Chapel SpeechesHighlights from Chapel Speeches from the 2015-16 school year:
Mark McCormick ’20: Mark shared with his class the story of a wonderful family Christmas tradition. Each year, 60-plus members of Mark’s family travel to Stella Niagara for the Christmas holiday. The weekend is crammed full of activities from various tournaments to a unique “Olympics” to an annual Christmas pageant, performed by all the cousins for their grandparents. This tradition has given Mark the opportunity to grow close to his beloved grandparents Seanmom and Abba and to build lasting memories of time with his family.
Aine O’Toole ’20: In another touching speech about grandparents, Aine spoke of the unique relationships she has with one grandmother who lives “25 seconds down the street,” with whom she spends a great deal of time, and with another set of grandparents who “still surprise” her by trying new adventures… such as riding the Tower of Terror at Disneyworld. Aine noted that she has a “special friendship” with her grandparents, as they have provided her a place to “get away” from the stress and the busyness of daily life.
Tom Hanna ’20: Tom took the occasion to honor a special grandparent in his life, his late grandfather, Barry McDonough. Tom spoke sincerely, even reverently, about the life and legacy of his grandfather, from his distinguished career in law to the way in which he was “always there” for people in need, no matter the circumstances. Tom recalled that before he died, his grandfather, who took tremendous pride and joy in all of his grandchildren, told his loved ones “to put family first,” and to trust that “God has a plan” for each of us.
Shanice Saint-Fleur ’19: Looking back on the extraordinary trip that she and her fellow students took to Italy last summer, Shanice marveled at how they were at once enjoying the latest flavors of gelato and witnessing the ancient ruins of Rome. Shanice was particularly impressed with the Vatican. Shanice concluded her reflection by noting how important it is for us to learn about and to immerse ourselves in other cultures so that we may both appreciate and celebrate these unique approaches to food, dance, language, and dress.
Connor Adams ’19: With self-effacing humor and humble honestly, Connor talked of how he has, somewhat reluctantly at first, been drawn into connecting with his classmates over the summer. As a result, Connor admitted, he went from “sitting at home” to engaging in various adventures with friends, including a trip into Boston on the 4th of July. Connor also acknowledged that quite often, all that he and his buddies did was “hang out,” but that taking the risk to accept the invitations from them has helped him to deepen his relationships.
Katie Honan ’19: Sharing with her classmates her love for the water and her passions for boating, Katie reflected on some of the adventures that she and her classmates had last summer—including one notable day on which they ran out of gas and had to be hauled in by the harbormaster. Katie quoted one of her favorite lines, found on a plaque in their house, “Home is where the anchor drops,” and encouraged her friends to find new ways to envision home. From fishing to swimming, Katie noted how we are all drawn to the water.
Olivia DeMarco ’19: Olivia spoke of fun and friendship, describing the day she spent with her classmates, first serving at the Allston Brighton Easter Egg Hunt and then just hanging out. Olivia volunteered with Shadi, Katie, and Tristan. They were assigned a variety of tasks, but the most notable for Olivia was their time serving as traffic guards, during which they did a little more dancing than directing traffic! Olivia noted at the end that no matter what we do, we should make sure we have true friends and cherish their great company.
Shereka Dauphine ’19: Shereka’s Chapel Speech focused on developing and improving our social views so that we might be able to form our own opinions on all of the issues we hear about today. As Shereka noted, when we are young we are often largely influenced by authority figures in our lives. She went on to say that education is the first step to making society better and it is important that her classmates educate themselves so that they might reach their own conclusions about the challenges facing our communities and our world.
Madison Murphy ’19: Madison reflected on a day that began with a broken finger in a basketball game… and ended with learning that her grandmother had suddenly passed. While saddened by the loss, Madison spoke of great memories she has of Nana Shirley, of her Disney-themed house, and of their trips to Disney—wheelchair and all! Madison ended by saying that we should not be upset when loved ones are lost; rather, we should rejoice that they are in a better place and that we have memories of them to keep with us always.
Gioia Guarino ’19: Gioia spoke of how much life has changed for her in these last two years, particularly in terms of taking on new roles and additional responsibilities. Noting that having a “real job” over the summer, where she learned to deal with both bosses and customers, has been a challenge, Gioia described how she has become more independent. Gioia reflected on how choosing to be Confirmed has also been a sign of maturity, along with managing to balance all of the academic and extra-curricular demands of life at SJP.
Kira Fernandes ’19: Celebrating that fact that travel has always been a part of her life, Kira listed off a wide array of places and countries that her family has visited. Kira chose to focus on a most adventurous trip to Cancun, where she experienced everything from the thrill of high altitude zip-lining to the terror of swimming near a waterfall. Kira encouraged her classmates to have an open mind and a brave spirit when it comes to new activities and opportunities, because if we let our fears overcome us, we risk losing out in the end.
Jack O’Dea ’19: In a most thoughtful and thorough speech, Jack spoke about one of the great heroes of his life—his grandfather. Jack spoke of his grandfather’s roots in Ireland, his exemplary career as a soccer and Irish football player, his strong work ethic, and his remarkable business success. Jack encouraged his classmates to follow his grandfather’s example—to push themselves, to discover their purpose in life, and to answer the “why” question for themselves, acknowledging that if all of this were easy, everyone would do it.
Elina Tong ’19: Admitting that there are all kinds of things we often do not want to do, Elina challenged her classmates to overcome their resistance to some of these “necessary” elements of life so that, in the long run, they will be happier. Elina creatively used the example of going to the dentist—a visit that she never likes to make—to illustrate that, over time, this little bit of “suffering” will result in a happier (and healthier) life. Elina concluded by asking us to sacrifice in the short term, because the law of “delayed return” is very real.
McKenzie Jennette’18: In one of the more insightful speeches of the year, focused on the Netflix series Thirteen Reasons Why, McKenzie addressed the many ways in which we do not address mental health issues properly and honestly in our culture. Noting that Thirteen Reasons Why misrepresents some of the “causes” and “reasons” for suicide, and that it fails to provide resources and strategies for coping with depression, McKenzie challenged her class “to listen authentically” and to remove any stigmas we have around mental health.
Kelli Aquino ’18: Recalling a most terrible—and potentially tragic—moment in her life when she was struck by a car while walking across the street, Kelli bravely shared how she has made her return back to “normal” these last few months. With courage, grace, positivity, and even humor, Kelli recalled how she reacted to the women who hit her, how she responded to some difficult news from the doctors, and how she managed to keep up with school via Skype. Kelli’s gratitude to her classmates for their help and support was so heartwarming.
Julianna Parker ’18: In what was essentially a “good-bye letter” to her class, as Julianna and her family are moving to California this summer, Julianna offered a deeply, beautifully moving speech. Facing the challenge and emotion of this difficult transition with honesty, maturity, courage, and hope, Julianna thanked her classmates for their love and friendship. Julianna admitted that she will miss many things about SJP—especially her soccer sisters— but added that the memories and the relationships she has will be a part of her life forever.
Emily German ’18: Acknowledging that she was not exactly sure where to go with her third Chapel Speech at SJP, Emily chose to look back on her two previous reflections, and to provide a kind of “update” on how things have gone in her life since she delivered those speeches. Emily shared that her relationships with her two brothers have developed and changed, and that her friendship with her cousin—who is like a sister to her—is still very strong. Emily encouraged her classmates to be “open to evolving” at all stages in life.
