The 122nd Commencement of The Ursuline School on May 24, 2019 was a joyful occasion.
Principal Rosemary M. Beirne welcomed those assembled and introduced the trustees in attendance. After the invocation by Msgr. Keane, the senior members of our Honors Choir led the singing of the Star Spangled Banner.
Valedictorian Naomi Koh looked to the future and declared, "Ursuline has taught us to seek empathy, understanding and common ground. In a country divided by race, religion, and political party, in a world afflicted by hatred, war, and violence, Ursuline has encouraged us to love one another, strive for peace, and protest injustice. In an era of uncertainty and misinformation, Ursuline has taught us to be critical thinkers and to find light in the darkest of times."
Naomi thanked the parents, school administration and then directed these words to the faculty: "Thank you also to our teachers, who have had unwavering patience and faith in us, even after explaining the same concept maybe twenty seven times and still hearing, "Wait, I don't get it."
The importance of your work cannot be overstated; you are the ones who inspire the next generation, teaching us not only how to solve differential equations or write a thesis that actually answers the question, but also how to persevere through difficult times; how to be a good leader, citizen and friend; and how to never give up on ourselves."
Principal Beirne then called each graduate's name and President Eileen Davidson handed her the diploma. As the graduates descended the stairs from the stage, daughters of alumnae were greeted by their mothers.
The 180 members of this class earned more than $28 million in college scholarships. The have exhibited many different talents and a great deal of hard work and perseverance. At graduation, Assistant Principals Denise Moore and Liz Lynch announced a number of Awards and Honors.
Global Scholars: Sofia Bishop, Milena Fava-Pastilha, Bianca McIver, and Kyla McLeod.
Serviam Awards for service to the school in the spirit of St. Angela:
Sofia Bishop, Jessica Brij-Raj, Caitlin Conly, Christiana Corporon, Jena Guilfoyle, Christiana Kelly, Natalia Matar, Bianca McIver, and Megan McPartlan.
Classics – Meghan Hanley.
Computer Science – Naomi Koh.
English – Deanna Rahman.
Mathematics – Naomi Koh.
Performing Arts – Amanda Moss.
Physical Education – Gianna Cavallaro.
Religious Studies – Sarah Flynn.
Science – Nicole Frontera.
Social Studies – Jenna Kriegel, Kristen Sohr.
Visual Arts – Cameron Natkin.
World Languages: French – Alexandra Sayegh, Italian – Sara Zanotti, Spanish – Jillian Pearson
President Davidson's address encouraged the graduates to "take risks - educated risks - ones that will stretch you to reach your fullest potential as an individual: Take a course simply because it interests you. If and when the opportunity presents itself, don't shy away from public speaking, especially if the thought of it sends you into a mild panic attack as it once did for me! Think of exploring a new career path - perhaps one you had never even considered. In the words of John Henry Newman: "To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often."
Photo here are by Chris Pope of Pope Photography. We invite you to see more photos at Lohud.com
If you were anywhere in the New Rochelle area on the afternoon of May 17, 2019, you likely heard the thunderous applause and cheering by students as President Eileen Davidson shared plans of the Innovation Campaign that will transform the school. Ursuline cheerleaders got the crowd in the spirit as students and faculty entered the Tully Family Auditorium - Gymnasium.
Mrs. Davidson revealed the virtual tour video of the build. It thrilled students as they imagined the impact these new learning spaces will have on their academic experience. Ursuline’s legendary Faculty Band closed the celebration with a sensational set of songs including John Lennon’s Imagine - and that they did!
Evening was the parents’ turn to join the launch party. Ursuline parents were thrilled to learn exciting details about the Campaign. A highlight of the evening was a preview of the Innovation Campaign website which included the involvement of computer graphic design students under the direction of Director of Communications Renata Cioth Mulder and Graphic Art teacher Meg LaBella. Parents, too, were treated to a set by the Faculty Band. Then the celebration moved to the cafeteria to get a close look at architectural drawings and pose questions. Parents also heard about the opportunity to purchase a named hexagon to be installed in the iHub in honor of their daughter(s) or to recognize their family’s connection to Ursuline.
