First day of high school, round 1
I will never forget the day when my mom drove me up the Hill for the first day of freshman orientation in 2008. In the car ride, my nerves were getting the best of me, and all these absolute thoughts were entering my mind. What if I don’t make any friends? What if people judge me? What if I made the wrong decision coming to Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy? My mom, realizing my anxiety and worry, presented me with a challenge. She said, “Meet five new girls today. When I pick you up this afternoon, you can tell me their names.” I remember thinking, how am I going to make five new friends in one day? (And remember their names!) I thought this was a very unrealistic goal, but I kept it in the back of my mind as I left the car and entered the campus as an official freshman.
The day was filled with laughter, smiles and excitement as we began to get acclimated at our new high school. We were all in this together, and I was taken aback by all the love, warmth and kindness provided by my fellow Tolog sisters, the faculty and the staff. The first day of orientation ended with an icebreaker in the gym. We all had our shoes in a circle, and we stood behind our pair, with one person in the middle. This middle person would say something like, “My favorite food is ice cream.” If you agreed with this statement, then you would run to a different pair of shoes. The point of the game is to get as many people moving as you can and to find things you have in common with others. The last person who doesn’t find a new shoe spot, is now the middle person. After a few rounds, I was in the middle! I said, “My favorite show is American Idol,” thinking that was a no-brainer; there’s got to be at least a few other people who love that show. There was silence. No one moved. I thought my worst nightmare might be coming true. Then after a few seconds, everyone started laughing, including me. This moment, which I thought was going to be complete embarrassment, resulted in laughter, inclusivity and fun. I picked a new “favorite,” got out of the middle and couldn’t stop giggling.
During my first day at FSHA, I felt encouraged and safe to be myself and speak my truth.
Fellow classmates approached me, and said “I love that you watch American Idol.” Some even hugged me, and it was a great conversation starter for quite some time. During my first day at FSHA, I felt encouraged and safe to be myself and speak my truth. Even if no one else watched my favorite show, I was embraced for who I was, and it was okay, maybe even “cool” to be different. I had never been to a place like that before. When my mom picked me up that afternoon, I couldn’t count the number of girls I had met as I recalled their names. This story still resonates with me, as it was just the beginning of the many special moments I experienced on the Hill. Moments of pure love, joy and acceptance. I cannot imagine my high school experience anywhere else.
I didn’t really know what campus ministry was until I came to FSHA. Ministry was offered in many forms on campus-prayer groups, masses, retreats, religious education, service, walks, etc. The school retreats opened my eyes to my spirituality and allowed me to feel closer to my classmates and God. One of the highlights of my high school experience was being on the Campus Ministry Leadership Team, previously known as LIFE. I was surrounded by a group of leaders passionate about ministry, empowering fellow Tologs to act with faith, integrity and truth. I felt so fulfilled being involved in this leadership role as an upperclassman and was consistently inspired by all the beautiful stories and faith journeys of Tologs.
First day of school, round 2
It never occurred to me that I would return as a religion teacher and campus minister at my alma mater, but God works in mysterious ways. At graduation I remember thinking to myself that I was not ready to leave this wonderful high school and my second home. But my four years were up, and it was time for my journey to continue elsewhere. I now talk to my students about this idea of a “calling” and when this job position opened, I guess you can say I felt called by Christ to apply.
On my first day of school as a faculty member, Sister Celeste provided me with a note that read, “Abby, welcome back home.” Reading this almost brought tears to my eyes because this journey came full circle, and I really did feel I had returned home. I feel lucky to have been given this opportunity to empower young woman through ministry. My students inspire me with their resilience, honesty and love of life. The girls I have the privilege to work with impress me daily, with leading by example and their willingness to be open, authentic and vulnerable. All the girls I have encountered never cease to amaze me.
Although I have come back to FSHA in a different role, this place still gives me the warm and fuzzies. 12