Good evening. I’d like to start by asking all of you a question: Have you ever taken a moment to stop, look back on your life, analyze the decisions you have made, and see how the outcomes from those decisions have affected your life in this very moment?
I grew up in a Catholic household as the middle child of 3 girls. My parents sent us to Our Lady of Peace School from kindergarten to 8th grade. We attended mass every weekend and still do so, and a variety of Christian values were always being taught within our home, such as commitment, respect, patience (especially while waiting for the bathroom with 4 girls in the house), and faith, just to name a few.
I was allowed to choose where I wanted to go to high school, but it was never even a question in my mind. I knew St. Thomas Aquinas was the place for me, because I could easily sense the family atmosphere, and my sister and cousins graduated from Aquinas. I have always looked up to my family because each one of them is a prime example of how to be a good person and how to be a leader in faith. I truly believe that part of their maturation came from St. Thomas, and my theory was true once I became a freshman and got the chance to experience such an amazing Catholic school.
It is stated in the mission of our school, “We are firmly rooted in Christian values, so that all students may reach their potential, becoming fully engaged in mind, body, and spirit.” During these past four years, I have been pushed to achieve my goals, be a good student, and be an overall good person. I have a personal connection with all of my teachers, and it is obvious that they will do anything in order to help me pursue my goals. I have asked countless questions in class, and if I am struggling with a lesson, my teachers ask if I would come to school early or stay later with them so that I could fully understand the material. And they wouldn’t just do that for me, but for any student who needed a little extra one on one time. That is what I love about Catholic education. It isn’t about just learning Bible verses and memorizing the apostles, it’s about leading by example, living as Jesus did, and showing those around you how to be a follower of God by serving others. By offering extra help to students, these teachers are showing how to be a servant of Christ. They are giving up their free time in order to assist those in need, which is important because the world will only become a better place if we all work together to improve each other’s lives. Through the examples by the teachers, the many service hours needed to graduate, and the multiple retreats to become closer with ourselves, our classmates, and God, my classmates and I have grown into maturing Catholics who exemplify our special talents given to us by God.
I would like to say thank you to everyone I have been blessed to meet throughout my experience at St. Thomas. I would also like to thank, and congratulate, everyone here tonight. Whether you won an award or not, you have impacted someone’s life for the better, and that, is what it means to be a Catholic. I want to personally congratulate one of the Golden Apple Award winners whom I have had the honor to learn from. It’s a good thing this award is for teaching and not handwriting, right Mrs. Faigley?! Mrs. Faigley has had some life changing events over the past couple of years, and I first got to know her right in the middle of this hard time in her life. From the very first day, it was easy to see how much she loved english and literature, and how much she adored her cats and dogs, but what I noticed the most is how passionate she was. English is a difficult subject to teach, yet Mrs. Faigley never gave up on a student, and she always encouraged us to write from our hearts. She taught me how to write a research paper and give a speech, which is partly why I am so honored to be up here talking about her today. But most importantly, she taught me to embrace what I love and care about, even if others don’t agree with me. She has taught me to be myself and to be confident in who I am as a person, and I cannot thank her enough for that. She probably doesn’t even know it, but anytime I see her in the hallway, she always says hi to me and asks how my day is going. That means the world to me. She is so selfless and cares more about if I’m having a good day, even if she isn’t.
I was also blessed to go on our 3 day senior retreat with her, another advantage of attending a Catholic school, and at Kairos, Mrs. Faigley and I got to learn more about each other and it truly made our relationship deeper. There is no one more deserving of this award than my English teacher and friend. Mrs. Faigley, I cannot express how proud I am to know you, how proud the whole Aquinas community is, and how proud I know Mr. Faigley is of you.
I previously asked all of you to reflect on your life’s decisions and how they have affected you at this very moment. The best decision I have ever made is choosing to attend St. Thomas Aquinas. I was able to further continue my academics, deepen my Catholic faith, and I have met so many amazing people and created memories that I will cherish for the rest of my life. My Catholic education has taught me that the most important thing in life is to serve others in honor of our Lord. There is a quote from Bishop Ken Untener that I think perfectly sums up what a teacher’s duty is within her classroom and how everyone should act in our world today. He says, “We plant the seeds that one day will grow. We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.” Congratulations to all of the award recipients, and I would like to thank you on behalf of all of the students your life’s work has impacted for the better. Thank you!