. 

And how do you get there? It’s simple—second star to the right and straight on till morning. Join us on May 21st or 22nd; ticket information is on our website and social media pages. See you in Neverland! 

Peter Pan Cast and Crew

Peter Pan – Alyssa Fuentes

Captain Hook- Maximillian Rueda ( Saint Peter’s Prep)

 Mrs. Darling, Starkey – Isabel LeCompte

 Mr. Darling, Tootles – Isabella Betancourt

 Wendy Darling- Reagan Mattiello

 John Darling, Noodler – Luke Mullins (All Saints Catholic Academy) 

 Michael Darling, Jukes – Salvatore DeSarle-Scarpulla (Sayreville Public Schools) 

 Liza, Nibs – Carolina Quito

Smee – Abigail Degnan (ASCA/Homeschool) 

Tiger Lilly- Miya Morrison

 Warrior, Cecco – Lyeba Jadun

Warrior – Thasha Balraj

 Slightly, Curly – Keira Ang,

Jane, Twins – Elle Mullins (All Saints Catholic Academy) 

 Nana – Cole Mullins

 Illustrations, Animations – Madison Russo-Alesi

 Virtual Stage Manager – Jennifer Parra

 Virtual Stage Crew – Grace Dirkin

 Virtual Stage Crew – Persia Valdivieso

 Virtual Stage Crew – Elizabeth Rodriquez

Summer Reading 2021

This year, Saint Dominic Academy’s summer reading reflects not only women’s voices but also the moral, ethical, spiritual and societal issues that we want our young ladies to be able to discuss and analyze, as they grow into empowered leaders who can thrive in a global society.

With the exception of the 7th grade and the AP supplemental texts, the selected readings are non-fiction and address complex issues including bullying and harassment, the death penalty, U.S. interactions with the Middle East, ongoing environmental concerns, and genetics. 

It is my hope that parents will choose to read their daughter’s assigned novel and engage in discussion over the summer. When we return in September, our English Department will work with students to create comprehensive, analytical essays while our Religion Department engages in frank and open discussion about the topics for each grade level. 

7th- To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

An American classic, dealing with the issues of rape and racial inequality, the novel is also remembered by beloved readers for its warmth and humor. Published in 1960, it skyrocketed to success and won the Pulitzer Prize.  The plot and the character are loosely based on the author’s own experiences at age 10 in Monroeville, AL. 

8th- I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou 

Ms. Angelou’s heartbreaking and heartwarming 1969 autobiography. Part of a seven volume series, this is the first of her stories, showcasing how at a young age she overcame racism and trauma.  It begins when Maya is three and ends with her becoming a mother at age 16. Fans of her poetry will be moved by her open and honest retelling of her life’s hard beginnings and how she learned to respond to prejudice. 

9th- Autobiography of a Face by Luce Greeley

With a strong focus on identity, this intense and sad memoir by Lucy Grealy tells her story of before and after being diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma. Beginning at age 9 and following to adulthood, she shares with her readers how the removal of her jaw due to cancer had serious effects on her emotional life as well as her physical acceptance of herself.  What makes the memoir more heartbreaking is that the author took her own life a short time after this was published. 

10th- The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Science and ethics are just two of the many topics covered in this work.  Henrietta Lacks, treated for cervical cancer in 1951, had cells that led scientists to what we know as the HeLa, an immortal cell line.  However, Ms. Lacks was the unknowing donor of these cells as the doctors who took them never received permission.  The book, detailed in nature makes a strong argument about ethical issues and their links to race and class in medical research. 

11th Dead Man Walking by Sister Helen Prejean

Those on both side of the death penalty debate cannot help but be moved by this compassionate work of non fiction by Sister Helen Prejean.  Working in  New Orleans, as spiritual advisor to two convicted murderers on Death Row, Sister gives readers an inside look at Angola, the Louisiana state penitentiary, the process of how the death penalty is carried out, and the moral issues stemming from both the use of the death penalty itself and the role of a spiritual advisor.  

12th A Mighty Heart by Marianne Pearl

In 2002,  Daniel Pearl, a Jewish American journalist for the Wall Street Journal was kidnapped, tortured and beheaded by terrorists in Pakistan. The beheading video was sent to U.S. officials and was viewed by his family as well. This work, penned by his wife Mariane Pearl, who was pregnant with their first and only child when he was killed, gives a vivid, detailed and frightening account of the days leading up to his death. 

12th AP( in addition to above) : The Turn of the Screw– Henry James

Written in 1898 this short novella tells the haunting story of a governess, isolated with two children at a remote estate in England.  Are the supernatural events real, or in her mind only? It’s been debated for over a century and this book is a favorite of The College Board for the open response essay. 

