I learned that my identity as a daughter of God has instilled in me the boldness and faith that the Academy of the Holy Names was built on many years ago.

Thank you Sister Lisa. I’d like to take a moment to thank all of the parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, extended family and friends who are here tonight. Your support is what led each of us to be here today and we cannot thank you enough. I’d also like to thank all of the faculty, staff, and administrators who are joining us today for all that you have done for this class.

One thing that is innate in all people is the fear of change. There’s something about leaving what you know and stepping into the unknown that is so exciting yet paralyzing at the same time. As you all know, we are approaching one of the biggest changes of our lifetime, in which we will step into our chosen new environments. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by what lies ahead, I know I often do. But I’d like to remind you all of why I know your time at the Academy has prepared you for what lies ahead.

Freshman year we stepped into what has turned into a home for many of us over the past four years. As we roamed the halls, we began to learn the ins and outs of the walls we would soon spend a lot of time inside of. The girls sitting on the ground before the first bell, huddled close to the lockers in the hopes that some senior wouldn’t accidentally kick their ankles while walking by became our friends. Their names became topics of conversation when our parents asked us how school was that day. And slowly, we all grew comfortable in this new environment and anxiously awaited the traditions that we would step into over the years.

On the first day of sophomore year, we thought the biggest changes would be the renovations to the 3rd and 4th floors and learning the names of our new teachers. And we were right. At least for the first semester. But as March and online school rolled around, we were all thrown into a new style of learning. What many of us initially saw as a fun break from an early wake up call morphed into a longing for what we had been expecting from the rest of our high school years. We had to learn how to communicate better with our teachers, maintain our friendships from afar, and continue to find hope in our Catholic faith. And in doing this, we overcame yet another change.

Junior year we ached for the same Academy we had experienced as freshmen. We had to go without seeing one another’s beautiful smiles every day as we walked the halls. As we navigated getting back to sitting at desks and 80 minute classes, we also found ways to continue to fill one another with joy. Winks in the hallways and waving to one another from our spot on the 4 square courts at lunch allowed us to continue to grow in our friendships and get to know the girls beside us better.

Senior year brought college applications, SATs, the “slounge”, and college sweatshirts (only on Fridays of the second semester of course). And during all of the chaos of application deadlines, essays, and finding the motivation to do some school work, we grew closer than ever before. We celebrated one another’s successes, and even more so, comforted one another in times of heartbreak and sadness. And we could always find the best advice (and the best treats from the Mother’s Association) in the lounge surrounded by our classmates.

Needless to say, none of our years at the Academy were the same as the other. We experienced countless changes during each year. Some of them were expected, so we could brace ourselves for their impact and prepare a game plan for when they arrived. Yet, many were unexpected. And in those moments when we were unable to prepare for what lay ahead we found out a few things about ourselves. We learned how strong we are individually and as a class. We learned that we are able to unite to support one another. And we learned that, although we are all very different from one another, our differences are what allow us to learn and grow as we respond to changes.

For those of you who knew me Freshman year, I was definitely a lot more shy and reserved than I am now. So it came as a shock to me when I was introduced to something called a “team test” in Algebra 2 Honors with Ms. Dubee. As someone who was used to independent work, I quickly talked to Ms. Keegan about how I could get out of this dreaded group assessment. And in response, she told me that I would just have to learn how to work as a group with my peers. So with each team test, I learned how to step back and see a bigger picture of something beyond just my own experience.

As I leave the Academy, I can’t necessarily say that I like team tests anymore than I did that day Freshman year. But I can say that I learned how to think beyond myself. I learned how to become a woman who looks to serve others, rather than to serve herself. I learned how to become a woman who voices her opinions, despite reservations and fears of the thoughts of others that may hold her back. And most importantly, I learned that my identity as a daughter of God has instilled in me the boldness and faith that the Academy of the Holy Names was built on many years ago.

The change that lies ahead for each of us is something that we’ve been anticipating for the past four years. As we go on to what lies ahead, we will be met with countless unexpected changes. But if your past four years at the Academy has taught you anything, let it be that you are stronger than you think, smarter than you know, and able to conquer whatever lies ahead of you. Remember to use the unexpected moments to learn something about yourself, and use that to fuel you as you continue your journey. Draw on your experiences from your time at Academy, and be confident that you can do anything you put your mind to, because I believe that you can.

I am praying for each of you as you move on to the next part of your journey. I will always be happy to help any of you out in the moments of unexpected challenge, and I can say with confidence that every girl on this stage feels the same. It’s been an honor getting to know each of you and best of luck as you go forward. Thank you.