Ursuline has always been a leader in technology, curriculum, pedagogy and school programming. It is now time for our facilities to match the highest level of teaching and learning happening at the school. Education has moved in electrifying new directions and technology is ever changing. We know that girls learn best by doing. The creation of a 2,100 square foodInnovation Hub, or iHub, will be built specifically to meet their creative, inventive and design needs.
We know students work collaboratively. The new lobby and Murphy Student Commons will allow them to gather for projects, to eat and to socialize. Ursuline students are interconnected globally in extraordinary ways. The new High-tech Media Conference Center will support critical global connectivity with ease. The seminar
This multi-million-dollar Campaign will expand the footprint of the school by nearly 8,600 square feet, and an additional 2,300 square feet will be renovated. Our hashtag #TUSTimeIsNow certainly captures the spirit of this time. This is a moment for parents, alumnae, grandparents and friends to share in the joy, and to make a difference. Celebrate with us, support the Innovation Campaign, and tell friends and family about this transformative build which will benefit Ursuline students in anticipated as well as in unimaginable ways!
The Ursuline School community is deeply saddened by the passing of former trustee and Ursuline parent Edward Merrigan on May 9, 2019 after a tenacious battle against cancer. We hold his family and friends in prayer.
Ed, an Army veteran, completed two tours of duty in Vietnam and received the Combat Infantry Badge, the Bronze Star and multiple Army Commendation Awards. He then enjoyed a long career in health care financial analysis during which he mentored numerous young people.
Ed's Ursuline connections began as the parent of three Ursuline alumnae, daughters Eileen '00, Deirdre '02, and Maureen '04. Ed became an enthusiastic champion of all-girls' Catholic education and specifically Ursuline. He served on the "Fulfilling the Promise" Campaign cabinet, the largest fundraising campaign at Ursuline to date which was successfully completed in 2013. Ed also served as an Ursuline School trustee and Chair of the Finance Committee. He consistently encouraged the Administration to "think big" just as he counseled his daughters.
Ed and his wife, Betty, were loyal and generous donors. They unfailingly supported the CROWDS4TUS giving day by sponsoring a challenge grant. Even at this time of sadness, Ed's family suggests that in lieu of flowers donations may be made to The Ursuline School for a scholarship fund to be established in his memory. Ed also happily spoke at Ursuline events about the importance of the Annual Fund. His good nature and sense of humor were always appreciated, and when it came to Ursuline matters, he was totally committed. A gentleman and a scholar, he will be greatly missed.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace. Amen.
More than 1.38 million students at 39,000 schools in North America competed in the Vocabulary Bowl to see which schools can master the most words. From October 1, 2018 to April 30, 2019 our students mastered 101,189 words!
The Ursuline School achieved the number 1 spot in NY State in our division, and 26th place among all high schools in North America. Every Ursuline student played a part in this outstanding achievement. The high number of words mastered reflects the students’ hard work and perseverance as well as the willingness of faculty to try new forms of teaching and learning.
Teachers and students both love this Vocabulary Bowl which led us to replace paper vocabulary workbooks with this online adaptive learning game! Why?
Students are learning, not just memorizing words. This is due to the structure of the learning game which offers up words as synonyms or antonyms, in sentences, or in the context of a paragraph. Students can also listen to how words are pronounced. The goal is to nudge each student ahead, according to her level of knowledge, delivering questions that are challenging, not too hard or too easy.
Students have said that the program forces them to think about vocabulary in a different, more authentic way. They love the quizzes, too! They love that they can see their grade immediately. The consensus is that the online quizzes are better than paper ones. Teachers like the quizzes as well, in particular, that the students get immediate feedback and teachers can spend time on other responsibilities rather than grading vocabulary.
