In Our Own Words

Brittany Williams '06

2018 COMMENCEMENT ADDRESS

Thank you, Melissa. And thank you esteemed members of the faculty, esteemed parents, proud friends and family. Congratulations to all of you. But most importantly, congratulations to the incredibly impressive Holy Child Class of 2018!

I'm sure many of my fellow Class of 2006 classmates in the audience can attest to the personal challenges, bouts of self-reflection and sometimes maybe even a bit of disbelief that has come with reaching the milestone age of 30-years-old this past year. Well I must admit, that being invited to serve as a commencement speaker at my old high school was all that I needed to fully accept the fact that I am indeed 30 years old, and it had been 12 years since I graduated from Holy Child on June 10, 2006. All jokes aside, it is an absolute honor and a privilege to serve as your commencement speaker. I vividly remember sitting in your shoes – wearing the long white gown and holding red roses, sweating because of a mixture of the 90-degree weather and the anxiety that came with this chapter closing and the uncertainty of what college would entail, and feeling immense pride – proud of being a part of this special community and achieving such an important milestone. But when I sat in your shoes, I desperately wished that someone could give me a playbook – a set of advice for me to consider as I enter this next chapter. So today, I will share two pieces of advice with you from my experiences on Wall Street, moving away from home and working in Finance in London, and finally my past two years at Harvard Business School.

The first message I'd like to share with you is: just say yes! Back in 2012, I was working in investment banking as an analyst at Citigroup. During October of that year, I was offered a unique opportunity to move to London to join Goldman Sachs. To many observing from the outside, it was an absolute no brainer. Goldman Sachs is a leading investment bank, I would have international work experience on my resume at the age of 23, who wouldn't take this opportunity? But for me, I was terrified. You see, I had always been afraid of being alone. In fact, my biggest nightmare used to be (and sometimes still is, if I'm being honest!) is walking into a large cafeteria and not being able to find a table with my friends so instead I have to sit and eat alone. So as you can see, moving 3,459 miles away from my family, friends, established work network was absolutely terrifying. But I put my fears aside, and I just said yes. On December 2, 2012, I boarded a plane to London, United Kingdom and little did I know that my four years in London would change my life. My four-year journey abroad taught me more about life, love and fear than any of my experiences to date. Had I said no to the opportunity to work abroad, I would have missed out on travel to over twenty countries across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. I would have missed out on opportunities to interact in diverse settings and challenge my pre-existing beliefs while also defending my viewpoints to others. I would have missed out on the opportunity to sit in on business meetings in Spain, France and Germany that were held outside of my native tongue. Most importantly, I would have missed out on the opportunity to be humbled by my challenges, to be adaptable to new environments, and to always take a global view. So when these awesome opportunities come to you (and they will), I wish that you will just say yes. Don't let fear get to you. Don't think about the what-ifs, just. Say. Yes. There is immense growth that comes from opportunities like these. And even if they do not go according to plan, or even if they turn out to be a failure, there is growth in failing forward. So, just say yes.

The second message I'd like to share is create your own definition of success. I studied Systems and Information Engineering at the University of Virginia, and after two summer internships at Citigroup, I accepted a full-time offer to join the investment bank in 2010. In the beginning, I enjoyed my work. But after a while, if I'm being honest, I only stayed because of what I viewed the external definition of success to be. I thought that working on Wall Street was a stamp of approval – it showed that I was hard working, analytical, and successful. But deep down, I was unhappy. I was working 80-100 hour weeks, had gained a ton of weight and was not leading a healthy lifestyle. A pivotal moment for me, was coming home at 1-2am after work, and noticing a pamphlet that my parents had left on my nightstand on "healthy ways to manage stress". It was then that I knew that not only did I know deep down that I was unhappy, but those closest to me also could tell. And I'm sad to say, that even after that defining moment, I still worked in finance for 4 more years. It was only in 2015, when I mustered the courage to apply to graduate business school programs, and in August 2016, I embarked on my two-year journey at Harvard Business School. With the goal in mind of pivoting careers to one that I was truly passionate about. I'm now really excited to be working at Intel in Silicon Valley on their Virtual Reality, Esports and Gaming team. A complete pivot – but an industry and a technology that I'm truly excited about. And now, success for me is not solely defined by my career. Success is paying it forward and donating my time to organizations I care about. Success is finding true happiness in the relationships that I cultivate. Success is leaving a legacy. But don't conform to my definitions of success. I want you to feel comfortable creating your own definition of success and standing by it. Because only then will you find true fulfillment and happiness.

