As we all approach a new school year with anticipation, these words of wisdom from our 2017 Valedictorian Madeline Beaulieu ring true, offer encouragement to our new students and inspire our entire community for another amazing year at The Maine Girls’ Academy…
“Today is a great day to be a Lion! We are celebrating the first graduating class to carry forward our new name, The Maine Girls’ Academy, and the last graduating class to have Catherine McAuley High School on our diplomas as well. We know a name is just a name whether it be Cathedral High School, St. Joseph’s Academy, McAuley or MGA — and it is the spirit and the heart of all those involved that make our school such a special and beloved place. We still adorn our plaid skirts every day; Sister Edward Mary still patrols the halls with her eagle eye, searching for uniform infractions; and The Lion’s Den still smells of freshly baked cookies every afternoon.
As we sit here today dressed in our caps and gowns, proud of our journey and this great milestone we have reached together, we can think back to the first day we arrived in our plaid skirts at the front door of 631 Stevens Avenue — all from different backgrounds, but we had a few things in common: we wanted to be challenged; we wanted to excel; and we, more than anything, wanted to succeed.
The Maine Girls’ Academy has made it instinctive for us to never settle — to reach further than we think possible. We are encouraged every day to strive, to challenge ourselves and to not be afraid to try. With our education empowering us, we have learned to focus on everything that is possible. In the words of Martin Luther King, “You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”
In society today we have become accustomed to quick fixes — having answers at the snap of our fingers, getting results ASAP. Although I have nothing against Google and would actually be quite lost without it, this isn’t how real learning works. As I’m sure my fellow classmates seated here behind me know, what we have accomplished is no easy feat. We can all attest to the amount of blood, sweat, and tears that went into earning these diplomas we are now clutching in our hands. The late nights that turn into early mornings as you’re still churning out pages of your history paper, wondering what you were thinking telling guidance “Oh no, I can handle that fourth AP class, really it won’t be a problem;” and let’s not forget midterms and finals week when you sleep in your skirt and polo, knowing by the time you stop hitting snooze you’ll hopefully have enough time to brush your teeth before running out the door.
At MGA, our faculty is committed to our success. We don’t all learn alike and we don’t all process information in the same way which is why you can always find a teacher willing to explain a concept differently or to take a tactical learning approach when necessary. With our teachers’ guidance, we have come to the realization that there isn’t any quick and easy way to attain true knowledge. Sure, you could probably learn how to do long division after watching a short lesson on Khan Academy; but there’s no 60 second Youtube video that will provide you with the same educational experience that we have been fortunate enough to receive at The Maine Girls’ Academy. Here is where courage, strength, and creativity blossom. Here we’ve learned resilience, we’ve learned self-discipline, we’ve learned the ability to take initiative. Our teachers have instilled within us a thirst for knowledge and a hunger for achievement that we will carry with us. They’ve provided us with the building blocks of an education — a stable foundation that will enable us to learn long into the future.
I loved when my Nana, at the age of 83, asked me to teach her how to use “the Facebook” so she could see what all of her grandchildren, nieces, and nephews were up to. Even in this simple example, we see how learning is a lifelong skill that needs to be continually used and developed. And with the fire for knowledge that this school has instilled within each of us, I am confident that this flame will never flicker out.
Not only has life in the classroom readied us to tackle whatever the future may bring, but the lessons we’ve learned on the courts, the stage, the fields and in the pool have cemented this resiliency within us, as well. At MGA, girls are encouraged to be well-rounded and to try new things without the fear of failure holding them back. Our committed coaches and club moderators have all played a crucial role in our development. They’ve taught us discipline, dedication, determination while never forgetting the importance of having fun. Where else would you find the faculty and staff up on stage competing in our Homecoming Dance Competition, jamming out to, “We’re All In This Together.” They’ve encouraged us to push ourselves far beyond what we thought possible — who would have thought that two of our teams would make it to their sport’s respective playoffs, or that our swimmers would break state records, or that our track athletes would win state titles in pole vaulting, or that our clubs would collectively raise thousands of dollars for their various philanthropies. I know our faculty, moderators, coaches, and staff are all beaming with pride as they look up at the stage, and as well they should because without their dedication and commitment we wouldn’t be where we are today. They’ve all embodied the spirit of MGA — modeling integrity, authenticity, and fairness each and every day.
When my classmates and I arrived in our freshly pleated skirts and perfectly white polos on our first day of high school, we were hoping to find a place where we would be challenged and empowered, a place where friendships would grow and flourish, a place we could call home. And that is exactly what we found. I’m sure many of my classmates will agree with me when I say that I wouldn’t change my high school experience for the world.
The opportunities we’ve received, the memories we’ve made, along with the love and support of our families have shaped us into the people we are today. We feel equipped to tackle the future and whatever it may hold for we have learned to be confident thinkers, compassionate leaders, and purposeful change makers.
And that’s what we hope for all the current and future students of MGA: take advantage of everything this school has to offer, keep trying, experimenting, and aspiring, and live each day like it’s the last in your plaid.”
“Class of 2017,
Behind us, we have our memories.
Before us, our dreams.
Around us, all those who love us.
And within us, all we need.”