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2023 Alumnae Essay Winner: Aleyea Mogilles '23

Each year, the members of the senior class write an essay reflecting on their time at Sacred Heart. A committee of alumnae read each essay and select one outstanding essay to be recognized. The quality of essays continues to grow each year and for the first time, in addition to a winning essay, two honorable mentions were awarded. 

Congratulations to Alumnae Essay Winner, Aleyea Mogilles '23, and to our two honorable mentions, Elise Heiger '23 and Daisy Mooney '23. 

Thank you to our Alumnae Essay Chair and to the wonderful committee. 

alumnae essay winner 2023

Helen Read Young '88, Aleyea Mogilles '23 and Katherine Sins LeBlanc '98

alumnae essay honorable mentions 2023

Daisy Mooney '23, Katherine Sins LeBlanc '98 and Elise Heiger '23


Aleyea Mogilles' Essay
Sacred Heart has been my home for the past sixteen years. I learned how to be a good friend from Rosie and Posie. I wore my white dress in pre-k and kindergarten for mass and a pink ribbon in my hair. I even lost my first tooth at school on the playground overlooking Napoleon Avenue. I shared the same memories, ate the same goûter, and even got the same homework slips as my peers; however, I always knew I was different from my classmates. Being one of the only girls of color in my grade has never been easy. From crayons that never matched my skin tone to the confusion of trying to find an ancestor for my Ellis Island Project, I knew that I was not the same. I came to my home as an outsider and felt the challenge to fit in as well as excel in a community where I felt alone. The ultimate challenge of not being able to comfortably function in a place where you don’t truly belong, for a long time, stopped me from pursuing leadership roles at school. However, this all changed when one of my peers singled me out for what I decided, would be the last time.  

I was in Spanish class my sophomore year and the feeling of isolation overtook society since it was during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. I wanted nothing more than to enjoy my snack with my friends, when one of my peers called me a racial slur. At that moment, all of the pain and suppressed memories came flooding back to my brain. I was left in awe and felt as if I was taken back to Little Hearts when I was the only African American student in my grade. The preceding moments felt like an eternity as I replayed the words in my head. I was a member of sports teams and clubs. I was a student council representative. I was a rally chair. Yet, I was still being singled out for a detail/ facet of my identity that is truly only skin deep. I was hurt and confused- but I was also motivated. This moment made me realize that no student should feel the stinging pain that has permanently ingrained itself onto my heart.  

This is why I decided that I wanted to take on more leadership roles, to give not only myself the ability to stand up for myself, but also those around me. No student should feel the hatred that I have, and I want to use my voice and platform to always advocate for those who can’t. After deep reflection, I have realized that the   lessons Sacred Heart has taught me stretch far beyond academics. The history of St. Rose Philippine’s perseverance and her ability to stand on her own have influenced me greatly. St. Rose Philippine would not allow the opinions or even the remarks of others to influence her actions, and that is how Sacred Heart in the United States began. The origins of Sacred Heart started with a woman who wanted nothing more than to teach Native Americans and give girls a good education. The first time I heard St. Rose Philippine’s story I was in a green dress; however, the first time I truly understood her story and mission was when I was sixteen years old. Through her strength and my experiences, I realized that I have to take a leadership role in order to give people who look like me the opportunity to excel as well as an example of a person who took the risk and went through with it. It is through my experience at Sacred Heart and the challenges I have encountered that I truly learned how to persevere as a leader and started the Upper School Diversity Club, served on the Louisiana Youth Advisory Board, and even earned the POSSE scholarship. The lesson of perseverance will travel with me throughout my professional career as I encounter situations where I am the only woman or even the only person of color. Being at Sacred Heart has truly been a gift, even though I have had negative experiences, I will continue to carry these lessons with me. I want to thank Sacred Heart for giving me the opportunity to use my hurt and pain as a platform to create a positive influence not only on Sacred Heart but also my greater community in my current as well as future endeavors.   

Elise Heiger's Essay
When asked about a lesson or experience that I’ve had during my time at Sacred Heart that has prepared me for a leadership role, I couldn’t think of just one thing, I thought of many. Sacred Heart instills in us the qualities of respect, loyalty, courage, and faith through our daily actions. From creating projects in the (Innovation Lab) to service opportunities and community building, I believe the most important value I have gained from Sacred Heart is to never give up.

I’ve had many self-growth moments at Sacred Heart during my classes in the (Innovation Lab). Most of our projects dealt with the use of trial and error, having to restart an idea multiple times before gaining a result. I learned how to think outside of the box, innovate in new ways, and persevere through frustrating moments. The (Innovation Lab) lets us create and make mistakes, later learning from them. Even though dealing with the frustration of having a project fail is difficult to go through, it's those moments that mean the most to me now. Because if it weren’t for those difficult obstacles faced, I wouldn’t have learned how to become a problem solver.  

Out of all the service opportunities Sacred Heart has provided to us, my most memorable one was the Nicaragua service trip during the summer of 2022. Going into it, I had no idea what to expect, I guess I thought we were just going to be digging up dirt for a week straight. However, it was so much more than that. We met the local community and formed a relationship with them. Going out of our comfort zones was the hardest part, because we were in a place we had never experienced before. The giant pick axes, shovels, and buckets were very intimidating and hard to use, yet, we were told to just keep trying, don’t give up. When I got back from the trip, I realized that I was able to do things I didn’t imagine I could. Digging up a ditch almost 5 feet deep, laying down pipes for clean water, and meeting people from a new country and forming a relationship with them. The Nicaragua experience really helped me realize to try new things and that I am capable of stepping outside of my comfort zone.    