And now, as a fellow Holy Child alumna, I'd like to be among the first to personally welcome you to the Holy Child Alumnae Network. Change can be frightening I know, but the bonds, stories and relationships that you have with each other do not have to end here. You now have the alumnae network which is thrilled to welcome you and to serve as a resource, but more importantly, you now have a duty to pay it forward and serve as a resource to current students. In closing, as you consider this next step in your journey – remember two things: (1) just say yes! And (2) create your own definition of success. After all, before you know it, you'll be 30 years old, reflecting on your life and career experiences to date, and preparing to give a speech for graduation. So be sure to track your story. I know it'll be a good one.

Thank you.

Read more about Brittany Williams '06
Natalia Nunez, President of the Senior Class

COMMENCEMENT 2018

Ladies, I cannot believe this day is finally here! We have survived four years of high school together, battling through countless assignments, March exams, College Board testing, and much more. Despite these struggles, we have truly lived out these past few years to our fullest enjoyment. From eating lunches with our peer moms to becoming peer moms, cheering on the upperclassmen during Powderpuff to being the one to score the winning touchdown in the game, being rung as Juniors on Ring Day to ringing others as Seniors, bonding on global trips, sports teams, or theatre productions, we have experienced many extraordinary milestones together... and, we survived the college process together, as exemplified by the 57 cakes that resulted...and that I happily ate.

Now, we are here, wearing our lovely white dresses, clutching our bouquet of red roses, and anxiously awaiting the moment our names are called to officially be graduates. Savor this moment. In a matter of minutes, you will receive your diploma, a marker of your hard work and the beginning of your bright future.

In elementary and middle school, I was fortunate enough to be a cheerleader. While competitions and tough practices were certainly memorable, the most significant memory I have of my time as a cheerleader was our unique tradition celebrated on the eve of a competition. The team and coaches would gather in the gym, not to practice, but rather to reflect as we listened to our coaches take turns reading the Dr. Seuss book "Oh, the Places You'll Go!". This tradition helped each cheerleader prepare mentally for the next day's competition, reminding us of the incredible places we have been, are, and will go. While a mere children's book, it inspired each of us to radiate confidence and compete at our best. Today, I want to share that tradition with all of you.

Congratulations!
Today is your day.
You're off to Great Places!
You're off and away!
You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.
You're on your own. And you know what you know. And you are the girl who'll decide where to go.
And when things start to happen, don't worry. Don't stew. Just go right along. You'll start happening too.
Oh! The Places You'll Go!
You'll be on your way up!
You'll be seeing great sights!
You'll join the high fliers who soar to high heights.
You won't lag behind, because you'll have the speed. You'll pass the whole gang and you'll soon take the lead. Wherever you fly, you'll be best of the best. Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.
Except when you don't.
Because, sometimes, you won't.
But will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
Kid, you'll move mountains!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So...get on your way!

Our graduates will go as far as Dublin and as close to home as the Bronx. No matter where you all go, always remember Holy Child - both the people and the place - as your home away from home. But just in case you forget, here is a little token to remember it by. With the help of Ms. Budill, I designed and 3D printed keychains with Holy Child's coordinates on them. Now, you will always carry a part of here with you to all of the places you go.

Congratulations, graduates!

Read more about Natalia Nunez, President of the Senior Class
Jamie Brusco, President of Student Government

COMMENCEMENT 2018

Hello everyone and welcome to the 2018 School of the Holy Child Graduation Exercises. On behalf of my fellow graduates, I'd like to thank our faculty, family, friends, and everyone who helped make this day possible.