Heart of Darkness– Joseph Conrad

Another short but weighty novella, this tells the story of a voyage up the Congo River into the Congo Free State by a group of British officers, searching for an ivory trader named  Kurtz.  At its heart, the work examines imperialism, racism and the darkness that comes, not from the beliefs of a people, but from the evil inside a man’s heart. 

9th– 12thSilent Spring by Rachel Carson 

Published in 1962, this book is still praised today for it’s in depth look into the environmental effects caused by pesticides.  The book was met with fierce opposition by chemical companies, but, owing to public opinion, it brought about numerous changes. It spurred a reversal in the United States’ national pesticide policy, led to a nationwide ban on DDT for agricultural uses, and helped to inspire an environmental movement that led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

As part of the mission of the Sisters of Saint Dominic is ongoing commitment to the environment, Saint Dominic Academy asks all of its high school students to read this work over the summer.

April 26

We have all heard the phrase, a picture is worth 1,000 words. Last weekend, many of us saw that phrase given emotional life as our hearts broke at the image of 94 year old Queen Elizabeth II, sitting alone in church at the funeral mass of Prince Phillip, her husband of 73 years. A testament to strength, leadership, empowerment, and love, Queen Elizabeth showed each of us just what it means to be a leader and to choose to do the right thing, even under the hardest of circumstances. 

The United Kingdom is still under strict COVID-19 regulations and as such, only members of the same household could sit together. As such, the Queen sat alone in church, bidding a last farewell to her beloved husband, under the public eye—the same eye she’s been under since she assumed the throne in 1952 at the age of 25. To have lived from 1952 until 2021 in the constant view of the public, to have had her families lives splashed across news shows and tabloids, to have dealt with the death of Diana of Wales and to support her then young grandsons, all while being analyzed and commented upon and judged by some—that’s an incredibly difficult life. And, to be left alone with those memories and countless more heavy on her shoulders, as she mourned the one who was closest to her—the sorrow must be insurmountable.

Queen Elizabeth II is the longest lived and longest reigning British monarch. She is the longest serving female head of state in world history and the world’s oldest living monarch, longest reigning current monarch, and oldest and longest serving current head of state. Her grace, poise, dignity, respect for all, as well as her leadership skills, public persona, and love for the British people make her an incredible and empowering role model for young women across the globe. 

Perhaps that’s why, last Saturday, so many women wept for the Queen—because the images we saw showed us not just Queen Elizabeth II, Head of State, but Queen Elizabeth, mourning the love of her life, a widow at age 94, adhering strictly to the COVD-19 regulations put in place to protect her country and the world. It’s an image we won’t soon forget of a woman who will be a legend after her time.

God Save the Queen!

Ring Ceremony 2021

Good afternoon class of 2022 and welcome to your ring ceremony. You’ve waited a long, long time for this day and believe me, I know all about waiting for a ring! It seems endless and then, when you finally get it, you realize, it’s not the ring itself that’s important but rather the meaning behind the ring that matters most.

I have four rings on today; my own class ring from The Academy of Saint Aloysius, my engagement ring, my wedding ring, and close to my heart, my grandfather’s wedding ring. Each one of them carries a different and significant meaning and so too will the rings you receive and cherish throughout your life. In years to come, you’ll look at different rings you wear and each one of them will tell a story, just to you and it will call back a beloved memory. For me, having my grandfather’s wedding ring is especially important—not because it’s big or flashy or opulent, but because it was through my grandparents that I came to believe in “happily ever after.” You see, they were married on Valentine’s Day and were together for 55 years, until she passed away on Valentine’s Day. My grandfather never stopped missing her, and his ring reminds me of their beautiful love story that created our entire family.

My own engagement ring and wedding ring—well I’ll never be able to look at them without remembering the past year we all just went through. You see, I got engaged in December of 2019—when the world was still “pre-covid.” My husband proposed in Disneyworld, the day after Christmas and so, when I look at my engagement ring, it reminds me of excitement and happiness and joy. And then, came COVID and all the fun of wedding planning took a backseat to the harsh realities of the pandemic. My wedding ring will forever remind me of this unforgettable year, because I, like so many other women, had a private, COVID wedding. And so, every time I look at it, I’m reminded that what got us through all from March of 2020 until was love and support.

And as for this ring here on my right hand? Well, I got it just down the boulevard on a February morning in 1994. I still have it! I don’t wear it often, but I can remember when I wore it every single day. When I look at it now, I am reminded of the young girl I once was, just the age each of you are now, with my entire future in front of me. I had no idea it would lead me to the school just three blocks away and that I’d be here talking to each of you. I’m so very glad it did.