Tahjay Thompson ’18
: In a most thoughtful and provocative speech, Tahjay chose to focus on the complex and compelling issue of education, and on how we must insist that the ways in which we educate young people keep pace with the rapidly changing times and the continually developing technologies. Extolling both students and teachers to take chances and to push the limits, and to move beyond the traditional methods of education, Tahjay noted that we have to emphasize creativity and innovation if we are to be successful.
on Friday June 9
Patrick Gulledge ’19: Noting that he has been encouraged and inspired by his parents to pursue his dreams, Patrick described how he has always focused less on the “how” of life and more on the “why.” By this, Patrick meant that he has been taught to imagine what many think to be “unreasonable” or “impossible,” in order that he can reach his highest potential. Patrick quoted Oscar Wilde, who observed the significant difference between simply “existing” and truly “living,” and shared with his classmates the call “to dream big.”
Toren Langham ’19: Sometimes funny, sometimes serious, Toren reflected on how he and his bike—and his two close friends and their bikes—have made their way through Boston and through life. Toren shared a few amusing stories regarding the “adventures” that he and his classmates have had on their bikes, navigating city traffic and attempting various stunts. It was clear that Toren and his “biker brothers” have developed a remarkably close relationship, and that they have learned much from their “travels” on the streets of Boston.
Makael Constance ’19: With self-effacing humor and good cheer, Makael explored his ongoing struggle with the notion of work—real, hard, legitimate labor. Makael admitted that his real dream had always been “to win the lottery, “ and he acknowledged that he was greatly challenged by his summer job fixing and repairing boats. Makael shared stories of broken belt sanders and malfunctioning paint rollers, but admitted at the end that “getting things done” is a most important skill and also leads to a feeling of genuine satisfaction.
Bella Bellarmino ’19: Providing her classmates with a window into her mother’s life as a “Spartan Race” competitor, Bella shared how much she admires and respects her mother for her relentless commitment to excellence in physical fitness. Acknowledging that her mother’s schedule, which includes getting up at four o’clock each morning to engage in absurdly difficult training, seems “crazy” and “insane” to others, Bella shared that she is proud of her mother, and that she has learned much from watching her mother push herself to the limit.
Maria Andrade ’19: In one of the more courageous and compelling Chapel Speeches of the year, Maria shared her story—a story that began as a child in Cape Verde with her parents, focused always on education. It continued in the U.S. with her beloved stepmother (who passed last year), and it has now included another move with extended family. Maria spoke maturely, wisely, and passionately about the idea of home, and about how each of us must create our own homes, even amidst life’s most difficult and challenging hardships.
Brendan Murphy ’19: Recalling the recent—and numerous—challenges he has faced with getting his driver’s license, Brendan took his classmates on a comical, virtual tour of the whole process. Noting that learning to stay “between the lines” and to monitor one’s own speed did not come naturally, Brendan admitted that the learning process was no easy task for his own parents—one who was often reaching for the emergency brake and the other who was often clinging to her rosary beads. Thankfully, Brendan is now a licensed driver!
Hannah Sansone ’18: Having just returned from the impactful Haiti Service Immersion Trip, Hannah spoke of how her experience in Haiti has shaped her outlook on life. Noting that she had to endure a nasty skin outbreak as a result of bug bites while there, Hannah reflected on how, when she returned, most people were actually more concerned about her health than about the health (and well-being) of those to whom she ministered, the poorest of the poor. Hannah’s insights on how the people of Haiti inspired her were extraordinary.
Herminio Alvarez ’18: Herminio’s classmates listened in awe as he shared with them his story of living two vastly different lives—his life in his neighborhood (“the hood”) and his life at Saint Joseph Prep. Herminio revealed that he works at a job most weeknights and that the toughest part of the job is often the long, difficult commute home. Maturely, bravely, and honestly, Herminio reflected on the potential dangers of making eye contact on the streets, and on the challenges he faces each day to stay true to himself and his dreams.
Jacob Bianculli ’18: As Jacob looked toward his 18th birthday—the occasion on which he becomes an “adult” and also on which he must register with the military—he reflected on how he is seeing things differently. Jacob observed that the “global” conflicts—from Syria to Iraq—are now a bit “closer” and more “real” to him because he is of the age of many who serve in the armed forces. Jacob wisely noted that with freedoms come responsibilities, and that the choices he is making now—especially about his college plans—really do count.
Shannon Cullen ’18: Shannon reflected on the importance of family, and in this case, on the amazing “robotics” family. Noting how she is one-half of the tight-knit, dynamic-duo of coding (with Destiny King ’18), Shannon expressed gratitude for all that the group has learned and endured. Reflecting on how the Robotics Team has made such an impression on her, Shannon used the wonderful image of how when someone writes on our skin, even after repeated washing, something of the mark (thankfully in this case) still remains on us.
Elizabeth Triant ’18
: Recounting the frightening story of a dear friend, Elizabeth (Lizzy) took the occasion to reflect on the many ways in which we often take life for granted. Lizzy recalled how her friend went off to summer camp, just like thousands of other young people each year, and eventually decided (again, like thousands of other young people) to try white-water rafting. After a very intense, dangerous capsizing of the boat, and a rather fortunate, timely rescue, her friend made it to safety, reminding Lizzy that life is precious.
on Wednesday May 17
Lana DeMarco ’20: Wishing to deliver a speech that was neither “cheesy” nor cliché, Lana achieved her goal with a wonderful reflection on the unique relationship she has with her grandmother. Lana shared that her grandmother’s house is only a 20-minute walk from her doorstep, and how the two of them have shared all kinds of special memories, from grilled cheese sandwiches to “jewelry box shopping.” Lana encouraged her classmates to be present to (and grateful for) their grandparents, and to cherish their time with them.
Brian Wheet ’20: While Brian considered discussing the “heavier” priorities in his life—family, friends, and faith—he ultimately chose to reflect on his career with the Framingham hockey program. Brian recalled how he has always played for the town, and on how it is been a kind of rite of passage to move up the hockey ranks from “Mites” to “Bantams.” Brian concluded by noting how the high school game is “tougher” and “more intense,” and that the lessons he learned about commitment and sportsmanship are truly paying off now.
Briana Hamilton ’20: Introducing herself as “Briana with one ‘n’,” Briana shared her experience of teaching gymnastics every Saturday morning to young children. Relating that these little ones have tested her patience and pushed her endurance, Briana described how she has had to “keep a close eye” on some of the kids and even to be more like a disciplinarian than a coach. Concluding with powerful observations on what an important skill it is to listen to others, Briana admitted she is exhausted at the end of each session!
Anaise Louis ’19: Noting that we are besieged by unrealistic and unreachable notions of what defines “beauty” in our culture, Anaise encouraged her classmates to move beyond society’s narrow, often conflicting, “ideals” about personal appearance. Anaise admitted that all of us naturally attempt to “conform” to cultural norms, simply to “fit in” and “get along,” but she added that we can find a new way. She closed by reminding everyone that, especially at SJP, each of us is affirmed and accepted and should feel a sense of belonging.
Sara O’Connor ’19: Sarah took the occasion to highlight the many positive relationships she has with her closest friends, going through each of the people in the Class of 2019 that have helped her to feel at home at SJP. Sara described how her friends, in their own unique ways, challenge her in the classroom, encourage her on the athletic field, and support her in making good decisions. Sara’s recounting of the funny moments shared by her and her friends kept all of us laughing; it is obvious that these “little memories” make a difference.