After spending four years here, some of us five, seven, or even eight, Holy Child has become a place very close to my heart, and I will cherish the memories and sisters I have made here forever. My high school experience has been pretty different from those of my friends at other schools. Holy Child students have to answer the same questions frequently: yes, I have ONLY 56 classmates, yes, we received a ring and celebrated for a week, no we don't have final exams - we have March exams, and yes I am going to school dressed as a cow today.

As unique as our school is, there is so much more to our unusual environment. Holy Child is a place where you can feel comfortable enough to play a boy on stage without second guessing it, have dance parties on call anywhere at any time, and make lifelong relationships with both friends and teachers. This strong community has brought out the best in us, shaping us into the women we are today.

Our small class has allowed each of us to get to know each other on deep levels...some of us even know each other too well. I can confidently say that I could name most, if not all, of these girls by just looking at their sneakers or backpacks. Although we may not always be as close as we are right now, I know we will be able to come back and feel like nothing has changed, except one day we will likely have jobs, and maybe a kid or two.

This September, we will start a new chapter, and whether we are close to home or far, we will all experience brand new things. There are some things, however, I am certain will never change – Annie will always be a meme, Sally and Alessia will always be vlogging queens, Desdemona will always be Desdemona, Amelia and Titi will always be equipped with every type of charger, and Julia Tyler will always beat Julia Howe in a dance battle. But the most important thing, that will never change from this moment on, is that we will never truly be alone. We will forever have each other, our memories together, our rings, and this beautiful school supporting us in the many things we go on to do in our lives.

To conclude, I would like to quote the one and only Ms. Carolyn Walters. Girls, we are (points to classmates) FINISHED DONE!!! Thank you girls for an amazing four years, love you all, and congrats!


Read more about Jamie Brusco, President of Student Government
Reflections on the Portrait of a Graduate

Caroline Beit '18 and Hannah Cleary '18

Caroline and Hannah presented the following reflection at this year's Baccalaureate Mass, in honor of the graduating Class of 2018.

Caroline Beit: The portrait of a graduate is a collection of ideals and virtues that School of the Holy Child seeks to cultivate in each one of its students. Holy Child seeks to develop graduates who are Intellectual, courageous, confident, compassionate and spiritual. Over these past 2, 4, 5, or even 8 years, Holy Child has helped us to grow into women of conscience and action by nurturing these ideals. As our time at Holy Child comes to a close, we thought it most apt to reflect on these ideals and how they have molded us into the young women we are today, who are ready to use these ideals as well as our education to not only achieve our own personal goals, but also to shape our communities and the wider world.

One of Holy Child's main purposes is to nurture our intellectual capabilities. However, while they could simply accomplish this by having us memorize calculus equations and the preambulatory clauses to the Constitution, Holy Child goes a step further. Our school teaches us not what to think, but how and to have a deep seated and profound love for learning. This love of learning is best evidenced for me, by the intellectual debates I have engaged in with my teachers and peers outside of class.

This was especially true for the class Christian Theology and World Religions, which I took my Junior Year. This class focused on exploring the theology of Christianity and other religions. But its primary objective was to answer "What do we believe? Why do we believe? And how do we believe?".

The problem for me, was that there was no absolute, correct answer to these questions that everyone could agree on. It wasn't like in math where 2+2 = 4, but a class where we had to use higher critical thinking skills and think for ourselves and still possibly not arrive at the same conclusion as our peers and teachers. This class helped to open my worldview and expand my desire for intellectual conversations and arguments. Some of my favorite memories from my Junior Year, one of the most academically demanding years of high school, is going to the religious studies office and asking my teachers for their opinions and viewpoints on albeit sometimes random questions marginally pertaining to the study of religion. These conversations, which sometimes morphed into full-out debates, on subjects ranging from the intersectionality of Marxist theory and Catholicism, to the merits of Scientology, and the rights and roles of transgender individuals in Hinduism, has helped me to further realize my love for learning. This intellectualism does not end when we leave this building, but stays with us throughout not only our college career but through our life in general. We are women, who will hold a lifelong love for learning and be ready for the challenging intellectual pursuits to come.