My point is this; today is not about a piece of jewelry, it’s about this time in your lives. Your entire future is ahead of you; you’re moving up to the role of upperclasswomen at SDA. You’re becoming leaders, the role models of the school and all too soon, your high school career will be at an end. The time between now and graduation flies by, ladies. And once you leave high school, you’ll be amazed at how quickly time moves from year to year. All I have to do is look at the ring on my right hand to recall the girl I once was—and I cannot believe it’s been almost 30 years since I’ve been that girl.

The 14 months you have between now and graduation from Saint Dominic Academy should be some of the best of your lives. Make beautiful memories, enjoy every moment, forge friendships that will still be strong 30 years from now. That’s what today is all about—it’s the first moment of the rest of your life as a young adult, your first footstep into the adult world. And, you’ll remember it always, I hope.

One final word of advice, if you do get a ring today, keep it for always. Between you and me, it’s the only thing I have from high school that still fits!!

Congratulations ladies on becoming upperclasswomen at Saint Dominic Academy. 

April 12

Welcome back and happy Spring, Saint Dominic Academy! I hope everyone had a restful and enjoyable break and is ready for the final weeks of the 2020-2021 school year. Breaks are good, every now and then, we all need breaks and now we’re in the mindset to spring forth and make the end of the year successful.

I’m certain each of you had plans as to how you’d spend your time off and here at my house we each had plans as well. My plan, which I was able to fulfill, was to catch up on a few movies that I’d been meaning to see for some time now. As you know, I’m quite the film buff but I had just not found the time to sit down and watch these films—the first days of break I was determined to relax on the couch and press play on Netflix/Amazon. And, you know I love sharing what I learn, so here’s just a few nuggets of “important” lessons I gleaned from my few days binge watching.

  1. If you’re in a dark house and the lights flicker and the water in your glass turns to mud—get out of the house right away! ( The Vigil)
  2. Don’t ever go into a creepy old funhouse on an amusement pier, even if it’s a sunny day and it seems like a good idea. ( Us)
  3. Never, never answer the door when someone is pounding on it in the middle of the night or when someone is standing outside your home. ( Us & The Purge)
  4. If you tell a spooky story about a circus around a campfire at midnight and the next day, that circus shows up in your town…that’s NOT a good sign. ( Are You Afraid of the Dark?)
  5. If you hear a singing voice that nobody else hears, chances are it’s inside you calling you on your true path. ( Frozen 2)
  6. If something totally amazing happens to you in a Pixar film, it’s usually followed by something not so great happening in a Pixar film. ( Soul)
  7. If a creepy old book appears in your house, with no copyright and no author and it tells the story of a monster that comes to live in the closet—don’t read the book aloud. Just don’t. (The Babadook)
  8. If you made friends in college with a foreign exchange student and he/she invites you to come to some remote, only happens once every 90 years, secret from the outside world festival, chances are you will either wind up joining whatever creepy cult is hosting the festival or you’ll never be heard from again. (Midsommer) 

Important lessons, yes? Well, I’m thinking most, if not all of you, knew these lessons already. But of course, when thinking about these lessons it made me think of some more truly important lessons that are not always showcased on screens across America. And yet, the following lessons are the ones you need to carry with you throughout your lives, in order to grow into the empowered young women Saint Dominic Academy is teaching you to be.

  1. If it’s not true, DON’T say it.
  2. If it’s not KIND, don’t say it.
  3. If it’s hurtful, don’t post it.
  4. If it’s mean spirited, don’t comment or repost it.
  5. If it’s hate speech, don’t share it, don’t like it, don’t comment on it.
  6. If it’s a rumor, let it stop at your ears, instead of sharing it with your mouth.
  7. If it’s mocking someone’s race, religion, gender, appearance, culture, then it’s nothing you should be sharing, liking or posting.
  8. If you see a video, a meme, a post that you would not want your parents to see on your social media, DON’T post it.
  9. If you’re asked to do/say something that you know would not make your parents proud of you, don’t do it.
  10. If it’s: Kind, Generous, Sweet, Helpful to Others, Intelligent, Spiritual, Prayerful, Good Natured, or brings Joy to the life of another—then, by all means—spread that joy to as many lives as possible.

April 5

On Easter Sunday, and always

Let us remember that God gave us His greatest gift.

Let us remember that Jesus gave His life so that we could live eternally in Heaven.

Let us remember that love for humanity went hand in hand with sacrifice.

Let us offer a prayer of thanks for all that God has given us, and all that He will continue to give us daily…

Strength, hope, courage, joy, and the ability to follow 

Jesus’ teachings each and every day.

Have a beautiful Easter Season!

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