Brianna Bailey ’19: With courage, confidence, and genuine grace, Brianna reflected on how much she has changed since middle school, particularly in regard to how she handles her emotions and on how she relates to others. Brianna maturely reflected that change is both natural and inevitable, and that often when we are experiencing stress or challenge, we are the ones who are in the best position to make a change… even if that change is hard. Brianna closed by thanking her SJP friends for their openness, respect, and mutual support.
Maeve O’Brien ’19: Maeve delved deeply into the statement, “there's always room for improvement," describing her years of fiddle lessons. She first started playing when she was six, and her greatest lesson was on an exchange trip with Irish fiddle students. Seeing their incredible skill, she realized she had to set the bar higher for herself. In the end, she learned the importance of time, discipline, and teachers—especially ones who challenge us—in building a skill, and she professionally delivered that lesson through her speech!
Cailey Tanner ’19: Cailey spoke of her relationship with her twin brother and the special bond that comes with being a twin: simple companionship, video game rivalry, and even humble appreciation—in her case, for his 4.0 GPA. Cailey explored maturely the reactions friends or acquaintances give when finding out this unique circumstance, reactions that range from amazement to curiosity to discomfort. In the end, Hailey conceded that being a twin is all that and more—particularly when they can inexplicably read each other's minds!
Valerie Gao ’19: Valerie shared with her classmates her powerful passion for music. After being expelled from her grade school choir, a wise instructor invited her back, convincing her that she would enjoy it. That previous aversion was redirected into a terrific devotion to something that became essential to Valerie’s identity. In discovering her love of music at the same time as she found her talent she had for it, Valerie found a place to unload her heart. Consequently, her songs—unrestricted by any genre—have become her "diaries.”
Helen Miao ’18: With a wonderfully engaging speech in which she involved her audience in a variety of ways, Helen shared her love of painting and her passion for art. Explaining how producing paintings that reflect her ideal vision require intensive preparation, effort, and focus, Helen dispelled the notion that art “just happens” and that those who are seen as artistic simply have “natural ability.” Helen challenged her classmates to envision pieces they would like to create and work hard to create them, even if the result is not “perfect.”
Jamie Seo ’18: In an impressively informative and relevant speech, Jamie examined the political situation in her own country (S. Korea) and compared that situation to the political climate in the U.S. Observing that the low rate of voter turnout in both countries is a sign that more people need to become more active and engaged, Jamie thoughtfully explored recent events in S. Korea—from the horrific sinking of the ferry boat (killing hundreds of young people) to the dramatic removal of the former leader (the first female president).
Andrew Cobuccio ’18: In a funny, candid, and authentic speech, Andrew spoke of how having a younger brother has changed his life—mostly for the better! Andrew revealed how, at least initially, he did not think much about having to be a big brother, but in a just a couple of years, he realized that his younger brother was watching him, mimicking him, and looking up to him. Andrew concluded by sharing a few humorous anecdotes about how Matthew has “followed in his footsteps,” particularly in school and on the playground.
Kate Stanislaski ’19: Choosing to explore a most difficult and challenging topic, Kate gave an insightful speech on the treatment for—and the impact of—cancer. Providing a clear, effective overview of how the disease starts and spreads, Kate explained how we all know people with cancer… and how we all have watched them suffer through both the disease and the treatments. Kate touched on a variety of advances, many of which she learned from a recent 60 Minutes episode, including the use of the polio virus to target cancer cells.
on Tuesday May 2
Ruochen (Peter) Su ’20: Looking back on his decision to come to the U.S. for high school, Peter recalled the stereotypes he had of America—the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Hollywood scene, and all the amazing universities (Harvard, MIT, Stanford, etc.). Peter then recalled how difficult it was for him to leave behind his family and friends, and to begin a whole new life. Explaining how he made intentional choices to seek new friends, to understand a new culture, and to learn a new language, Peter encouraged his classmates to take good risks.
Yrace Tiglianidis-Pena ’20: Reflecting on the importance of family, Yrace shared that she had the unique opportunity to spend summers with her grandparents in the Dominican Republic (without her parents) for the first few years of her life. Yrace spoke with pride, gratitude, and joy about her time in the DR, playing with dolls and Coke caps, and learning the Scritpures from her grandmother. Yrace’s grandparents hosted their own Bible Study in the small town, and Yrace understood powerfully the importance of family and faith.
Angelique Lazard ’20: Offering a most entertaining and humorous speech on a now “famous” incident in her family when her much older brother (by over 15 years) “sat on her” to regain control of the remote, Angelique recalled how this story—and others like—have kept her connected to her brother. Angelique also recalled how her mother left the two of them to figure it out. Noting that her brother now has children of his own, Angelique shared that she misses those more “innocent” days of hanging around the house together.
Andrew Stefura ’19: Recalling the glory days of “the men’s golf team” at SJP, Andrew reminisced about the successful season the boys had on the links last fall. Recounting in vivid detail how they earned their first victory over Marian—with particular emphasis on the opening tee shots of the Phoenix players—Andrew noted how important it was to set the right tone for each match. Andrew concluded by stating what he has learned from golf: “Forget about the last shot, especially if it was bad; focus on the next shot.” True in life!
Sophia Pappas ’19: Courageously, perceptively, and humorously, Sophia addressed an issue that all of us—especially our students—face each day: stress. Sophia reflected on the various causes of stress in our lives—family, school, work, etc.—and offered her classmates a few tips for dealing with stress: do homework the night before rather than the class before; alter expectations so that they are more realistic; be open to the unpredictable; and try not to look back, as regret is often not helpful. Wise words that we can all follow!
Qian (Elena) Wang ’18: Examining creatively and perceptively the typical advice we all receive in life—beware of strangers—Elena told the story of a friend of hers who, while on many adventures exploring new countries, relied precisely on the courtesy of strangers. Elena revealed how we are, in the end, one human family, which means that even though we may appear to be “strangers to each other,” we are all connected. While Elena did not promote hitchhiking across the globe, she did remind us that we are called to be kind to all.
Yiwen (Yvonne) Liu ’18: Delivering her Chapel Speech on her birthday, Yvonne shared what life is like in her native Beijing. Noting that—much like in the U.S.—the majority of people in China are flocking to the major cities, Yvonne explained how the air quality in Beijing is very poor. From wearing masks to taking medications, many in China are going to extreme measures to protect their health, and the country has enacted measures to ensure cleaner air. Yvonne hopes her generation will create new solutions to this problem.
Nailah Khoory ’18: With a most well-written and uniquely crafted speech, Nailah invited her classmates to see life through her eyes… and through the lens of Exit 17 on the Mass Pike. Noting how Exit 17 can bring one either to Newton or to Watertown, Nailah shared how she spends time in both places… and appreciates the unique features of each lifestyle. Explaining how she values both “privilege” and “comfort,” Nailah spoke authetically and maturely about how balancing time with family on each side of Exit 17 has served her well.
Allen Fleureny ’17: Allen reflected on memories and on the “different ways they are formed and enforced in our brains.” He noted, “You never know when you are making a memory.” He described his own memories with his friend John Michael to see who could grow out their “high top,” until they realized it wasn’t appropriate for school. He talked about basketball, track, and times in the classroom where special bonds were created. He wisely concluded by inviting his classmates to “remember it all and take time to reminisce.”
Martine Bjoernstad ’17: Coming from another country to live in the US is filled with so many lessons, so many people, and from Martine’s perspective, one special pet named Lucy Mae. Being a cat lover, Martine was surprised to discover that one of her most positive relationships was with Lucy Mae, a dog. Living with Lucy Mae has taught Martine that it is important to say an “eager hello,” and then be open to unexpected companionship. Martine ended by saying, “The value of an experience is measured in the wisdom that it provides.”
