Whether it is lessons in the classroom, athletics, the arts, service or community events, there is always something exciting happening at Ursuline Academy. Read all about it in the Life on Lowder Street Blog!
These remarks were delivered by Maggie Chipman '17 to Ursuline 8th graders on the occasion of their Move Up Ceremony.
Good morning ladies, and congratulations on officially becoming high school students! You may be wondering why I am here, but, four exams from now, I'll have made it through Junior Year, and with that I'll have gained a whole lot of knowledge to pass down to you about the high school years at the Academy.
Now, when I was in eighth grade, I would have heard a speech such as this preaching "wisdom", "advice", and "experience" and said, "She doesn't know me. I'm different. I will defy these expectations. I am not going to follow her path". If any of you can recognize this rhetoric repeating in your own mind, I simply say: take this as you will, but take this from someone who has been there. I have four cardinal rules which have governed my life and behavior for the past few years, the first of which is: never lower your standards. This is applicable to what grades you expect from yourself, what behavior you expect from others, what treatment you expect from friends or adults or a boy. Your parents, who are here this morning celebrating your accomplishments thus far at Ursuline, have raised you each to be an independent, strong-willed young woman with her own set of morals and expectations. Do not back down from that gift! You are not "no fun" or a "hardo" for being confident. Courage in your convictions is the most admirable thing you can possess at this age.
Which brings me to my second cardinal rule: learn to say no. This has the obvious association with peer pressure, but I want you to view it from an additional angle: commitment. Do not overschedule yourself. It will come back to bite you. I know you will be introduced to a plethora of new clubs and activities in the fall, all of which are wonderful! But saying no to things that you cannot handle is a very mature thing to do. This one is hard; believe me, I know. I'm working on it. Here's another one that's kind of hard to swallow: you will fail. There will be something in your life over these next four years that you will just be bad at! For me, it was precalculus. Or, is -- I have the final in about an hour, so let's hope that “you will fail” does not come into play today! But, anyhow, the most important thing that you can take away from failure is learning how to work towards improvement. You can go from fighting for an 80 in one semester to having a 94 the next if you work hard and try to recover from your failures. Meet morning and night with your teachers and peers, be willing to put in work, and success will eventually follow. To provide a little contrast to the blunt "YOU WILL FAIL", we have come to our fourth and final cardinal rule: you will love. You will find love in your high school years. This love comes from the friends that you make here, from the family sitting around you at this moment. And more importantly, this love is bestowed upon yourself. You will learn to love yourself. You will learn to accept your flaws. You will learn to forgive yourself when you do wrong. And the moment that you fall in love with yourself is far more rewarding than that when any other person does. High school is a trying time. In addition to the beginning of collegiate pressure, you are going through a period of physical, mental, and emotional growth and change. So I formally liberate you in this: you are allowed to be unhappy sometimes. But, if you are unhappy, make sure it is something worth being upset about, because there is nothing worse than looking back on a situation and regretting choosing not to see the good in it. The world is built around perspective, and the majority of challenges you face will imprint themselves in your mind with the connotation you have assigned to them. Choose to see the good in things. Choose to see the good in people. And above all else, choose to see the good in yourself. You are sitting at a ceremony dedicated to your academic and social achievement in the gym-a-chap-a-torium at one of the most prestigious all girls prep schools in the state. You have already made it so far. Yes, high school is a trying time. But it will also be one of the best times of your life. Just work hard, be kind, and expect the best both from and in people, and I promise: it'll be a good four years.
It's weird to think that you are going to be scattered across the country in a matter of months. The people that we have played sports with for years will be on someone else's teams. The faces we see everyday will spend their time in other hallways. The voices we've become so used to hear shouting down the hall will leave their final echoes in just a few short weeks.
Whether you've loved or hated high school, it's ending. As you embark on this new chapter of your life, I hope you look back on your days in the plaid fondly. I hope you remember the reindeer games, Mission Days, retreats, renditions of the school song, Class Days, and all of the other experiences that you can only get at Ursuline. I hope you remember the jokes you laughed at, the time you spent with your friends, the times you felt truly part of this community. I hope when someone asks you about high school, you smile as you think of a montage of laughter, love, and sisterhood. Because that feeling is real, and it's something that you can never really lose, because Ursuline stays with you.
College will be different for everyone. It will take you a while to get accustomed to trading the uniform for your own closet. It will take even longer for you to adjust to the boys in what always was a sea of girls. It will take your whole family time to get used to not having you there. The sounds of you singing in the shower, begging to stop at Dunkies, and typing away at homework until the early hours of the morning will be replaced with quiet. Your little siblings will struggle through homework on their own. Your room, now completely messy, will be empty and quiet. Your absence will be so felt by everyone you know.
But everyone will adjust. You will make new friends. Maybe you'll get to know a new city or state. You will learn, and you will grow, and the transition that seems scary and painful now will fade as you change. But you will never forget the years spent complaining over homework, playing sports, blaring music, talking about boys, and learning, living, and loving with your sisters. Ursuline hearts unite, no matter the distance.
