Inside Scoop on This Year’s Top Graduating Seniors

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Class of 2019 on the steps of SHA’s chapel right before the graduation ceremony begins.

Just over a week ago, Sacred Heart has witnessed the graduation of the unique Class of 2019, saying farewell for now but not forever. As one of these 119 graduates myself, I know the strong bonds formed at SHA cannot be broken with a simple turn of the graduation tassel from right to left. Instead these girls have left a memorable mark on the school community and each other, and will likely come back to visit and continue to strengthen their SHA friendships even as the years since they walked the halls as a high school student grow. In particular, Sacred Heart has sent off a remarkable group of Top Seniors, who have graduated in the top 5% of their class.

Picture of Vivian Wang (valedictorian and Summa Scholar).

“I will miss being in such a supportive environment where everyone just genuinely wants to see each other grow,” were the words of Vivian Wang, who is graduating from Sacred Heart as an accomplished valedictorian and Summa Scholar of the Archdiocese of Hartford. Over the past four years some of the awards that Vivian has been honored with are the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Medal, the CT Science and Engineering Fair’s Second Honors in High School Life Sciences, the National French Exam’s silver medal, and SCC Scholar Leader. Besides these outstanding (academic achievements), Vivian has also been actively involved in the SHA community by dedicating her time and efforts to Student Council, Medical Researchers Club, the Alethea, Key Club, SHA’s cross country team, Honors Chamber Choir, MathWorks Math Modeling Challenge, Math League, National Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta, Science National Honor Society, and French National Honor Society. During her time here, Vivian has come to see SHA as a home full of laughs, good friends, and fond memories (like of Sr. Lany Jo, ASCJ, playing her guitar at mass). Although SHA has challenged her with the arduous mission of following the path to excelsior (“ever higher”), in response Vivian has come to know the importance of taking advantage of all the amazing resources available and being open to trying new things. Next year she will be attending Yale University (New Haven, CT) where she will double major in cognitive science and film on a pre-med track. Vivian has aspirations to pursue a career in psychiatry.

Picture of Clare Bassano (salutatorian and Summa Scholar).

This year’s salutatorian and a Summa Scholar, Clare Bassano parted ways with Sacred Heart with these words: “I would like to thank everyone at SHA who supported me and made me a part of the community.” During her time at SHA Clare has accumulated a large amount of awards, some of which include the Yale Book Award, Commended National Merit Scholar, AP Scholar with Honor Award, Outstanding Senior in Mathematics, and a gold medal and later a silver medal in the National Latin Exam. Beyond the books, Clare also has offered her gifts and services to the SHA community through her involvement in the MathWorks Math Modeling Challenge, Math League, Classics Clubs, SHA’s Drama productions, National Honor Society, Mul Alpha Theta, Science National Honor Society, and Latin National Honor Society. Four years of aspiring to be an excelsior woman has taught Clare how much can be accomplished by challenging oneself as a result of hard work and a refusal to ever give up. Besides this valuable life lesson, her engagement in the SHA community has also given Clare many wonderful memories with her friends and teachers. Some of these fond memories that Clare will carry with her after graduation are Mrs. Gniadek’s engaging stories only tangentially related to the math concepts she was teaching at the moment, Mr. Marino’s lively reenactments of the past in his Western Civilizations classes, and the beautiful Junior Ring Ceremony. This fall Clare will be attending Bucknell University (Lewisburg, PA) as a Presidential Fellow double majoring in mathematics and classics. Intensely passionate about learning, Clare likely will continue to be involved in academia and pursue several graduate degrees.

Picture of Mary Sarah Olson (salutatorian and Summa Scholar).

Upon reflecting on her time at SHA, Mary Sarah Olson, SHA’s salutatorian and Summa Scholar, happily encourages the present and future SHA community to “enjoy every single minute of your time at SHA. Be sure to take lots of pictures and write down your memories so that you never forget them.” Just a few notable accomplishments of Mary Sarah’s lengthy list are SHA’s Scholar Athlete, Princeton Book Award, the University of Rochester’s Xerox Award for Innovation and Information Technology, three gold medals for the National Latin Exam, SHA’s representative at the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Conference, and junior board member at Yale New Haven Hospital (New Haven, CT). Outside of the classroom, Mary Sarah has also contributed to the SHA community through her commitment to Student Council, SHA’s soccer and basketball teams, Key Club, Sister to Sister, Peer Connection, Math League, Charism Connection, National Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta, Science National Honor Society, and Spanish National Honor Society. After being part of this wonderful community for four years, Mary Sarah laments that it is going to be so hard to leave because of all the amazing friends and teachers she feels she has been blessed with. She also will always cherish her memories of Spirit Week (and the awesome senior dance crew) and Enthronement which she was honored to partake in along with her best friends. The most important lesson Mary Sarah wishes to impart echoes the wisdom of “have courage and be kind,” which is a quote from her favorite movie, Cinderella (2015). The next step for Mary Sarah is Boston College (Chestnut Hill, MA) where she will study biology with the intention of eventually becoming a doctor, possibly an oncologist or medical geneticist. Mary Sarah’s dream is to continue helping people, especially by traveling abroad to serve those in need and bring medical treatment to patients all over the world.