Bianca Tracanna ’17: Bianca gave a powerful speech on what feminism means to her. She explained that feminism is more than “angry women” or a stereotype assigned to a woman who defines herself as a feminist. Bianca provided the history of the Women’s Suffrage Movement and the Women’s Rights Movement. As Bianca wisely noted, “Feminism is standing up for the people around you instead of labeling them, it is getting rid of harmful stereotypes and spreading kindness.” She encouraged all women to find their own voice.
Raphael Hanna ’17: Being a role model as the oldest brother does hold its challenges, but as Raphy pointed out, “even though my brothers and I constantly argue over the smallest things, I know there is a bond of love and friendship that will last forever.” Raphy was not always sure that he was up to being the “big brother,” setting a good example, making good decisions, and developing a sense of responsibility in his brothers. He did know that he had to be a GREAT role model to his brothers and never let them down. Seeing his brothers grow up has made him realize how proud he is of his two brothers and that they are his role models too.
Mia Ransom ’19: Mia discussed the danger of judging others, particularly women, only by the clothing they wear. Using the example of a young woman who was fired for being dressed inappropriately at work, Mia reflected on the need for others to be less judgmental and more open to the body types and clothing styles of all women, no matter what their size or shape. As Mia boldly said to her classmates, “before you open your mouth to judge, know the consequences.” Mia’s message about the dangers of judging is so relevant today.
Charlie Cassidy ’19: Charlie spoke about his love for the “gentleman’s sport” of tennis. Despite some hesitation about attending a tennis camp, Charlie soon learned that he loved the sport; not only did he develop his skill and talent for tennis, he was able to make friends while playing it. Charlie shared that his decision to interact with others on the tennis courts completely changed his experience of athletics. Charlie concluded by noting how excited he is to play tennis as part of the SJP Men’s Tennis Team—the season begins now!
Cam Ferent ’ 19: Cam reflected on his experience as a member of SJP’s Robotics Team, noting that while he’s loved engineering from a young age, even when he was playing with Legos, through Robotics he has been given the opportunity to appreciate engineering even more. Despite the fact that he’s often at school seven days a week, Cam is grateful for Robotics, from the skills he has learned to the friendships he has made. As Cam wisely said, “When you’re hanging out with friends and working together, nothing is impossible.”
Will McGough ’18: For Will’s speech, he chose to reflect on the life of his grandmother and especially on the many memories he has of her and lessons he has learned from her. Will noted the trips to Newburyport he took with his grandmother as a child and the way he grew closer to her when she moved in with his family. Will spoke candidly and bravely of his grandmother’s lung cancer, and of his final goodbye to her, but recognized that he learned so much about what it means to be supportive and helpful to others, the way she was for him.
Vivian Ho ’18: Vivian used her chapel speech to reflect on the situation of unrest in Iraq and on the thousands of innocent families being forced to flee their homes. Vivian revealed that when she watches the news, she is deeply saddened by the tragic, horrifying amount of human suffering. However, she then reflected on her source of inspiration—her classmates here at SJP. As Vivian explained, her class will soon be moving on to college and eventually careers, and they each have immense potential to make a positive difference in the world.
Lily Fabrizio’18: Lily discussed her recent trip to Camden, New Jersey, for the Urban Challenge Service Immersion trip. First explaining that she signed up because her friends were doing it and so, “Why not?” Lily went on to say that this was not a, “Why not?” type of road trip. Her experience working with people at the community center helped her to see how she can make connections with those who are different from her. Quoting a line on the wall of the Romero Center, Lily closed with, “So you say you love the poor? Name them.”
Caroline DiPalma’19: As Caroline has watched her older brothers go off to college, she has noted the stress that comes with being expected to know your career path at such a young age. While Caroline acknowledged the importance of having goals, she also spoke on the need not to stress out too much over the future. As she said, the more life opportunities we have, the more we will come to know what we want to do with our lives. She also noted the need to explore opportunities that provide both financial stability and personal enjoyment.
on Friday April 7
Molly Wheet ’20: Reflecting on her unique experience of being a triplet, Molly noted that she has never known what it is like not to be a triplet. From the smell of hockey bags to the battle over the front seat, Molly admitted that having two brothers the exact same age does present some challenges. However, Molly noted that there are a few advantages—like having a “built-in study group.” Molly admitted that while all of the three Wheet children are “competitive,” they always root for each other and celebrate their accomplishments.
Gabe Hanna ’20: Following the theme of “family,” Gabe talked about his older brother Raphael ’17, who has been a source of support to him throughout his life. Gabe noted that “Raphy” has always been a terrific influence in his life, particularly because of his positive attitude and enthusiastic spirit, but he added that being in the same high school has brought their relationship to a whole new level. Recalling the great times they shared on the soccer field this fall, Gabe encouraged his classmates to appreciate their own siblings.
Gabriella Rizzo ’20: Recalling happily the years she spent at St. John’s in the North End, a very small school and a wonderfully close-knit community, Gabriella focused on the tight group of girls—five in all—in her 8th grade class. Gabriella recounted a variety of hilarious adventures with these young ladies, from playing catch in Social Studies class to swimming in “somewhat safe” Boston Harbor. Grateful that they are still connected to each other, Gabriella explained how each of them is creating a larger community in their new schools.
Damara Andrade ’20: Damara also reflected on her middle school days, recalling how most of the people in her class had been friends since they were only six years old. Damara then went on to share how she is so happy that she chose Saint Joseph Prep, even though she was the only one in her class to do so; on a day when SJP was hosting a number of 8th grade visitors, Damara’s timing was perfect! Damara also offered some awesome advice, noting how her strategy of “just being my true self” has helped her to find amazing new friends at SJP.
T.J. Nolan ’20: In one of the more thorough and comprehensive speeches of the year, TJ shared the amazing story of his grandparents—a love story for the ages. TJ spoke about the inspiring example of his grandfather (courageous, motivated, resilient, humorous) and the faithful witness of his grandmother (selfless, generous, loyal, caring). As TJ described how his grandparents (and his entire family) have stayed close, TJ noted the importance of prayer. TJ concluded by thanking his parents for truly, joyfully living their marriage vows.
Gabriella Ribeiro ’19: In a beautifully written and wonderfully crafted speech, Gabriella took us back to her grammar school years… specifically to her first forays into performing on stage. Initially settling for the safer acts of “writing plays” and “learning dance routines,” she took the huge step of singing a solo for the 6th grade Talent Show! Despite discovering, just before the curtain rose, that the a cappella group was also doing the very same song, Gabriella mustered the courage to belt it out, and she has been daring to dream ever since.
Camille Taylor ’19: Taking the opportunity to reflect on her younger sister, Camille talked about how Naomi has been a kind, intelligent, caring, and thoughtful person in her life. Camille then surprised many of us—especially those of us who have seen her compete on the soccer field and basketball court—in admitting that Naomi is actually a bit stronger than she is! After recalling a whole host of comical adventures—including failed attempts to bake desserts—Camille shared how excited she is to have Naomi coming to SJP next fall.
Santiago Emello ’19: Celebrating a special relationship he has in his life, Santiago invited us into a particular friendship that is deeply important to him. He explained how he and his friend are able to “be their true selves” with each other, and how often times they are completely content doing the simplest things (watching a movie, going for a walk, etc.), Santiago reflected that he would not be the same without this person in his life, and urged his classmates (as he has) to let others introduce them to new things—music, food, etc.
