2019 Alumnae Essay Winner
Each year since 1919 the alumnae of the Academy of the Sacred Heart have awarded a senior who writes the best essay on a given topic. At Alumnae Induction, the Alumnae Association honors the winning senior who presents the essay.
In her Mother Anna Shannon award acceptance speech, Rosary alum Sallie Tillman Rainer '79 credited her Sacred Heart education for helping her leave the safety and security of an all-girls school to become a leader in her community and in the male-dominated field of engineering 40 years ago. Sallie is currently President and CEO of Entergy Texas. Building on that, we ask you to tell us about a lesson you've learned or an experience you've had during your time at Sacred Heart that challenges or inspires you to become a strong female leader in your community or down the road in your chosen profession. Also, how has Sacred Heart prepared you for that leadership role?
Recently, I was watching The Office, and one quote in particular struck a chord with me: “I wish there was a way to know you're in the good old days before you've actually left them.” With just four months left as a student at the Academy of the Sacred Heart, just four months until we turn in our plaid skirts for white dresses, it has quickly begun to dawn on me that these past twelve years at this school have, in fact, been the formative years of my life. From my first day stepping foot on the Mater Campus to this final semester of senior year, the experience I have had at this school has given me the greatest gift I never realized I had: the gift of empowerment. Sacred Heart is not merely a transition between childhood and adulthood. It is a rock-solid foundation that has instilled in its students the skills of intelligence, compassion, empathy, grace, persistence, and courage that prepare its graduates to become strong female leaders wherever they go.
Embedded within the five goals of Sacred Heart lies the framework of a community founded on cultivating women who are faith-oriented, women who are not only knowledgeable, but wise, women who take the initiative to enact social change in the face of injustice, women who are advocates for collaboration and community, and women who thoroughly know themselves, their limitations, and their strengths. These qualities are emulated in the alumnae of the Sacred Heart, who uphold the school’s values far beyond the iron gates and use their gift of a Sacred Heart education to better the world in which they live. Looking at the lives and career paths of several alums, it is an understatement to say these women are merely successful. From entrepreneurs, to doctors, to artists, attorneys, and businesswomen, Sacred Heart graduates have gone on to become inspirations to many young women, and I truly believe that the culture of support and wise freedom at this school has created countless generations of leaders.
Throughout my time at Sacred Heart, I have experienced firsthand the profound effect a little encouragement can have on a person. Our beloved Ms. Graf, whose memory I will cherish forever, made it her ultimate priority to help her students realize that they could perform any mathematical operation or calculation that was thrown their way. Through her “Comma Boot Camp,” Mrs. Mattesky introduced grammar rules that have elevated her students’ writing to a high level of style and professionalism. It is no coincidence that Sacred Heart’s average SAT writing score is one hundred fifty four points higher than the national average. Just last year, after suffering a major concussion and expressing doubts about my academic future, I was told by the faculty to never sell myself short, and by my friends to never stop believing in my abilities. It was in these moments that I experienced the reality that Sacred Heart truly is a different kind of place. At physical therapy, I was told that I may never fully recover. At school, I was told that no matter the outcome, I had an entire support system of people who had faith in me. It is that constant reaffirmation of my worth and value that I have been shown at Sacred Heart that has given me the strength and courage to forge my path toward not only my career and future, but toward a deeper understanding of myself.
When I sit back and reflect upon the moments in which I have demonstrated leadership, nearly every one has been related to Sacred Heart in some way. This past year alone, I have founded the Upper School’s Pre-Medical Club, I have served as a member of the National Honor Society, and I have participated in an internship at the Tulane Institute of Sports Medicine. Sacred Heart has ultimately been the catalyst for each of these opportunities, ones which will no doubt be invaluable to my college career, but more importantly, Sacred Heart has given me a sense of unshakable confidence and self-esteem. Through the unconditional support from the faculty and administration and the endless love from my fifty sisters, I have been blessed with the power to be a girl who really can change the world.