Weeks of May 28 and June 4
Matt Lopez ’20: Moving beyond his own experience of athletics, Matt reflected on the power of sports to bring people together, across traditional dividing lines and even amidst horrific tragedies. Matt noted how much the success of the Houston Astros inspired and uplifted the city after Hurricane Harvey, giving everyone something positive and hopeful as they struggled to rebuild their homes and towns. Matt also noted that participating in sports teaches us to overcome obstacles and often leads us to forming a “second family” with our teams.
Victory Ajaero ’21: Victory shared the incredible story of how his family has changed over the last year. Although Victory grew up in a small family—his parents and one sister, Blessing ’14—they recently became much larger, welcoming four cousins from Nigeria. Victory’s uncle passed away in 2015, leaving four children; Victory’s mom knew it was her calling to bring them here. It was a long struggle to adopt the children, but Victory noted he has learned that God can use struggles to show us how great life is and how lucky we are to have the blessings of family.
Joanna St. Fleur ’21: Joanna spoke about how God gifted her with the ability to sing and how over the years she’s learned to used that gift confidently. Joanna’s story begins at the mall, where she and her friends created their own karaoke, using YouTube clips for music. This experience turned into a competition, as they would sing with hats by their feet, encouraging passersby to contribute spare change. This experience taught Joanna how to have confidence when she sings, and also when speaking her mind in class or going out for new sports.
Carly Sacco ’19: Acknowledging that while others may not understand or recognize it, Carly shared how she defines herself—and has defined herself for many years—as a dancer. Carly explained how she has been involved in dance every year since she was a little girl; from exotic routines to intense competitions, from challenging coaches to rigorous workouts, she has seen it all. Carly revealed how much she truly loves dance—and the way it makes her feel about herself—and she encouraged her classmates to continue pursuing what makes them happy.
Sarah Forrest ’19: Reflecting on the extraordinary story of her grandmother, Sarah spoke of what she has learned from being the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor. Narrating her grandmother’s remarkable journey of living through Kristallnacht, enduring a prison camp, fleeing the country, and losing loved ones, Sarah noted how her grandmother was part of the “refugees no one wanted,” waiting on a ship at sea for a country to take them. Sarah rejoiced that, despite all this, her grandmother is so positive, so hopeful, so forgiving, and so accepting.
Meghan Doyle ’19: Looking back on her time at SJP, Meghan reflected on what she has learned about friendship. Explaining that while friendship can happen naturally and easily, Meghan noted that friendship also takes work and requires effort. From being aware of the needs of others to learning how to forgive those who hurt us, Meghan shared that she has come to a more mature understanding of friendship. Encouraging her classmates that “not talking is never the answer,” Meghan advised them to “work through” whatever issues they have with friends.
Sara O’Connor ’19: In a very mature and balanced way, Sara addressed the challenges and rigors of junior year, but noted that she and her classmates have what it takes to be highly successful. Sara spoke of the importance of focus, motivation, self-control, and self-discipline; she explained how she has learned to become more attentive to her courses and more consistent with her studies. Finally, Sara confessed how she has overcome the temptation of procrastination, and how she is learning “to make her life the masterpiece” she desires.
Kate Nee ’19: Recalling the many adventures of working at a local restaurant, Kate revealed how she has learned so much from this “real world” experience. Whether it is rolling napkins or seating customers, whether it is connecting with fellow wait-staff or dealing with little accidents of spilled trays and broken glasses, Kate shared how she has come to take on much greater responsibility at her job. Kate thanked her colleagues in the restaurant for the laughter and support they have provided, and encouraged her classmates to make the most of their jobs.
Chuning (Valerie) Gao ’19: Noting that life is full of seemingly random connections until we realize that we are all actually inter-connected in a variety of essential ways, Valerie explained how she has learned this from the environment. Sharing her love of nature and her respect for our planet, Valerie spoke of the “selfless devotion” of the green plants, and of how we “owe it” to our world to keep things green. Valerie pointed to all kinds of examples, including the city of London, demonstrating how we can choose to effect meaningful environmental change.
Gigi Guarino ’19: While she was perfectly content with her old job at the grocery store, Gigi revealed that she wanted something different… and wound up working many shifts a week, even during the school year, at Abbott’s in Brighton. From the frequent questions about the content of custard to the random requests of first-time customers, Gigi noted that this has not been easy. Gigi expressed profound gratitude, however, for her relationships with “the regulars,” for the role model provided by her manager, and for the growth she has experienced.
Aidan Newell ’19: In the last speech of the year for his class, Aidan chose to look forward, sharing his hopes for the Class of 2019 as they head into senior year. Aidan encouraged his classmates to take advantage of all of the opportunities for leadership—both “official” and “unofficial”—and he urged his fellow rising seniors to become even better ambassadors for SJP. Aidan advised his class to avoid judging and labeling, and instead to be kind and open; he also pushed them to pursue excellence in all of their endeavors, especially as college awaits!