Meghan Hernon ’18: Bravely, honestly, and maturely, Meghan dared to share some of the struggles she has faced in her young life—struggles that have recently included changing schools. Looking back on things that have happened within her extended family, Meghan noted how important it is to have true friends… and to trust that God is somehow, even in the midst of suffering and sadness—trying to make a path for each of us. Meghan touched everyone by her inspiring willingness to “let go of the negative” and to “let go and forgive.”
Shannon Flaherty ’18: In a powerfully moving and bravely revealing speech, Shannon spoke about two great loves in her life—her love of poetry and her love of her brother. Shannon recalled some dark and difficult days when she relied on poetry—the words she wrote in free verse to make sense of her experience—to lift her spirit and to retain her hope. Shannon encouraged her classmates to find that thing—poetry, prayer, music, meditation, etc.—that will help them, even in the midst of deeply challenging times.
Emma Wren ’18: In a speech filled with inspiring quotes from President Obama and vivid memories of working on President Obama’s campaign with her father, Emma recounted how much being part of an election meant to her. At the ripe old age of eight, Emma was blessed to be not only a volunteer with the Obama movement, but also a “kid reporter” who attended the inauguration! Emma noted how much Mr. and Mrs. Obama (especially via her health initiatives) have meant to her generation, for they always encouraged “real change.”
Allynne Ribeiro ’17: While admitting that, as an only child, listening to the many speeches about siblings can be challenging, Allynne happily shared her experience of being the lone young person at home. Allynne encouraged her classmates not to buy all the stereotypes about “being spoiled” and “getting everything,” as she has often worked side-by-side with her mother in the bakery… at 4:00 AM! Noting how she has sibling-like relationships with friends, cousins, etc., Allynne said that, unlike siblings, you can always tell them to go home!
on Wednesday March 22
Rafael Mejia ’20: Looking back on his experience in middle school, Rafael noted how he and his classmates took the mature—and praiseworthy—approach of “dialing down the drama” as they approached graduation. Noting that, together, they chose to cherish the moments and to value the relationships, Rafael urged his comrades at SJP to recognize that while we may not remember the names all of the individuals involved in our lives, we do remember how they made us feel… so we should resolve to be inclusive and affirming.
Caragh Gentilucci ’20: Caragh invited her classmates to learn more about the wonderful relationships she has with two of her closest friends—Jade and Natalie—who have been part of her life for the last few years. Caragh recalled all kinds of humorous adventures, including a memorable canoe trip, and also shared how much her friends have helped each other “to keep their priorities straight” and to focus on what is truly important. Caragh’s reflections on the faith she saw witnessed by her friends was particularly inspiring.
Aidan Wech ’20: Going back to a summer camp that was “strongly recommended” by his parents (so that he would not be spending June through August on the couch), Aidan spoke of how his experience at GEMS (a science and technology based experience) turned out to be far better than he had previously imagined. With poise, confidence, humor, and insight, Aidan recalled his days and nights at a military base in Natick (site of the camp), engaging in all kinds of experiments. Aidan noted with pride that he even received a small stipend!
Matt Lopez ’20: Matt offered a moving and heartfelt tribute to his grandfather, one of four children, who instilled in him the powerful and essential value, “family first.” Recalling how his grandfather was the first to visit him in the hospital when he was born, Matt shared that he and his grandfather always enjoyed a special relationship, forged over television shows and home repairs. Matt praised his grandfather for having the foresight to build a family house in Maine where, even after his grandfather’s passing, everyone still puts family first.
Kun “Richard” Yuan ’20: Richard took the occasion to reflect on his challenging transition to the U.S., a transition in which he had to overcome very natural fears of “fitting in,” learning English, and adapting to a whole new diet, routine, and culture. Richard admitted that preparing to study in the U.S. was a brutal grind, with his regular schoolwork (study halls from 6:30 to 9:30 each night) and the added burden of studying for the TOEFL test. However, Richard shared that with hard work and an open mind, he made the transition well!
Irwin Baez ’19: Taking advantage of the opportunity to give his two “brothers”—Toren and Diego—a little shout out, Irwin recalled with joy the many adventures of these three amigos. Irwin noted how they have coined a new phrase—“the dumb stuff”—to describe how and when they attempt stunts on their bikes that do not turn out exactly as planned, usually to the embarrassment of one or all of them. As Irwin wisely noted, however, when recounting these various mishaps, “It is not about the mistakes… it is about the memories.”
Sydney Jenkins ’19: Honoring Black History Month, Sydney focused on how we need to come together in order to overcome injustice, ignorance, racism, and discrimination. Sydney shared how we continue to be plagued by these evils, as evidenced by the terrible divisiveness of our country today. She explained that movements like Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter are not “anti” anything, but rather positive expressions of human values. Sydney also challenged her classmates to consider carefully the words they choose.
Tai Jing ’19: Choosing to reflect on his father as the person he admires most, Tai recalled how his father has managed to build a variety of very different businesses in his life, always focusing on the positive and never being afraid of defeat. Tai noted that his dad has been successful in real estate and in the restaurant industry, and that even when things were not going smoothly, his dad had the confidence and the foresight to take the appropriate risks. Tai encouraged his classmates to emulate his father, staying confident even in adversity.
Diane Camilo Caceres ’19: In a wonderfully thoughtful and insightful speech, Diane noted how the biases and prejudices that we all have did not come to us naturally, but had to be “taught” to us. Diane shared how when folks say, “I don’t see color,” they are not seeing and appreciating the unique person in front of them. Hoping that we can finally become a truly “united” States, Diane urged her classmates to end hatred and division… and to practice acceptance and inclusion. Diane reminded us all that we need to “re-learn” a few things.
Tessa Lewis ’17: Recounting her many (comical) adventures working in the e-commerce department at a local supermarket, Tessa shared with her classmates that she has learned a great deal through interacting with the public. Tessa has experienced all kinds of people, and observed some of the worst of human behavior—from lazy to rude to dishonest. However, Tessa explained that she has learned valuable skills—including the importance of “keeping her head when others are losing theirs”—and has also earned a nice paycheck!
Yuqing “Doris” Xue ’17: Doris spoke about an extremely important part of her life—her passion for dance. Recalling in vivid detail her first experience of dance—when she had barely started school—along with her very first solo—at the ripe old age of seven—Doris explained how much she had to sacrifice in order to excel. The physical demands were extremely intense—even painful—as she developed the endurance, strength, and flexibility to dance at the highest level, but Doris noted that the thrill of performing was worth it all!
Sean Bennett ’17: While acknowledging that it has been difficult not being able to play competitive sports, Sean explained how he has found other ways to be part of a team. Sean reflected on his experience managing the boys’ varsity soccer team, noting that he loved the bus rides and the big wins (especially the one last fall over Lowell Catholic) and truly felt connected to the guys on the squad. Sean’s commitment, investment, resilience, and maturity were obvious to everyone; his “never quit” spirit is an inspiration to all of us.
Kam Taylor ’17: Kam explained that for most of his life, he has looked forward to the moments that are now actually about to happen—graduation from high school and going to college. Kam shared that his goals are focused around happiness and character, and that while wealth and success are certainly still important to him, it is being true to himself that matters most. Kam encouraged his classmates “to make a difference and to be a difference” in the world, and he urged everyone to see their dreams as real goals to be attained.