The lists of vocabulary words can be tailored to relate to the material being discussed in any class. However, the teachers in our English Department took the lead in using this online adaptive learning game which harnessed the power of friendly competition to motivate learning and achievement. Often lists have been created by another teacher in the U.S. For example, if our teacher seeks a list of words relating to "The Great Gatsby," she can find one already created by teachers around the country. Students can create their own lists, whether to study for the SAT or a 6th grade quiz.
Vocabulary Bowl is fun! Classes often review words by doing Vocabulary Jams: timed contests in which students on teams answer questions as they review words. Some students have created their own Vocabulary Jams and face-timed with each other to review from home. That was definitely not happening with paper work books!
On May 1, 2019 we celebrated as seven more members of the Class of 2019 committed to extending their athletic careers next year at the collegiate level. They join 13 other members of the Class of 2019 who have previously signed.
Christina Caruso will Row at Fairfield University;
Grace Maistre will Row at Sacred Heart University;
Bianca McIver will Row at College of the Holy Cross;
Kacee Mulligan will Run at Southern Connecticut State University;
Aili Sacco will play Softball at Dean College;
Kerry Sheridan will Swim at Providence College;
Annie Woodtli will play Field Hockey at Fairfield University.
We are very proud of the commitment of our dedicated student-athletes. They also work hard as visual artists, global scholars, peer ministers, and compassionate community volunteers. Congratulations to these young women and their families!
We continued our year-long focus on the topic of Global Displacement by hosting on April 1, 2019 Mr. George Khoury, Director of the Middle East & North Africa Division at the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in New York. Our Model UN Undersecretary General, Lorelei Wolf, introduced Mr. Khoury to the student assembly. Members of our Model UN club, Global Education Coordinator Maria Barton, and President Eileen Davidson are pictured here with our speaker.
Mr. Khoury educated us about the 68 million forcibly displaced people around the world. He helped us understand the difference between Internally Displaced Persons (who are the largest group, staying in their home country) and refugees who flee to another country where international law applies.
Mr. Khoury discussed the humanitarian aid that displaced people need due to armed conflict and natural disasters - both causes for people to leave their homes.
We were moved by the UN video interviews of displaced persons around the world, who yearn to live in a safe place.
Our exploration of this important issue extends throughout the curriculum and across many disciplines.
Ursuline TeenAngel Laina Campos '19 superbly represented our school and presented important perspectives at the United Nations in March 2019. Laina was a panelist at the UN Roundtable "Driving digital inclusion - What does it mean and what is working?" The event was sponsored by ITU, the United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies.
Hosted by the Ambassador of Montenegro, the roundtable brought together experts to assist as the UN explores innovative approaches that drive digital inclusion in support of achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals are an urgent call for action by all countries as they recognize that ending poverty and other deprivations must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth – all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests. Digital Inclusion refers to steps that ensure that all individuals and communities, including the most disadvantaged, have access to and use of information and communication technologies, including support and training.
Laina was chosen as a panel member based on her extensive experience over the past 5 years as a TeenAngel, which means she has been trained to assist peers in understanding the world of online safety, security and privacy as well as teaching methods to avoid dangers while using the internet. Panelists were asked to give their definition of what digital inclusion is and then asked what is working and what is not.
Laina stated, “As more and more people are included in the digital world, my main concern is that people use it in a safe and secure way . . . Since young people have access to technology, it is important that they are aware that their actions online can deeply affect the bright futures that they have ahead of them.”
Laina raised four main points:
- There is a lot of fake news out there. We want to make sure that people who use the technology know the difference between real news versus fake news. We seem to live in a world where we need to make the decision of what’s true and what’s not. We tend to never know the point of view when it comes to the internet.
- We need to make sure that young people, especially those who are special in some way, feel safe and included when they are engaged in digital use.
- We need to make sure that English isn’t the only language on the internet since not everyone speaks English. We need to make sure that good ideas flow across language whatever they may be. We want to emphasize that the digital world is truly global.
