We transformed… into confident young women who questioned the status quo and pushed for change in the world and our school when we believed it was necessary.

May 31, 2018


Photo Credit: Kat Kelly/Used with Permission

Heston will be attending The University of Notre Dame in the fall

Ahh here we are, our third time in our gowns and we finally get to graduate.  We do not get our diplomas quite yet, but hey, at least we get some flowers and a nice case for it so I’m not complaining. I am here today with the impossible task of trying to find some way to put into words the impact that the Academy of the Holy Names and all of you have had on me in the past four years. I want to preface this with an apology. I am sorry that you will not receive any life changing advice in this speech. There is not much I can tell you in a couple of minutes from only eighteen years of life experience that will alter the course of your life at all. However, I can express my complete and utter gratitude and relay to you a few of the life changing moments and lessons that this class has given to me.

Freshman year I learned that the seniors will always win spirit week, but I also learned that moving from middle school to high school meant that our world was so much bigger. Sophomore year I learned to not make assumptions as we became the first grade to win spirit week as sophomores. I also learned the significance of a mole during one of Academy’s greatest traditions, mole day, and that a pancake tastes better if it is made by Gretchen wearing a Star Wars mask. We learned more from Mrs. Z than just the importance of a mole.  We learned as she turned the classroom upside down.  We admired her amazing courage in her fight to defeat cancer and the importance of persistence.  Junior year I learned yet again to not make assumptions, when it was discovered that the tray of Chicken Minis was not in fact for us. Our class came together and realized the value of being one cohesive unit, the Slytherin sisters.  We truly were better together.  Senior year my world view expanded on the Nicaragua mission trip. A little bit of my heart was left in that non-air-conditioned outdoor cafeteria in Nicaragua where the kids in the school performed their national dance for us. I was also reminded how we are blessed with many things at our beautiful school on Bayshore.  The students in Nicaragua taught us to find true joy without material items and how they would relish in the people around them.  At the senior retreat we learned that there is more than roast beef at every table, but most importantly it was confirmed that the sisterhood really is real.

After four years at Academy we have much in common, but it may be our differences that bring us all together.  At Academy we learned how to be ourselves. We transformed from shy freshman who just accepted the way the world worked into confident young women who questioned the status quo and pushed for change in the world and our school when we believed it was necessary. We learned to be difference makers. I cannot fully express all the impacts that we have had on each other or that the Academy has had on us, but that will ultimately be determined in our future, when we are the ones breaking the glass ceiling.

I was recently talking to a group of preschoolers about what is necessary for successful watermelon growth. I asked them what was needed to grow a perfect watermelon, and the common responses were healthy soil, water, and sunlight. Then one of the little girls looked me in the eye and told me something I will never forget, she said, “You cannot forget to love it.” That is often the forgotten part in our country’s education system – they water us, provide the resources or nutrients we need, give us plenty of sunlight, but sometimes they forget to love us. Not Academy though, we received the necessary requirements for growth plus the love and so much more.

We have many thanks to give for helping us get to where we are tonight, our parents and families, our teachers and administrative staff, our advisors and coaches, our friends, and of course Sal Kahn from Kahn Academy.  We could say that this environment was rich with successes, but I don’t think we always remember to give much thought to some of the failures that have gotten us here today. I really don’t want to sound like your mom’s inspirational Facebook post, but it really is our failures that give us the greatest opportunities to grow. I personally believe that I learned one of my most important lessons from an equipment failure as a freshman rower in a race where my seat broke off the boat just before the finish line.  We didn’t win that race that day, but we did not quit, and we did cross the finish line. I want to thank Coach Jorge for teaching me that sometimes how we finish a race is more important than winning it.

We all remember when Mia fell down the stairs at school.  She may have seen it as a not so great moment at the time, but it really ended up providing a fantastic meme for our grade to help us get through the tough times. We can all benefit from remembering that when we fall, we get up with the help of our friends and we keep on moving.  Remember when Lauren lost her nametag at orientation?  It may have seemed like a letdown, but what a success it was when she had to sizzle like bacon to get her nametag back.  We all learned to solve problems and make ourselves better over the last four years.  When we did not receive the sword as Juniors during spirit week, it seemed like a failure, but it was a great success in that we were able to find out that our worth as a grade is worth way more than just a plastic sword. Sometimes our greatest lessons in life are not always obvious in the moment.

If you have spent more than two seconds with me, it is most likely that I will have mentioned Maslow and his hierarchy of needs. Well I think that is the best way to explain how the Academy of the Holy Names is different from other schools.  They make sure all our lesser needs are met to help us reach transcendence, and I think we are a pretty self-actualized group of people. Our physiological needs are met by mac n cheese day at Sage – specials thanks to Miss Dee.  Our safety needs are met by our heroes in golf carts.  Our belonging needs our met by the sisterhood that we have here.  Our esteem needs are met by the safe-haven that Academy has created allowing for us to be confident in who we are.  Our intellectual needs are met through our teachers and our classes that challenge us to do more than just memorize facts.  Finally, our aesthetic needs are met through our impressive fine and performing arts programs.  Academy definitely has provided an environment that encourages and supports our growth and development and most importantly allows each of us to live our very best life.

I think my favorite quote from any movie ever is the opening line of the “Bee Movie” and thankfully it is quite relevant in this situation because I would have found a way to include it anyways: “According to all known laws of aviation, there is no way a bee should be able to fly. Its wings are too small to get its little body off the ground. The bee, of course, flies anyway because bees don’t care what humans think is impossible.” Well Class of 2018, the world is full of humans and we, being young and having two X-chromosomes instead of one, are the bees. We are not expected to be able to fly, yet here we are, and we have soared.  Good night and God bless the Academy of the Holy Name’s Class of 2018.

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