Jeonghun “JK” Kim ’17: Reflecting on the many ways in which we are all different, and also on the reality that we are all created in God’s image and likeness, JK invited his class to appreciate the unique features and characteristics of both individuals and cultures. JK looked back on how he was taught, like most of us, to define folks according to skin color, income level, religious tradition, sexual orientation, etc. He then spoke of how, especially in this country, he has learned not simply to “tolerate” differences but to “celebrate” them.
Audrey McDonough ’17: Taking advantage of the five-day weekend (three snow days), Audrey looked back on all she has learned from her favorite Disney characters: Dory, Marlin, Jasmine, and most especially, Mulan. Audrey revealed powerful lessons about the sacredness of family, the importance of self-sacrifice, and the deep need always to be true to one’s self. Audrey wisely advised her classmates not to follow Aladdin and Ariel, who betray who they are, but to emulate Mulan, who “won the guy and looked classy doing it!”
on Monday March 6
John Devlin ’17: Reflecting on his hockey career—one that has included playing for his town as well as for his school—John focused on the last couple of years being able to play the sport he loves with his younger brother, Mitchell. Acknowledging that recent seasons have had their challenges, and that this winter was tough when Mitchell was injured, John recalled how most everything from the carpool to the locker room has been fun for him. At the end, John relished the idea of their coaches calling this defensive pair the Devlin Wall.
Ricky Espada ’17: With humor and charm, with energy and enthusiasm, Ricky talked about his experience on the varsity basketball team this winter, an experience that has been enriched by a few early wins and, most especially, by the addition of the jelly fam. Ricky explained that “the jelly family” is a nickname for their team, given because of a special kind of lay-up, with ultimate/maximum spin, perfected (or at least attempted) by various members of the squad. Ricky’s passion for the game and for his team was obvious!
Emily Taranto’17: In a most incredibly crafted and thoughtfully composed speech, Emily reflected on the importance of dreams—of having dreams, of pursuing dreams, and of being open to new dreams. Emily opened with a beautiful recitation of the powerful poem, “Dreams,” by Langston Hughes, and she closed with an inspiring quote from Walt Disney; in both instances, the references were quite compelling! Emily shared how our dreams give us purpose, and encouraged her classmates to strive and to dare, even amidst adversity.
Ningkun (Kirk) Zhou ’18: Using two incredibly vivid and practical images—the young elephant held back by the memory of a thick rope and the jars of fleas held back by the memory of a tight lid—Kirk explained how all of us can fall into the trap of “settling” for less than we can be. Explaining how these past “limits” and “restrictions” can lead us to lower our expectations for our futures, Kirk encouraged his classmates to be confident in facing challenges… and to “push through” the perceived “ceilings” and “ties” that hold us.
Ziyuan (Sam) Wu ’18: Sharing with his classmates how important it is for him to have pride in his home country, Sam acknowledged that many of his peers in China do not share this view. Noting that when he returns home, because of the influence of western culture on everything from food to fashion, Sam admitted he often feels he’s still in the U.S. Sam explained that we need to understand our past in order to understand ourselves, and while some of Sam’s friends might wish for other heritages, Sam is happy to be from China!
Jiongyu (Joy) Ma ’18: Recalling her volunteer experience in a rather remote part of her home country, Joy remembered learning that not all people have the material blessings—and the creature comforts—she so often took for granted. Joy spent part of her summer serving at a camp for disadvantaged youth, and even amidst the challenges and struggles, she followed the advice of her parents to be responsible, compassionate, and positive. Joy concluded by noting how much the kids truly appreciated her presence and concern.
Isaac Amado ’18: Reflecting on the divisive tone of the recent election, Isaac shared his thoughts on today’s politics. Isaac shared proudly that he has “grown up” with President Obama, and he noted how much it has meant to him to see a man of color guide our country. Isaac also recalled how much he has admired great civil rights leaders, including Malcolm X, who—as his grandmother reminded him—had roots in Roxbury, just like Isaac! Isaac’s commitment to follow in the footsteps of his heroes is both edifying and inspiring.
Richie Fleming ’18: Offering an intensely personal speech in which he shared what it has been like to deal with the loss of his beloved father, Richie shared with his classmates how much his father meant to him—as a police office, role model, confidante, and mentor. Noting that his dad was always in the stands or on the sidelines to cheer him on, Richie hoped that his dad now looks down from heaven… and is proud of the man that Richie is becoming. All of us in the Chapel were moved by Richie’s honesty and maturity and struck by his courage and grace, particularly as he talked about dealing with such deep emotions.
Nacaira Hill-Malloy ’18: In a wonderfully authentic and perceptive speech, Nacaira talked about what it is like to be a person of color in such challenging times. Recalling how hard it was for her—and for the women in her family—to accept the result of the recent election, Nacaira noted that conflict and division have become the norm. While sadly and bravely sharing that she and others have been on “the other end” of terrible treatment, Nacaira encouraged all of us to choose love… and to be the answer and the hope our world needs.
Junyi (Mark) Yan ’19: Beginning with the joyful proclamation, “Happy New Year!” Mark invited his classmates to a lesson on Chinese history. Of course, as Mark wisely (and rather humorously) noted, American history is only a few hundred years—Chinese history is five millennia! Mark shared that he often encounters rather stereotypical (and uneducated) questions about China (i.e., the “one child” rule), and he made an important distinction between communism and socialism. Mark’s pride in his country was wonderful to see!
Meghan Doyle ’19: In a wonderfully mature and truly powerful speech on forgiveness and reconciliation, Meghan shared with her peers all that she has learned about relationships. Beginning with the compelling command, “Get over yourself!” which she echoed effectively throughout the speech, Meghan explained how we are too caught up in our own egos, too worried about what others think of us, and too willing to hold grudges. All of her audience was moved as Megan genuinely and gracefully shared her own experience of friendship.
John Dooley ’19: In reflecting on one of the great heroes in his life—his aunt Carol—John recounted for his classmates how Carol has overcome adversity with grace, courage, and faith. John explained how his aunt always puts others first, whether in raising her three children or caring for her husband during his long battle with cancer. Even now, John said that his aunt is the one who brings the extended family together for parties and events; she never lets the negatives bring her down, always keeping a hopeful outlook on the future.
Aleksandra Christie ’19: In a wonderfully humorous and self-effacing speech, in which she reflected humbly on her remarkable language skills, Aleksandra talked about what it has been like to learn Russian, Croatian, English, and French. Noting that she sometimes, especially when excited, goes back-and-forth between the languages, and that it can be a challenge to be in new cultures/countries when learning a languages, Aleksandra shared how language builds bridges and breaks barriers—and with her skills, she should know!
Julia Malki ’19: Noting that this past January 8 marked the one-year anniversary of her mother’s tragic passing, Julia stood up bravely and courageously to offer a reflection on what this unspeakable loss has been like for her. Julia extolled the many virtuous roles of her mother—provider, confidante, nurturer, friend, and more—and she shared how her mother was always incredibly generous, welcoming, and hospitable to everyone. While Julia doubted that she, herself, would ever be able to follow in her mother’s inspiring footsteps, it was abundantly clear to everyone in the Chapel that Julia is doing exactly that.
