When people learn that I go to a Catholic, all-girl school, they look at me quizzically, almost confused by the idea of a religious school devoted to women’s education that is not a convent. It is in situations like this that it truly resonates with me that the Academy of the Holy Names is a school unlike any other. Not only does the all-girls facet separate it from the other high schools in Tampa, but the commitment to teaching students about the Catholic faith and how to live as women of God also sets it apart. In addition to learning English, math, and science I have also learned about faith, love, and sisterhood. Here, the Sisters of the Holy Names taught me to be the “best for the world, not the best in the world”, and that “it’s all about choices”. My Catholic education has shaped my values and ideals, and my all-girls education has given me the confidence to know I am capable of anything. I thank God every day for my Academy education, but I do not thank my parents quite so often, even though I should. Thanks, Mom and Dad, for sacrificing so much for me to go to the Academy. Thank you to the Sisters of the Holy Names for all that you have done for us. Thank you to the parents of my sisters because without your hard-work and sacrifices, I would not have had the pleasure of knowing 99 of the funniest, kindest, and quirkiest girls out there. Without these girls high school would have merely been four years of my life, but thanks to them it has been four years of dance parties, wayho’s, and traveling to the Wild West. I am so grateful to belong to a group of girls that always makes me feel loved and accepted, and I could not be more proud to say that I am a part of the Class of 2014.
People always say high school is one of the best times of your life. This is hard to believe freshman year, feeling intimidated and alone, walking into S205 and only seeing strangers. This is hard to believe after studying for a biology test for hours, only to get a “C”. This is hard to believe after every big fight with your parents, loss of a loved one, or any of the other countless things that just go wrong. It is not until you are standing in the Pane Rustica parking lot at 4:30 in the morning dressed like a pirate that it becomes easy to believe that these are some of the best times of your life. Looking around the restaurant parking lot at the ungodly hour at the only other 99 people crazy enough to be dressed like pirates too, it becomes clear that high school is not a great time in life because there are no problems or hardships. It is a great time in life because through all of this, those other 99 pirates are there to piece you back together when you fall apart. They celebrate your victories, lament your failures, and they’re there to listen to your problems and provide better advice than any professional psychiatrist could. They make these some of the best, most memorable years of your life.
Over the past four years, we have blossomed from nervous, impressionable girls to confident, strong women. The memories we have made, trials we have overcome, and people we have met during our time at the Academy have shaped who we are today and have given us a strong foundation on which we will build the rest of our lives. In the years to come we will be forced to leave our comfort zone and face new challenges, but I have faith in each and every one of us because we are Academy women, and we have been prepared for anything life throws at us. Although we are ready for the road ahead, we still have each other to fall back on when life gets too tough. Finally, I’d like to say congratulations to my 99 beautiful sisters. I really do love you all.