Good luck. You all have amazing lives ahead of you. I hope the future holds extraordinary adventures, uncontainable joy, boundless discovery, and as much love as you have given us.
At graduation and the related ceremonies of Baccalaureate Mass and Class Day, many members of Ursuline's Class of 2016 received scholarships or awards for their efforts in academics, athletics, or community service. Congratulations and best wishes go out to all of the graduates.
The following seniors were honored at graduation:
Cassandra Wesner, Serviam Award
The Serviam Award seeks to recognize outstanding traits of leadership in service, awareness of others and acceptance of responsibility, as well as academic achievements. The Serviam Award is the highest honor that Ursuline Academy bestows.
Kathryn McGillivray, Sister Mercedes Videira Medal
The recipient of the Sr Mercedes Videira award acts with integrity, humility, generosity and concern for others, and exhibits through her actions a deep love for Ursuline Academy.
Erin Grela, Cross of Excellence Award (Valedictorian)
Presented every year to the senior who has attained the highest grade average over her complete course of studies.
Kristina Ferrara, Cross of Excellence Award (Salutatorian)
Presented every year to the senior who has attained the second highest grade average over her complete course of studies.
The following seniors were honored at Baccalaureate Mass.
Carolyn Recupero - The Cheryl Eakin Scholarship
To a senior who demonstrates a willingness to serve others and shows dedication to the “common good”.
Jillian Berte - The Pearce Book Award
To a senior who has a passion for excellence, an appreciation for learning and who also demonstrates a willingness to serve others and has demonstrated a dedication to the common good of the Academy.
Cassandra Wesner- Daughters of the American Revolution Good Citizen Award
The National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution presents this award to a student who demonstrates the qualities of Dependability, Service, Leadership and Patriotism.
The following seniors were honored at Baccalaureate Mass:
English Prize - Caroline Ahearn French Prize - Julia Bloechl Latin Prize - Margaret Rusnock Spanish Prize - Noella D’ Souza Mathematics Prize - Erin Grela History Prize - Elizabeth Coughlin Religion Prize - Delia Ryan Science Award - Kristina Ferrara Performing Arts Award - Brittany O’Malley Fine Arts Award - Jacqueline Gonzalez Communication Arts Award - Emily Riordan
The following girls were recognized for outstanding performance in the National Merit Scholarship Program.
Commended Students: Elizabeth Coughlin, Kristina Ferrara, Jillian McGrath, Delia Ryan
National Merit Finalist: Erin Grela
The following girls were recognized for their initiative, spirit of generous service and willingness to assume responsibility for the common interest of the Academy:
Caroline Ahearn, Julia Bloechl, Elizabeth Coughlin, Melissa Cowell, Allison Dow, Noella D’Souza, Ashley Gioioso, Ivory Hestmark, Shyla Prasad, Adelia Reid, Emily Riordan, Margaret Rusnock
Serviam: the word means not only "I will serve" but also means "Let me serve."
Over February break, ten Ursuline students left their homes and their comfort zones far behind, and chose to spend their vacation break serving the poor as part of the Urban Challenge at Romero Center Ministries in Camden, New Jersey. While there, they learned that by working in service with those less fortunate, they received as much as they gave.
Each day, the ten students, accompanied by Campus Minister Katie McNally and Latin teacher Erin Cummins (who taught the students the other translation of "Serviam") would start with a prayer, and then break into two groups, each bound for a different destination in Camden or Philadelphia. One day it was a homeless shelter and soup kitchen; another day it was a home for the elderly. Other sites included a home for adults with multiple sclerosis and other paralyzing diseases or injuries, and a low-income Jumpstart school. Each night ended in prayer, journaling and education on poverty with the students from Xaverian Brothers High School and St. John's in Shrewsbury.
The experience proved life-changing for the students. Said senior Caroline Ahearn, "My favorite site was New Visions, a homeless shelter in Camden. This was the day I truly began to understand what poverty is, and that it can happen to anyone. The people we encountered are our equals in everything but opportunity, just because they happened to be born into a certain situation. This was the day I realized just how fortunate I am to have a home, food, a bed, my education, a family, everything."
Caroline summed up the impact of the trip on her by saying, "Although it's hard not to feel guilty once you see how fortunate you actually are, it's more important to use the opportunity you've been given to do something to help those who are not as fortunate as you."
On the Tuesday before February vacation, about twenty members of the senior class gathered during their free period and successfully registered to vote in preparation for the upcoming primaries. As we approach the Massachusetts primary election, Ursuline students will be preparing for a primary election of their own. The major Democratic and Republican party candidates will be represented by one or two members of Mrs. Curtis' Civics and Current Events class. These students will be given the opportunity to campaign and share their candidates' policies with the rest of the student body. After the campaigning period is over, students will be given the chance to choose a party and vote for the candidate of their choice to become the foremost presidential candidate of that party. The winners of UA's primary election will be announced at the end of the school day.