Kate Nee ’19: Noting that she has just joined the SJP family this year, Kate talked of how she has transitioned to different schools in the last few years, making friends and facing transitions along the way. Honestly admitting that she has wondered, “What’s the point?” when starting in a new community, Kate encouraged her classmates to keep an open mind and a hopeful spirit as they face new challenges. Kate recalled how two special friends made a real difference for her last year, and noted that her SJP friends are doing the same.
on Thursday February 9
Jacob Orchard ’18: Looking back on someone who has been a positive influence in his life, Jacob reflected on the many ways in which his uncle—who both bowls and sings—has always “been there” for him. Jacob described how his uncle is such a “big presence” and how his down-to-earth nature makes him such a credible role model. Noting that his uncle reminds him both of Santa (in spirit) and of Jesus (in appearance), Jacob expressed sincere gratitude to his uncle for helping him to understand more about what it means to be a man.
Beranda Marseille ’18: Offering one of the more reflective and thought-provoking Chapel Speeches of the first semester, Beranda gave a brief history lesson on the “standards of beauty” used to define women in the last century. Beranda followed that with incredibly perceptive questions to her classmates about how they measure, perceive, and even judge others—and themselves—based on these false, unrealistic ideals of “perfect” beauty. At the conclusion, Beranda encouraged everyone to see themselves as “already” beautiful.
Michael Chmura ’18: Tracing the history of video games back to the first and most basic “table tennis” games, Michael reflected on how the video game industry has influenced our culture in ways that extend well beyond the actual games. Michael noted that video games used to be seen as “childish” and “just for kids,” yet now adults, especially “millennials,” are consumers of these products. Michael also observed that colleges offer an array of majors focused on the gaming industry, and that even social media websites are part of the mix.
Kayla Myrtil ’19: Acknowledging that she was rather nervous and anxious when called upon in class to give an answer or offer an opinion (especially during a particular moment in grammar school), Kayla spoke of how she took confronted her fears and took control of overcoming them. Kayla wisely encouraged her classmates to take risks, to get engaged, and to let go of the worry of “making a mistake” in school. Kayla modeled the poise and confidence she described, as her speech was well written and wonderfully delivered!
Aidan Kelly ’19: Recounting his summers as a caddie at The Country Club in Brookline, where he has had to work his way up the ranks these last few years, Aidan described how spending so much time with such different people on the golf course has been an education for him. Aidan also noted how much he has grown in confidence (and stamina) as he has learned to carry two bags as well as to endure the early mornings and long days. Aidan admitted that having to work has given him a new appreciation of the value of a dollar!
Cecelia Tarantino ’19: In what began as a rather simple discussion with her mother about dressing for the cold, Cecilia guided her classmates through a reflection not only on how we dress but, more importantly, on how we perceive others based on how they dress. Cecelia noted that there is a “double-standard” regarding expectations for women and men, rightly pointing out that many blame women for the way that men react to what women wear. Cecilia also explained that what we choose to wear is part of the freedom of self-expression.
William Miguel ’20: William shared with his classmates the truly inspiring story of Mary Kellerman, an alumna of Mount St. Joseph Academy, Class of 1964, who has dedicated her life to making sure that people have access to adequate dental care. A locally and nationally recognized dental hygienist, Mary is a tireless advocate for better oral health care on behalf those who struggle to afford it, and she has made a numerous service trips to developing countries, offering her skills to the most marginalized. As Will concluded, “Mary is a hero.”
Minsang (Sam) Lee ’20: Using an strong outline rather than reading a finished paper—a technique that proved to be very effective in engaging his audience—Sam recalled the adventure he had in traveling from his school in China to Yale University for a major debate tournament. Recounting how, because of travel snafus, they were not able to sleep much (if at all) before the first round, Sam recalled fondly how the team came together, focused on the challenge, and eventually earned 3rd place among a very competitive group of schools.
Ellie Cotton ’20: Recalling what it was like for her family to move from Grafton to Boston when she was in middle school, Ellie noted how much she appreciated the supportive, kind, and caring group of friends she had in her old school and former town, and she expressed gratitude for still being connected to them in some ways. Ellie then shared how much she had enjoyed—and learned and grown from—this experience, even expressing gratitude for the move. Ellie concluded her speech by encouraging her classmates to be open to change!
on Wednesday January 25
Emma DiMarino ’17: Reflecting on turning the calendar to 2017, and on recognizing that this would be her year of graduation from high school, Emma focused on the “resolutions” she is making. Emma admitted that she is a creature of habit who, like most of us, likes the comfort of routine. However, in looking back at the times she has grown the most, Emma saw she has learned much from moments of uncertainty and unpredictability. Therefore, she encouraged her classmates to appreciate these last few months at SJP, and to step out of their comfort zones to create new “firsts” that accompany the inevitable “lasts.”
John-Michael Louis ’17: Acknowledging that he was not at all looking forward to giving his final Chapel Speech, and that he was at a loss for a compelling subject, John-Michael shared that he was “struck by inspiration” when his younger sister, Anaise, came bursting into his room just as he was contemplating a topic. John-Michael delivered a wonderfully mature, authentic, and insightful reflection on his relationship with Anaise, noting that while his future dorm room of “peace and quiet” seems like a dream, he really will miss the person who has “always been there” for him. The Uber fare story was hysterical!
Theresa Sandbrook ’17: With her rich vocabulary and exemplary writing skills, Theresa took a creative approach, writing a letter to her younger self. Theresa recalled specific moments when she has, in retrospect, gained a different perspective on life. She reflected on doing an art project as a child and also on learning to kayak when she was a bit older; in both instances, she recounted in vivid detail how she internalized the moment then… and on how she sees the moment now. She concluded by stating that it is not the awards and accolades that make the difference, but the personal grit and determination to succeed.
Megan Bane ’18: Reflecting on the oft-asked question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Megan recalled all of the things she has wanted to do—from fashion design to nursing. Megan shared that even the most exciting of these possibilities brought with it the prospect of negative feedback, which made her anxious. But Megan then realized she does not really need an answer to this question now; after all, most students enter college as “undeclared” and change majors while in college, and most folks under 40 will have no fewer than 10 jobs! So, why not take a chance to experiment with all kinds of opportunities?
Judith Zhu ’18: Judith chose to take her classmates through her journey from China to the U.S., a journey that began when she was only 15 and travelled, by herself, to study at a school in New Jersey… all on her own. Admitting that she avoided the daunting, difficult, and comprehensive “promotion” test in her home country, Judith shared that she faced an even greater challenge now—learning a new language and adapting to a new culture. Having met that challenge, and even gone further in seeking excellence by coming to SJP, Judith encouraged her classmates to follow her father’s advice and “seek the challenge.”
on Tuesday January 10
Jack Brooks ’17: Jack began with sharing, “It’s crazy how much things change over time,” and then reflected on how his brother’s journey and his own journey have changed. From his brother’s “turning things around” in college to his own maturing from the “tall, super lanky freshmen with a pretty bad bowl haircut,” Jack injected both humor and wisdom in sharing what he has learned from his experience. Jack concluded by encouraging his senior classmates to see next year as a new start—a chance to become the person you want to be.
Ruolin Zhang ’17: Ruolin recalled her memories of being together with her classmates for almost four years. From cooking spicy Chinese food that “turned my friends’ faces red and left them frantically grabbing for water,” to having fun at Prom and Homecoming, Ruolin shared a variety of great stories. Ruolin gave a number of “shout-outs” to her comrades; from art to drama to AP Chem, they have inspired her. She noted how the Tennis Team was one of her favorite activities, and how she is grateful to everyone for being a part of SJP.
Sharon King ’17: Recalling her adventures at the Charles River Canoe facility in Waltham, Sharon talked about the challenges of being one of the few young women working in a very male-dominated environment. With poise and grace, Sharon told the story of dealing with an incredibly difficult, very chauvinistic customer who was both sarcastic and demeaning to her. Sharon noted how her male colleagues supported her that day, reminding her that she did everything right, and yet regretted the fact that these kinds of things still happen.