- As more and more people are included and gain access to the internet, we want to make sure that they are safe and understand the pitfalls of the internet, including the potential to be a platform for cyberbullying and for real inappropriate behavior like sexting.
The Ursuline School chapter of TeenAngels began 13 years ago under the direction of Ms. Parry Aftab, Executive Director of WiredSafety.org, the world's largest online safety and help organization and a 501(c)(3) corporation. TeenAngels are volunteers who have been specially trained in all aspects of online safety, privacy and security. Once trained, TeenAngels speak to students and parents to promote Internet safety and cyberbullying awareness and prevention.
Our student-athletes not only excel in their competition but in their academics! Congratulations to our Winter Athletes as it was announced on March 22, 2019 that all 4 of our Varsity teams have been recognized as New York State Public Athletic Association Scholar-Athlete Teams, meaning that 75% of each team has an average GPA of 90% or better! The team averages ranged from 95.83 to 98.67!
Congratulations to Lily Flynn '19 who was recognized as the Section 1 Sportsmanship winner at the NY State Championships and then was named as the MileSplit New Balance Indoor Nationals Girls Performer of The Week based on her outstanding performance at the Nationals earning over 52% of the votes! Click HERE to the article on milesplit.com.
Congratulations to Sonia Citron '21 and Alexa Mustafaj '21 who were named to the basketball Section 1 All-Tournament team!
Post Season Round Up
Our Winter Sports post-season finale was played out at the sectional, state, and national level. Basketball Varsity A played for the Section Championship. Our cheerleaders competed at States. Our 4x800m relay team and two 1000m runners competed for state and national titles.
Varsity Basketball advanced to the Section 1 Class AA Championship where they faced eventual State Champion, Ossining. Despite going down by as much as 23 points in the first half, the Koalas clawed their way back to within 3 points late in the game much to the delight of the huge Ursuline crowd, but eventually came up short, 67-78.
Sonia Citron led the Koalas with 29 pts/12 reb/2 assists while Alexa Mustafaj chipped in with 19 pts/6 reb/4 assists and Alexa Quirolo had 12 pts/6 reb/2 assist.
The Ursuline Varsity Cheerleaders culminated their amazing season at the NYSPHSAA State Championships at the Rochester Institute of Technology on Saturday, March 2. They competed in the D1 (Large School) Small team Division and were in 5th place after the first round. The Koalas had a near perfect performance, but a 1.25 deduction prevented them from competing in Finals. The girls and coaches are grateful for all of the support they have received from their Ursuline friends, teachers, administration and family.
This is the 3rd year the NY State Championships has been held and the second year in a row that we have qualified after winning the Sectional Championship - ranking us first among all Section One, large School- small teams.
CONGRATULATIONS to our NY STATE CHAMPIONS, Lily Flynn 1000m and the 4x800m Relay of Daphne Banino, Sarah Flynn, Haley McLean and Lily Flynn!
The NYSPHSAA State Championship meet was certainly one for the history books for the Running Koalas. Lily Flynn entered the meet as the favorite to defend her 2018 NY State Championship in the 1000m while the 4x800m Relay was a favorite to win Ursuline's 1st ever Relay State Championship. Sarah Flynn joined Lily in the 1000m, running a very strong race among a very competitive field. Lily showed her dominance as she led the field from start to finish on the way to winning her 2nd STATE CHAMPIONSHIP! Listen to a post-race interview with Lily HERE.
After a short rest, Lily and Sarah were back on the track to team up with Daphne and Haley for the 4x800m Relay. The tough field challenged the Koalas but with each runner running a fantastic race, the team came out victorious, earning Ursuline's 1st EVER State Relay Championship. Listen HERE to a post-race interview with the winning champion relay team.
The New Balance Indoor Nationals saw the Koalas, running as the Koalas Track Club, turn in 3 All American performances, and winning a NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP!
On Friday, the Distance Medley Relay of Sarah Flynn, Casey Conroy, Haley McLean and Lily Flynn placed 4th, as Lily ran a 4:44 1600m anchor, taking the team from 9th place to 4th!