Hannah Cleary: Holy Child inspires its students to be courageous and confident. We have been encouraged to take risks and move out of our comfort zone. We have learned that if we never challenge ourselves, we will never grow.

There are many ways I have been challenged to be courageous and confident, but something that stands out for me is a specific project in Social Justice class. We were asked to find a way that we could do 5 hours of justice work. I was on vacation and went to Mass and saw in the bulletin an offering to join a pen pal prison ministry. I reached out to the women at the Church that was running the ministry explaining I was interested in participating, and she hesitated at my request. She thought I might be too young, was only interested in committing for the duration of the project, and also that I might not be able to connect with a prisoner if I was only doing this to fulfill a requirement for a project. She eventually agreed to let me do this ministry.

Writing to someone who has murdered someone, finding words that would allow us to connect as human beings was hard. Writing my return address on the envelope was an even greater challenge. I had learned in social justice that prisoners are often times marginalized and how each of us are called to see the dignity in every human person. It was this that gave me the courage and thirst to want to connect and validate the dignity of the prisoner I was assigned to. He and I are still pen pals. This is one courageous act that Holy Child has supported me in.

I have also witnessed great courage in many of my classmates. I admired Sally as she sang in a recent morning meeting and the seniors who stood up to share their personal stories at What It's Like to Be Me at SHC." These actions require a large amount of grit. Thankfully, we have the privilege of going to a school with such a nurturing environment in which it is a little easier to reach for the stars. Growing in courage also brings out our confidence. We are women of conscience and action, and all have something very special and unique to offer to the world. Even though we will no longer be in the hallways at Holy Child, we will take the poise and skills we have learned and carry them with us into our next chapter in order to remain the bold gryphons we have become.

Caroline: When I first heard in high school that I would have to complete 25 hours of community service a year, it was originally just another item on my to-do list that I had to check off. But halfway through my first year of high school that changed. I was on a midnight run with my local parish and a couple of friends, when in the midst of serving a homeless man, he pulled out of his shopping cart 3 stuffed animals and gave one to each of us out to show us his gratitude. He had so little to give and here he was giving it to me and my friends. He modeled for me what it means to be grateful and his sharing brewed a true and deep seated compassion for those I was serving.

My service requirement in this moment morphed from an item on my to-do list to a guideline to serve others and feel compassion for all of God's creation. But compassion is not just brewed through community service. I see it everyday when we make shared quizlets for us all to use, or when senior peer-leaders mentor their first year students. This virtue of compassion in the future will help us, as young women of conscience and action, to use our many great gifts and talents for the benefit of not just our communities, schools, and local houses of worship, but our society as a whole.

Hannah: Cornelia Connelly once said, "You must not hide the gifts God has given you, but use them in his service." While there is a service requirement at Holy Child, we have completed many countless hours from the heart, as Caroline mentioned, because of the compassion that service brews, which for me has helped me to become closer to God. Service has allowed me to see God in others while growing closer to Him. Here at Holy Child I have been able to cultivate and nurture my faith through the gifts God has given me. I have served God by teaching children at the Cornelia Connelly Center and raising money for leukemia. I know each member of the class of 2018 has individually nurtured her faith through her service and will continue to do so in the next chapter of her life.

Caroline: We are so blessed to have had this unique Holy Child education. While we are all diverse in our gifts and talents, we are united through these 5 shared values of intellectualism, courage, confidence, compassion, and spirituality. These values as well as our education have prepared us not only for college but, as the class of 2018 and Buzz Lightyear like to say for "Infinity and beyond!"

Read more about Reflections on the Portrait of a Graduate

In Our Own Words shares reflections from members of the Holy Child community, including students, faculty, and alumnae.