Picture of Amanda Savona (ranked third and Summa Scholar).

“Make the most of your time at SHA, it truly is a once in a lifetime experience which is what you come to realize more fully only after you leave,” was the touching advice Amanda Savona, third ranked senior and Summa Scholar, left with the SHA community. Some of Amanda’s honors over these past four years have been AP Scholar with Honor Award, the Gettysburg College Book Award, the President’s Award for Educational Excellence, Outstanding Senior in World Languages (Latin) and English, and two gold medals and one silver medal on the National Latin Exam. Amanda has also shared her talents and enthusiasm with the SHA community by giving her passion and energy to the Alethea, Law Club, Ski and Snowboard Club, Clelia’s Cucina, SHA’s Habitat for Humanity mission trip, Classics Club, SHAdes of SHA, Orchestra, MathWorks Math Modeling Challenge, Model United Nations, National Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta, Science National Honor Society, and Latin National Honor Society. Amanda views her four years at SHA as a gift made special because of its welcoming environment, engaging teachers, and amazing friends with whom she was able to share joys, ambitions, stresses, and humor. However, her path to excelsior has also been marked by many difficulties and meaningful lessons, of which one of the most important probably being the importance of finding a balance in life that allows one to excel at the subjects and activities they are passionate about while still also allowing time for the things that really matter (friends, family, faith, service, and new experiences). Amanda looks forward to entering Northeastern University (Boston, MA) next fall where she is interested in studying political science and journalism. Amanda hopes to pursue a career that combines her passion for government and the law in a way that allows her to actively advocate social justice on behalf of all.

In lieu of a picture of Kelly Frier (ranked fourth and Summa Scholar) this is a photo of the outside of the graduate’s diploma.

Kelly Frier, fourth ranked senior and Summa Scholar, wishes to part with SHA with these final words: “Even when you have a lot of work and are stressed, enjoy the time you spend with your family, friends, and classmates. After you leave SHA, you’ll miss being able to do this.” As an outstanding student, some of the awards Kelly has earned are the Harvard Book Award, National Merit Commended Scholar, gold medal for the National Spanish Exam, and the President’s Volunteer Service Award. Kelly also have been very involved in Sacred Heart through her leadership and involvement in Student Council, Medical Researchers Club, STAR Programmers Club, SHA’s volleyball team, SHA’s Habitat for Humanity mission trip, National Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta, Science National Honor Society, and Spanish National Honor Society. Kelly has most enjoyed the time spent at SHA laughing with her classmates and teachers, and so she encourages all of us to also treasure our time in this warm community and all the amazing people that are part of it. Kelly is excited to enter into the Honors Program at Quinnipiac University (Hamden, CT) next year. She also will be pursuing her dream of becoming a physician assistant by committing the following six years to Quinnipiac’s Dual-Degree BS in Health Science Studies/Master’s Physician Program.

Picture of Gabriela Perez (Summa Scholar).

“I will miss most the sense of community. I have grown so accustomed to Sacred Heart and my wonderful friends and the personable faculty, that it brings me a feeling of comfort. Although I am ready to move on, I will always miss the overall Sacred Heart experience,” were the words of Gabriela Perez, who is graduating SHA as a notable Summa Scholar. To name just some of the wonderful awards Gabriela has obtained over the past four years the shortened list would include AP Scholar with Distinction Award, George Washington Book Award, Outstanding Senior in Social Studies, MathWorks Math Modeling Challenge’s team ranking in the top 200, and a gold and silver medal on the National Spanish Exam. When not dedicating her time to academic excellence, Gabriela actively engaged with the Sacred Heart community through Law Club, the Alethea, a senior leader for the Kairos retreats, Peer Connection, MathWorks Math Modeling Challenge, National Honor Society, and Mu Alpha Theta. Gabriela encourages all present and future SHA girls to truly cherish every moment, especially the time spent with family and friends and all the unique SHA traditions (like Kairos, Spirit Week, and singing “Testify to Love” during masses). Although she acknowledges that SHA can be very challenging, Gabriela hopes we put trust in ourselves and she “cannot wait to see all the great things [her] Sacred Heart sisters will accomplish!” Gabriela will be traveling far next fall to attend the University of Chicago (Chicago, IL) where she intends to pursue a pre-law track and major in romance languages and literature. After graduation she plans to travel abroad and get her masters degree with the desire to eventually work for the United Nations and recognize human dignity by prosecuting war criminals and dealing with international human rights violations.

Cake served to the graduating Class of 2019 at Baccalaureate Mass.

These tops seniors have left a memorable mark on the SHA community and will be missed immensely. Seniors, I speak on behalf of the entire SHA community when I say this: Best of luck and we look forward to all the wonderful things you will accomplish in your bright futures that lie ahead!

Class of 2019 throwing their caps after graduating.

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