Sacred Heart graduates asked to redefine the American Dream

p1-sacred-heart-6-7“The world is waiting” for the 61 young women who graduated from the Convent of the Sacred Heart last week, according to Head of School Pamela Juan Hayes.

Ms. Hayes joined her students in the 163rd Sacred Heart commencement Friday afternoon, held on the front lawn of the school’s main building. The ceremony began with a liturgy celebrated by the Rev. James T. Bretzke, a member of Sacred Heart’s board of trustees, along with Msgr. Louis DeProfio as a concelebrant.


The Mass was followed by a processional of the senior class, walking one by one in flowing white dresses, to the tent under which the ceremony was held. Each student carried a bouquet of red roses, given to her by one of the school’s second grade students, which is a symbolic passing of the torch between the school’s youngest generation and its eldest.

Hayes talks hope, gifts

In her welcoming speech, Ms. Hayes relayed that chapters from Life at the Sacred Heart are read to students each school year.

“At the end of the booklet is a passage with a reflection I hope will inspire [the senior class] now and always,” Ms. Hayes said. “Your Sacred Heart education is a way of life which calls you to change and to grow in wisdom and grace.”

“My hope for them,” she later told the audience, “is that they will continue to find within themselves that strength, sense of integrity, spirit and pride to make things happen, to conceive of their own direction and to follow it.”

Kicking off the speech portion of the event was class salutatorian Nicole Narea, a Greenwich resident and National Merit Scholarship winner who will attend Yale in the fall. Nicole defined her high school career as a “collection of unorthodox experiences.” In fact, she said, there is no “typical path” for Sacred Heart students.

“Our school’s goals and criteria may serve to unify us under the same mission … but they also encourage us to fearlessly unleash our individual talents upon the world,” Nicole said.

The class of 2012 departs Sacred Heart as individuals shaped by the teachers who “recognized and harnessed our unique potential,” she said.

Ms. Hayes reaffirmed the great faith the school has in the senior class, saying, “The world is waiting for you to give the gift that only you can give.”

Following the salutatorian was legendary news correspondent and best-selling author Tom Brokaw, who was the school’s official commencement speaker. Mr. Brokaw’s participation in the ceremony was particularly special to senior class members and twin sisters Christine and Nicole Bloom. The twins’ late father, David Bloom, was an NBC colleague and close friend of Mr. Brokaw’s who died from deep vein thrombosis while covering the war in Iraq in 2003.

Future for women

During the introduction of his speech, Mr. Brokaw described graduation ceremonies as a “testimony to the American dream that we continue generation after generation to provide education to young people in the hopes that they will continue to advance the values that we hold so dear.”

On these occasions, he said, “We make a commitment to one another that life will be better for the next generation, and that could not be more important during a time of such trial and division in America.”

Saying that the world needs their help, Mr. Brokaw added that the class of 2012 is part of a generation that could shape the entire 21st Century. He called this the age of transformative technology, waning natural resources, and a widened gap between the haves and the have-nots.

“But you can find new ways to manage them and you will also bring new thinking and energy to these issues because you represent the leading edge of a historic revolution,” Mr. Brokaw said in reference to gender equality in the 21st Century.

He added this will be “the century when women finally take their rightful and fully recognized place in society, here and around the world,. The most popular member of President Obama’s administration? Michelle Obama. The most effective member of Mitt Romney’s campaign? Ann Romney.”

The gender shift is welcome but “it is not a free pass or without consequences,” he warned. Mr. Brokaw went on to explain fellow journalist and friend Maria Shriver’s “Power of the Pause” concept, which is described as the antidote to going through life only on fast forward.

Ms. Shriver urges the IT generation to pause before sharing a comment or photo that could unfairly embarrass someone, and to pause before criticizing others’ life choices. To that, said Mr. Brokaw, “I would add pause and then do the unexpected … and learn a good deal about yourself by getting out of your comfort zone.”

The most rewarding way of doing so is to devote part of your time to helping the less fortunate “for whom your everyday life is a fairytale,” he said.

Mr. Brokaw told seniors that the American dream was now in their hands. The dream has always been assumed to be that the current generation will have better lives than the one before it. It will have more opportunities, education and money, he said.

“Now you can redefine that dream and adapt to new realities,” said Mr. Brokaw. “The dream can be about more racial and gender tolerance, more economic justice, more decisions for individuals and society alike based on need, not merely on want, more friends that give you a big hug instead of a big shout-out.”

Laughter and awareness

Speaking on behalf of the class were co-valedictorians Catherine Colford and Claudia Khoury.

Catherine focused her speech on the sense of awareness she obtained during her time at the school.

“While we have learned much over the past four years,” she said, “it is often even more important to be mindful of possibilities outside of our memorized skill set. It is this mindfulness and awareness that we have come to learn and internalize throughout our years at Sacred Heart.”

The teachers at Sacred Heart have “revolutionized the way I look at every single class, and even life,” Catherine added. “They have made me the person I am today.”

Claudia addressed the significance of having a sense of humor.

“Sacred Heart has taught me and my 60 classmates the importance of laughter. This is most obvious in our ability to work really hard, but to not take ourselves too seriously when we fail,” Claudia said. “When something goes wrong we do not get embarrassed. Sacred Heart has given us the confidence and the humility to be able to laugh at ourselves,.”

The class of 2012 is “forever indebted to Sacred Heart” for teaching the importance of laughter, Claudia told her classmates.

“Although the world can at times be painful and dark,” she said, “we will forever carry with us the brightness that comes from everlasting friendships, a well-rounded education and unwavering goals and morals.”


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All photos taken by John Ferris Robben















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