Rachel Rosato ’17: Reflecting on her relationship with her grandmother, and on how that relationship has grown in recent months, Rachel encouraged her classmates to spend time with the people they love—especially their grandparents—because those opportunities will not always be there. Rachel recounted how she has actually “reconnected” with her grandmother, especially through helping to care for her after a recent surgery, and she described how this has helped her to have a clearer, more mature perspective on life.
Vova Quigley ’17: Vova chose to share something of the relationship he has with his younger brother, recalling the many pranks, jokes, and tricks they have played on each other over the years. Noting that sometimes their relationship is simply based on rather silly, even juvenile stunts, Vova observed that this often makes it difficult to communicate about serious topics and honest feelings; indeed, many men understand this problem. Vova’s humor was good-natured, and the memories certainly entertained his classmates.
Jimmy Sitcawich ’17: In one of the most powerful and impactful speeches of the year, Jimmy shared with his classmates the relationship he has with a very special young person. This young person, who has faced numerous personal and family challenges, has been a “hero” to Jimmy because of the way that he has courageously and relentlessly battled these challenges. Strong, honest, loyal, and empathetic, Jimmy demonstrated to his classmates what true friendship is all about, and his authentic reflection truly inspired his audience.
Jahyi Aubry ’18: Jahyi spoke about, potentially, one of the most precious commodities in a high school student’s life—sleep! Jahyi reflected on how most teenagers (indeed, most adults) do not get enough sleep, and he shared good data on how this lack of sleep is not just unhealthy—it is harmful. While some glibly respond, “I’ll sleep in the next life,” Jahyi pointed how that lack of sleep can lead to lost productivity, lack of focus, increased stress, and high blood pressure. Jahyi noted that our chances of success are better with sleep.
Johnny Varadan ’18: Johnny examined the college application process from the unique perspective of two of his older brothers. Johnny noted how each brother took a different approach to the process, one doing very little researching, comparing, visiting, etc., and the other doing a great deal of planning and preparation. Ironically, the brother who did the former had a terrific experience while the brother who did the latter is less than happy with his choice. The bottom line, said Johnny, is that we each have to make our way here.
Arianys Diaz ’18: Arianys acknowledged that in each of her previous Chapel Speeches, she has reflected on an important member of her family; this year, it is her father. Reflecting on a most memorable trip to Disney World when she was only a few years old, Arianys joyfully recalled how proud her father was to be able to provide such a thrilling experience for his family. Arianys shared eloquently and powerfully how blessed she feels to have both of her parents, together, in her life, and on the special bond of trust she has with her doting dad.
Brendan Sutliff ’19: In one of the most humorous speeches of the year, Brendan took us on the journey of his first job—from the “heart to heart” his mother had with him about the need for him to find employment to the daily challenges he faced with the little campers at the local YMCA. Brendan brought his classmates to tears of laughter recounting his less-than-stellar-strategy during the interview, as well as with his stories of how the children created chaos. In the end, it was obvious that “Mr. Brendan” was an awesome counselor.
Bryan Martinez ’19: Recalling a rather ordinary ride on the “T” with many of his friends, Bryan shared how this became not-so-ordinary when one of his comrades surprised the group by stating that he might “give up” being Dominican. Bryan responded strongly to his friend, arguing that being proud of one’s heritage is essential… and that he should never talk about “abandoning” his Dominican culture. Bryan argued clearly and persuasively that our differences are what make us unique, and that pride in our individual origins is sacred.
Holly Callen ’19: Sharing the blessings of being part of a large family, Holly chose to focus on one particular relationship—the one with her next oldest sibling. Holly reflected well on what is has been like to be the “younger, annoying, attention-seeking sister,” and on how much her brother has been like a role model for her. Noting that she respects and admires her brother for his strong work ethic and genuine care and compassion, Holly expressed heartfelt gratitude that despite age and distance, she and her brother are really connected.
Emmanuella Rene’19: In a thoughtfully crafted and wonderfully delivered speech that integrated both personal introspection and philosophical reflection, Emmanuella talked about the stereotypes that, even today, still influence perceptions of others. Emmanuella noted how, despite her generation’s claim to be “open minded” and “non-judgmental,” she continually sees people judge others based on appearance and body type. She wisely noted that while we encourage folks to “be themselves,” we don’t want them to be “too different.”
Joseph Blundo ’19: Joey acknowledged that he struggled to find a topic, but then went on to speak maturely, honestly, and perceptively about a rather tough subject—the difficulty of changing schools. Recalling what it was like to switch schools in early grammar school, Joey remembered how self-conscious he felt… and how much it made a difference when he made his first friend at his new school. Joey compared that transition to moving from middle school to high school, encouraging his SJP classmates to reach out to one another.
Alexandra Salguero ’20: Alexandra took this occasion to talk about visiting with her extended family—and especially with her grandmother—in their native Guatemala. A most inspiring, even heroic figure in Alexandra’s life, Alexandra’s grandmother made tremendous sacrifices to bring her family to this country. As Alexandra noted, while the food, the scenery, and the culture were wonderful in Guatemala, it was really the company of her grandmother that made the difference; “she is part of who I am,” said Alexandra.
David Spinelli ’20: David focused his remarks on the trips he has taken to Mexico to be with his extended family there. Recalling with vivid detail the long, mountainous bus rides and the warm, humid weather, David noted that he was not always thrilled to make the journey to the Mexican countryside. But David recalled how his experiences have helped to shape his understanding of his culture, and he noted how much he appreciates some of the modern convenience here—such as good drinking water... and excellent Wi-Fi coverage!
Melissa Vallucci ’20: Reflecting on her time at St. Peter’s School in Cambridge, Melissa focused on one particular relationship she had with a classmate—her “twin” in the class. Melissa spoke of how their relationship grew over the years, with the two of them spending most of their waking hours in one of their homes, finishing each other’s sentences, and know each other’s thoughts—quite a feat, given that her “twin” was from Argentina and transferred late to St. Peter’s. Fortunately, Melissa was blessed to visit “Isa” in Argentina!
Andrew Cooper ’20: Speaking on the importance of being open to change, Andrew began his terrific speech with a quote from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans and concluded with a reminder to all of us that we must not let fear prevent us from pursuing new opportunities. Andrew used as an example the experience he had at a summer camp in Maine, where he was encouraged to become more independent, and to try everything, from golf to water skiing. Andrew noted that the food might have been better, but that the kids were good.
Lindsey Freeman ’20: Going all the way back to her early childhood, Lindsey recalled with great joy (and surprising clarity) a family trip to Disney World. From the lunches and dinners with the beloved Disney characters to the amazing fire works display during the Main Street Parade, Lindsey shared how much this “first vacation” stood out for her. Lindsey was grateful to her parents for providing this “magical” experience for their family, and she recalled with particular fondness her fun time with “Chef Mickey” and company.
Alyssa Moreira ’20: Speaking on her annual journey to her native Brazil, Alyssa reflected on how much these trips mean to her. Noting that the flight is long (as is the ensuing car ride), Alyssa shared how the time she has spent with her great-grandmother has been so rewarding, in part because she gets new insights on her mother and grandmother! Alyssa wisely reflected that it is actually a blessing to be without Wi-Fi and social media, and that even though there is sadness when leaving, the joy of connecting with family is so worth it.
on Tuesday December 20, 2016 at 11:24AM
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