Community building at Sacred Heart is one of the most special aspects of our school. Through traditions to grade bonding, our community is so strong. One community building tradition at Sacred Heart that has taught me to stay determined would have to be Rally. Rally is one of the most fun, yet stressful times of the year. The hours spent on dance practices, cheers, and all around effort put into the event is truly an unforgettable experience. Our grade went through 3 rallies without winning a single award. We never had the best decorations, the best dance, the best cheer, but we had the most fun. When senior year came around, we had more motivation than any other year before, because it was our last shot to win. We never gave up, even though our chances at winning were probably the lowest out of the whole high school. Our effort and time dedicated to making this year’s rally one of our best truly paid off when we won. Rally throughout the years taught me and our grade to just keep trying, because it’ll be worth it in the end.  

Lastly, I want to thank Sacred Heart for giving me the ability to see my full potential. If it weren’t for the people surrounding us everyday telling us to just keep trying, we wouldn’t have the success we do. The strong qualities I hold now of courage, strength, confidence, and determination to never give up will stay with me through the rest of my life. I know once I leave the gates of Sacred Heart, I can accomplish anything I set my mind to.  

Daisy Mooney's Essay
Thirteen years ago, I walked up the marble steps of Convent of the Sacred Heart in San Francisco to begin my kindergarten year. Clutching to my mom and wearing my burgundy plaid, I made my way to my new class. We didn't know it yet, but this building would become a second home and the people would become my sisters. Once a child of the Sacred Heart, always a child of the Sacred Heart. This mantra was repeated to me at every Friday morning assembly, each mass, and those yearly prize days when we said goodbye to our eldest sisters, who were moving on to new places. My clearest memory of those moments was a bittersweet rendition of “goodbye and so long,” which the kindergartners sang in their sweet voices, and which always had the eighth graders bursting into tears. Although it once seemed dramatic, when my time came, I sobbed with that same force and grief as all those girls had before me. I was leaving a sisterhood behind to embark on a new journey, and unlike my peers, I wasn’t staying close to home. Four years ago, I walked through the iron-wrought gates of ASH in New Orleans. Giddy and nervous like the little girl who walked into Convent a decade before, I also had a reassurance that I was entering the same community, even though the faces looked different.

At Sacred Heart, we are sisters. We are united by tradition, by song, by global networks, by history, and by a sisterhood stretching back two centuries. The founding mission was to provide education for young girls as a pathway to promote social change. I have always been inspired by those around me to grow up to become an independent female leader. I have been given the space to mature in a caring environment that always supported and encouraged me to follow my dreams. I never questioned that I could do whatever I wanted to do or be whomever I wanted to be because of Sacred Heart.

I specifically remember a time at Sacred Heart, after I first moved when I was feeling extremely alone. I was having trouble making friends and did not have the courage to put myself out there and show my personality. I had crippling anxiety and was deeply struggling with my mental health. The one thing that provided me a great comfort was the strong sense of community I felt here. I was on a new campus, in a new city, yet I was at the same school. Goal 4 says we have committed ourselves to the building of community. As I became a larger part of our network here, I started to express myself in new ways. I became an all-district athlete, a head rally chair, and was the first student to host her own Newsflash episode in decades. I began to embrace my loud personality and I learned to offer people my heart. My newly discovered lively spirit has helped me reconnect with my sisters in San Francisco and to develop meaningful relationships with my class here in New Orleans. It was a long journey to where I am now, a confident woman ready to wear my white gown and leave the comforts of Sacred Heart. I am now a strong and extroverted woman who is sure to be successful because of what I learned here, a place that has become my second home. Everything I know about love, I have learned from my friendships with women; because of our mutual love for our school, we have forged meaningful bonds. The place that took us in as children and molded us into bright young women is the same place that helped me discover who I truly am, and who I want to become.  

Sacred Heart women have taught me how to love truly and fiercely. To love as a Sacred heart woman means to be encouraging to others and to be someone who embodies tenacity and courage just as much as kindness and gentleness. I am inspired everyday by our mother Mater and all of the women who helped make my education as a Sacred Heart girl possible. I want to be a pioneer for women as I enter the workforce in the future and be able to fight for my place in my industry just as our founding mothers fought to bring education to women. I specifically want to work in baseball in the future, and I am interested in baseball statistics and analytics. I plan to pursue a career in the front office for a major league baseball team. Going into this field will require me to be confident and self-assured; I will rely on my Sacred Heart roots, calling on my courage and my passion to succeed. Though I am anxious about working in an historically male dominated field, I want to push myself to prove that I am capable of something great. I want to show what Sacred Heart women are made of and how we can be just as successful as our male counterparts. Even though I know there will be struggles ahead, I believe that my success will be rewarding because I will be following my passions while knowing that Sacred Heart has prepared me so well for my future.  

The essential principles and values of my education have led me to grow as a person of integrity. My days at Sacred Heart have been marked with affection, warmth, and joy. From my school community, I have learned what love is. I am still the same little girl walking into my new world, except instead of climbing the marble steps of Sacred Heart, I am walking onto my college campus. This time I feel a lot less scared than all those years ago because of the sisterhood behind me. Now that my graduation day is approaching, I'm hesitant to leave because it means leaving friends who inspire me, teachers who've been my mentors, and a place that provides me great comfort. The mantra that was repeated to me has become my lifeline: Once a child of the Sacred Heart, always a child of the Sacred Heart.  

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