In their joint graduation speech, our 2015 graduates Julia Leahy and Julia Spagnolia could not have expressed better why you should choose to attend Siena Catholic Academy and join our community.
A number of key phrases they mentioned repeatedly capture the transformation that our students experience in this special place: lost upon entering Siena, memories of self discovery, feeling of belonging, support from classmates, staff and teachers, motivational, safe environment, supportive community, family, encouraged, journey, happy, myself, when exiting Siena being self confident and prepared for the future.
Here are some excerpts of their speech that reflect these phrases:
???So many memories have been made here…that will be with us for many years to come…The memory that stands out the most… is that of self-discovery. At Siena Catholic Academy, Julia and I, as well as all of our classmates, have found who we truly are???
???…I entered Siena as an awkward, shy, and nervous newly-seventh grader, as I???m sure most of my classmates did. To put it simply, I was lost. I didn???t know my strengths or my weaknesses, what I was good at, or what I was supposed to do…I had always shown an interest in musical theater; however, I had never gotten a good role, and I had awful stage fright. But I was encouraged to audition for last year???s spring musical, Annie Jr???.I realized something on that stage, something huge. There, with a hundred eyes all staring at me and a wig that was itchier than you can imagine, I was finally myself?????????…We are at an age where the outside world is such a powerful influence, whether it is through peer pressure or just the urge to be accepted. The difference between who we are and who people want us to be can get blurry???(on that stage), no one could tell me what to do or who to be. I was doing what I did best, and I felt like I belonged???
???…I chose to audition for this year???s spring musical, Alice in Wonderland Jr. and entered with a new attitude, a new point of view. I didn???t care what part I got. As long as I was on that stage doing what I loved, I would be happy. This mindset couldn???t have been achieved if it weren???t for Siena. I don???t know quite what it is here that is so motivational and encouraging, the safe environment, the supportive community, or just the people in general. And I???ve met some pretty fantastic people here. I???ve made friends who have been by my side through thick and thin. I have teachers who have taught me things beyond any textbook??????
???…And, just like in Annie the year before, I realized something else. All of those struggles I had before Siena, all of those months of pure confusion and living the unknown??? they were just my nighttime. They were dark and lonely and I was afraid, just like how one is at night…those moments of not knowing who you are and what???s in store for you. But from night, a tomorrow emerges. The stage, the knowledge I???ve gained here, the people I???ve met??? they are my tomorrow. They are filled with light and risks and opportunities??????
???…students, parents, teachers, I can only say this: when times get tough and everything seems dark and scary, just stick out your chin and grin and say…the sun will come out tomorrow. I now know who I am, and my classmates do too, because it was here at Siena Catholic Academy that we have discovered ourselves and how we shall make our marks.???
???…Julia Leahy and I have been friends since I could remember. Our time at Siena Catholic Academy has only made us closer. We share so much in common, other than our names, of course. We both have a ridiculous sense of humor, the ability to be a leader, and dedicated attitude in all we do. But most importantly, we share a love for Siena. When the end of this school year crept closer and closer, the thought of graduating seemed like almost too much to bear. Siena had been much more than our homes for two years. This was where we found our sense of belonging??????
???If I had to describe Siena in one word, it would be family…Siena has something other schools don???t have…That is a true feeling of family. We may be small, but that???s what makes us so special. We???re one of the few 8th grade classes that know everybody???s name, who they are, what sports they play, what school they came from, what homeroom they???re in, and even what teacher they have for math class. As classmates, we respect each other, understand each other, and support each other. Through thick and thin, we remain a close school community. I often find myself leaving a room at the end of a class, walking down these hallways, greeting friends and teachers with a smile on my face. Smiling, no matter if my day is going well or not. I???m happy here. I???m confident here. I???m myself here??????
???…Our teachers, those wonderful, spunky, fantastic teachers??? words cannot describe how much you???ve done for us,...You???ve cared for us immensely, challenged us, and provided tools to become successful not just academically, but as people in the world. The teachers at Siena Catholic Academy have taken us on amazing journeys everyday during our time at Siena. I???m proud to say that because of the Siena faculty and staff, I am most certainly ready for my endeavors in high school and beyond??????
???…my time at Siena has been a wondrous one… No matter where I go, no matter what I do, Siena will always hold a special place in my heart. I???ve had the privilege to watch my school grow and improve and I???m so honored that Julia and I had a say in that process while being on Leadership Committee. I???ve made the greatest friends the world could ask for and I???ve gotten closer and closer to those I???ve known for years??????
???…I???d also like to take this time to thank my fellow students…who picked me up when I fell down,…???
???…On that note, I???d like to mention how, like Julia, I???ve come to find who I truly am in my two years here. Thanks to Siena, I???ve found my love, my passion???Since as long as I can remember, I???ve wanted to be a runner just like my Dad and the fact that his coach from McQuaid would be mine at Siena was quite exciting…???
???…the day for my first ever cross country race arrived, and, looking back through the hustling and chaos of Genesee Valley Park…I only had one thought on my mind and that was to finish without throwing up…But when that gun went off, …something happened that to this day, I still can???t explain quite clearly. The worries of the world were behind me…I became dedicated and determined??????
???…what???s made me most proud isn???t just the records, but to wear that white and maroon Siena uniform and being able to represent a school that???s done everything for me. I could not find success in what I do if it wasn???t for Siena. My coaches, my teachers, my mentors, friends, and family are the reasons I race to win. I will never be able to thank them enough for guiding me while I do what I love most??????
???…While I???ve taken my final laps here at Siena and enjoyed the last miles, I???ve discovered how our journey through this school is much like a cross country race. We all started together as one. We came from different places, different schools. We held the same goal, to finish strong. Once it started, we got closer and closer. Those around us coached and cheered us on. We worked as a team. Sometimes we felt pain, but we kept working hard. We remained determined. When the time came for that final kick, we sprinted. Now, before we know it, it???s over, but we are rewarded greatly with accomplishment and love. ??Today the race is won, for now we must part, we must move on to different places. But from what I???ve learned from cross country, there???s still another race to face. The finish is not the end, but the beginning. Life is measured in miles, not meters. Taking what we???ve learned from our time at Siena, being who we???ve found ourselves to be, we must face the up-hills of life head on and enjoy the ride on the way down, never looking back??????
???…We asked our classmates to sum up their experiences here in a few words. Responses included friendship, enjoyable, intellectual, faith-filled, magical, amazing, dancing, fantastic, and family. I know that when I look back at my time here, I won???t be able to help it but smile as I did everyday when I walked those halls. …Dr. Seuss, once said, ???Don???t cry because it???s over; smile because it happened.??? So as Siena alumni, we must smile about the moments we???ve had here. Smile about the people we???ve met. Smile about all we???ve learned. Smile about the laughter and the tears. Smile about the triumphs. Smile about the future ahead of us. Each and every one of us is here for a reason. God brought us together at Siena for a reason. Today is not just goodbye. Today is not just bittersweet. Today is a new beginning. The sun will come out tomorrow, and you have to run to win the race. Thank you, Siena??????