Saturday, the team of Daphne, Sarah, Haley and Lily followed up their 4x800m State Championship with a 4 x 1 Mile NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP, winning by 15 seconds, with a team average of 5:07 mile! Listen to a post race interview HERE.
The competition wasn't over for the Koalas as Haley, Sarah and Lily headed back to the track for the 4x800m where they teamed up with Claire Wilson, placing 2nd, and a silver medal and earning All American status.
After running 3 All-American performances, Lily took to the track for one final race of her high school indoor career, with an outstanding performance in the 800m on extremely tired legs, after 2 All American runs less than 23 hours earlier!
Listen HERE to a small piece of the Championship Weekend from a coach's perspective as MileSplit "Mic'd Up" Coach Jan Mitchell on this historic weekend for the longtime Koalas coach!
Ursuline welcomed activist and author Luong Ung on March 17, 2019 as the keynote speaker at our 6th annual Global Education & Serviam Symposium. This year's global education topic is Global Displacement.
Ms. Ung shared her story as a child of war in Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge invasion and genocide in the 1970s. Her message was profound and inspiring, highlighting resilience and strength in the face of forced displacement, violence and loss.
Ms. Ung told Ursuline students how vital our school motto of “educating, inspiring and empowering” truly is. “We must use our authentic voice to bring about true change in the world. Peace is an action, not a wish – and together we have exponential power to make lasting change.”
As a young girl sent from a refugee camp in Thailand to Vermont, she encountered some hardship and prejudice but also people who were kind, everyday heroes and who helped her overcome her anger and sorrow.
Ms. Ung encouraged the Ursuline community to never underestimate the value of being a kind, good and compassionate person of integrity.
Following her presentation to the school assembly, Ms. Ung generously spent time answering questions from students and speaking to local press, News 12 Westchester and Catholic New York. The link to the Catholic New York article is HERE. In the photo above, Ms. Ung is with students pursuing the Global Scholar distinction and leaders of our Amnesty International Club. Pictured below at left is Ms. Ung with Global Education Coordinator Maria Barton, Principal Rosemary Beirne, and President Eileen Davidson. Below at right, Ms. Ung is with members of our school newspaper staff, Unison.
Ms. Ung’s memoir, First They Killed My Father, became a 2017 Netflix Original Movie that she co-screen wrote with producer-director Angelina Jolie.
Ms. Ung was also one of the writers for the documentary "Girl Rising." In addition, for 10 years, she was the spokesperson for the "Campaign for a Landmine Free World," a project of the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation that co-founded the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and was co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997.
Ms. Ung's other books include Lucky Child: A Daughter of Cambodia Reunites with the Sister She Left Behind, and Lulu in the Sky: A Daughter of Cambodia Finds Love, Healing and Double Happiness.
The Global Education & Serviam Symposium at Ursuline is generously funded by a grant from The Edward E. Ford Foundation.
In the March 2019 issue of Westchester Magazine, the cover story was Why Send Your Child to Private School? The article points out that one reason families move to Westchester County is the many stellar public-school districts. Yet, the "choice to trade public for private is one many parents are making." In making this important decision, families consider a variety of educational factors. Ursuline is proud to be featured with Rye Country Day, German International, Masters, Hackley, Soundview Prep, and Archbishop Stepinac.
The reporting on Ursuline is presented below.
"Ursuline built that into me, that I wanted to be something more."
Adora Fou's middle daughter, Madeleine, wanted to attend The Ursuline School, an all-girls' Catholic prep school in New Rochelle, for a specific reason: She loves the mythology-infused Percy Jackson books and wanted to study Greek. Harrison, where they live, has excellent public schools, but ancient languages are not on the curriculum (though Mandarin is). That request was just the start, says Madeleine's mom: "She's done the Model UN; she's doing a film in film club, and she's excelling in Greek."
