Private All Girls School

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Princeton, New Jersey

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To the Stuart Class of 2024 on your Prize Day

The eighth grade class is at a turning point in their lives as they move on to high school in a world that is in turmoil. This group has the strength and passion to be change-makers and leaders to guide our youth through these next few years. In his closing remarks at this morning’s eighth grade reflection, Head of Middle School Robert Missonis charged the class to “hold on to your instinct to care for the suffering and to put others' needs before your own. It is clear that our nation is in dire need of Sacred Heart leaders like you who understand the principles of self-sacrifice, empathy, and service.” Below is the transcript of Mr. Missonis' full speech to the class: 

Welcome to Stuart virtually and welcome to celebrating the accomplishments of these wonderful girls.

It has not always been easy, and your grade did it in its own unique fashion, but you made it. Your class will leave having made a profound impact on Stuart’s Middle School and me. The road to this day was not always smooth and was often filled with challenges to overcome- and that was before the emergence of a global pandemic- but no matter what came your way - this grade rallied as a unit, supported one another as a family and found a way to always move forward. Whether through a hug, some weird arm spasms which you would tell me was a TikTok dance, or offering of unconditional support - time and time again, I watched as you would look out for each other and take care of each other. There were certainly times of drama (and I don’t mean your amazing performance of Frozen), frustration, or misunderstandings- those are part of life - but these were usually followed by forgiveness, laughter, and sisterhood. As you are heading off to high school and taking your next step closer to the real world, I ask that you hold on to your instinct to care for the suffering and to put others' needs before your own.

Two hundred years ago, Mother Sophie Barat said, “What times we live in! We have two extremes before our very eyes: the view of unbridled luxury which swallows up wealth and yields instant pleasure. And alongside those crazy expenses, there are thousands, I ought to say millions, of people of every class and every age and of every condition, who are dying of hunger.” Sophie had just witnessed ten years of the French Revolution. She watched political upheaval, oppression, and the Catholic Church in France be shut down and its followers persecuted. Her own brother was arrested and served two years in jail and was slated for execution for failing to renounce his faith. It was in a safe house where she had hidden her faith throughout the revolution that she formed the Sacred Heart order to educate girls in a time of darkness to be a force of change, justice, and to help lead society out of dark times of oppression. She chose to stop hiding -- to stand up and create what she believed in -- and thousands of Sacred Heart students and faculty around the world are still benefitting from that choice more than two centuries later.

It is clear that our nation is in dire need of Sacred Heart leaders like you who understand the principles of self-sacrifice, empathy, and service. Issues of structural racism, mass socio-economic inequality, police brutality, and global climate change are just a few of the massive challenges that face your generation. In the past month, we have seen multiple incidents of racial violence against Black Americans which are upsetting and horrifying. Yet these types of incidents have been far more common than most realize, and it is because almost everyone now carries a video camera in their pocket that we have a deeper knowledge of what our Black brothers and sisters have known for generations - that structural racism is unjust, violent, and deadly. The protests that we are seeing all over the country and all over the world are inclusive of people of all races, ethnicities, ages, and backgrounds. Young people are organizing and leading many of these efforts, and they are winning reforms at the state and local levels all over the country.  Ms. Hayes and Ms. McLaughlin have prepared you well through Civics to get engaged.   After spending four years with you, I know that you, too, can build something as just and lasting as Sophie did in the midst of similar turmoil.

 I have watched you go from fifth graders frightened to get a yellow slip to eighth graders ready to bound into my office with a list of things you think I mishandled! You were not timid to challenge the status quo. As you go out into the world as young women to conquer high school, college, and beyond, continue to share your joy, your love, and your empathy with all who need it. When you see someone who needs you- step in and step up. Put your incredible talents to use to help make the world more like you. Our journey has had more twists and turns than Nitro at Great Adventure at last year’s Congé, but it is now time to get off - stronger, ready for the next step, and maybe a little dizzy. Selfishly, I will miss you, but I know the world needs you, so I have to let you grow up. The Middle School faculty and I love you and urge you that no matter how uncool it looks to visit us when Stuart’s doors reopen as we want to hear from you and all of the amazing things you are about to do. Good luck!


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