The spirit of St. Angela Merici, who founded the Ursuline order of nuns devoted to teaching, lives on at The Ursuline School. "The Ursulines have always been in the forefront of encouraging girls to try new things," says school president Eileen Davidson. "Our students are encouraged to be bold, to be fearless, to live a purposeful life."
At Ursuline, trying new things includes everything from coding to robotics to computer science. Many of its graduates have gone on to engineering schools. The school's growth philosophy encourages girls to try new things without fear of failure. "Girls can be very hard on themselves," says Francesca LaGumina, the school's World Languages chair, who sent all four of her daughters to Ursuline. "The Growth Mindset says it's okay to make mistakes, something boys have already mastered." LaGumina believes the single-sex approach means "every decision and every program is designed based on the needs of young women."
Before going to Ursuline, senior Julia Durkin, a tennis player, "never dreamed of being the president of the school or taking computer science. As a woman, coding is so empowering. I might minor in it in college. Ursuline built that into me, that I wanted to be something more.
The 145 students in The Ursuline School's Class of 2018 earned more than $30.9 million in college merit scholarships."
The full cover story, with photos, may be read online here:
Over the February 2019 mid winter break, 41 students and 10 faculty members explored five different countries on three separate continents!
Our eco scientists completed field research in the rainforest of Costa Rica and monitored sea turtles at Playa Blanca. The students’ efforts were focused on Hawksbill and Easter Pacific Green turtles through in-water studies, data collection and work with rescue and rehabilitation. Work was also completed on the mangrove ecosystems in efforts to restore the tropical trees that thrive in conditions in which most other timber could not thrive. Mangroves are key weapons in fighting climate change because of their ability to store vast amounts of carbon.
The Paris Exchange was hosted by our sister school, Sainte Ursule, where they had a chance to work with the Special Learners in their ULIS program, leading a variety of games and activities. Our New Rochelle students visited many sites including Palais Garnier, home of the Paris Opera. They enjoyed delicious crepes and had their portraits drawn in Montmartre, the former artists' village once inhabited by Picasso and Dalí.
The Australian Exchange first explored Sydney. They climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge and discovered Bondi Beach where they enjoyed a swim and viewed the magnificent cliffs. Bondi comes from the Aboriginal word "Boondi" which means "water breaking over rocks." Then they flew to Toowoomba and were welcomed by St. Ursula College.
Our two immersion groups devoted mornings to language classes and afternoons to local adventures and cultural excursions. The Italian Immersion students in Florence learned about that city’s rich history in gold artistry, dating back to 400BC when the Etruscans reigned. The group had the chance to go to some shops and have a special lesson on leather craft, gold stamping, and gold jewelry. Excursions outside Florence included the beautiful Basilica of St Francis in Assisi where they were treated to breathtaking views from the top of the mountain. The group also went to Rome. They toured the Sistine Chapel and were amazed by seeing in person the works of Michelangelo as well as the Vatican Museum.
After a morning of Spanish classes, the Spanish Immersion students took a trip out of Seville to the ancient Roman city of Italica. They also visited the beautiful city of Segovia which features the third largest cathedral in Spain. In Madrid, they had a wonderful visit to the Prado Museum where they saw the works of Francisco Goya and Diego Velazquez. An additional stop on their itinerary was Cordoba, an important Roman city and a major Islamic center in the Middle Ages.
We congratulate Ursuline senior Naomi Koh who has advanced to National Merit Finalist standing by scoring in the top 1 percent of the 1.6 million students who took the Preliminary SAT Test during their junior year.
Finalists compete for one of the 7,500 National Merit Scholarships. The scholarships total more than $31 million nationally. There are three types of Merit Scholarship awards — National Merit $2,500 Scholarships, Corporate-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards, and College-Sponsored Merit Scholarship awards.
All Finalists are evaluated on their academic record, their school's curricula and grading system, two sets of test scores, written recommendations, information about their activities and leadership, and their own essays. We wish Naomi well on the next step.