2013 Graduation and Senior Profiles

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Keynote Speaker Michael Reagan, with pastor Fr. Paul Sustayta and concelebrant Fr. Patrick Nwokeogu

On June 12, 2013, the baccalaureate mass and graduation ceremony for our eighth graders and high school seniors took place at St. Andrew Church in Pasadena. Fr. Paul Sustayta, pastor of St. Andrew’s, celebrated the Baccalaureate Mass. Mr. Michael Reagan, best-selling author and son of the late President Ronald Reagan, was our guest speaker. His moving anecdotes about the President, as well as his impassioned words of encouragement for the graduates, held every listener captive.

The highlight of the evening was senior Monica Golbranson’s valedictory address. It not only captured the essence of what makes our school good, but also reflected the literary quality that SMA tries to instill through its curriculum. Apart from its moving substance, the speech demonstrated how good students can absorb the beauty and rhetorical techniques of the great authors whose works they read. The speech appears below in its entirety:

“Good evening, Mr. Reagan, Fr. Sustayta, Mrs. Grimm, Mr. Golbranson, Board Members, teachers, parents, families, and friends. Thank you all for coming. To my fellow graduates, congratulations!

Together we’ve sailed with Odysseus, proved Euclid’s Propositions, collected bugs for our biology projects, explored D.C., traveled with Dante, translated Caesar and Vergil, learned the laws of nature in physics and natural law in moral theology, and discussed the American dream. We’ve performed Shakespeare, recited poetry, sung polyphony, won championships. We’ve quoted Disney movies, walked like velociraptors, consumed massive amounts of In-n-Out, baked literary confections, discussed the fear factor of tanks, and counted down the days until graduation. Well, here we are.

Before us now, we have one end, but so many beginnings. We’ll have new classes, new friends, new cities, new jobs, new responsibilities, new joys, new frustrations, new challenges, new failures, new successes. But we embark on these journeys to come with so much good in us, thanks to our time at St. Monica Academy, thanks to our teachers, families, and friends here. We’ve been taught to love beauty, to seek truth, and to strive for goodness; to read critically, and write clearly, and listen carefully, and discern wisely; to value faith, family, and friendship, and to see God in all things.

I know I don’t speak only for myself when I say that St. Monica Academy is one of the greatest blessings God has given me. It challenged me to strive for more than disinterested, unimpassioned mediocrity. It was here that I learned through the words and examples of my teachers and friends to love beauty and truth, to live with joy, to be involved, to ask “why” and “how,” to debate and listen and explain and defend, and most importantly, to live and love the faith.

On behalf of my classmates, thank you to our parents, for recognizing the good in St. Monica Academy and for sending us here. Thank you to the founders, Board, and benefactors, for striving to improve what is already so great. Thank you to the “behind-the-scenes” ladies in the office, for making sure everything gets done and for your constant cheerfulness. Thank you to our teachers, for inspiring us and challenging us, for making us want to understand, and for fueling the sometimes latent fire of curiosity within us.

I used to wonder why our school was named after St. Monica. After all, she didn’t found a religious order, write a treatise on philosophy, or develop arguments proving doctrines. Yet, she was to St. Augustine just what her academy is to its students—an example of goodness against worldly temptations, a voice of truth amidst a clamor of lies, a guide and a guardian leading to God.

And now, though we leave our alma mater, our nourishing mother St. Monica Academy, we hold in our hearts and minds memories, lessons, and friendships, and we set out into the world, armed with the shield of virtue and the sword of truth, to go and be excellent. Thank you.”

The following are individual profiles of the SMA Graduating Class of 2013:

Rachel Conover Arnall – National Merit Finalist and Winner of the National Merit Scholarship to Baylor University, Winner of the Regents’ Gold Scholarship, Winner of the Drama Medal, graduating with 1st honors and going to Baylor University.

David Thomas Blackwell – Winner of the Coach’s Award in Varsity Track & Field, recognized as a California Music Industry Summit Showcase Artist, going to Pasadena Community College.

Lillianna Craighead – Winner of the Visual Arts Medal, Winner of the University of St. Francis Provost’s Scholarship, graduating with 1st honors and going to the University of St. Francis in Indiana.

Kristen Marie Gates – Winner of the Religion Medal, All-CIF–Varsity Volleyball, All-League–Varsity Volleyball, MVP in Varsity Track, graduating with 1st Honors and going to the University of Notre Dame.

Sorab K. Ghandhi – National Merit Commended Scholar, Winner of the English, Drama, and Music Medals, Captain and All-League–Varsity Baseball, award-winning violinist in the Verdugo Youth Orchestra, graduating with 2nd Honors and going to the University of California Merced.

Monica Therese Golbranson – 2013 Valedictorian, National Merit Commended Scholar, Student Council President, Winner of the Math, History/Economics, and Latin Medals, 4-time Gold Medalist in the National Latin Exam, Winner of the 2013 Archdiocesan Christian Service Medal, Captain and All-League–Varsity Volleyball, Coach’s Award in Varsity Track, Founder and President of Crusaders for Life, Ronald Reagan Student Leader Award, four perfect scores of 800 on various sections of the SAT I and SAT II, graduating with 1st Honors and going to the University of Notre Dame.

Caitlin Marie Hall – a phenomenal hitter who led our Varsity Volleyball team to the State Quarterfinals this year, Team Captain and MVP, League MVP, ALL-CIF all four years, MaxPreps Top 10 players for Div V State of California, winner of the Dean’s Scholarship from Gonzaga University, graduating with 1st Honors and going to Gonzaga University.

Michael Raphael Harrahill – Student Council Vice-President, winner of the 2013 Cardinal Newman Award, Ronald Reagan Student Leader Award, MVP in Varsity Track, graduating with 1st Honors and going to George Washington University.

Camille Rose McCarty – 2013 Salutatorian, Winner of the Pasadena Arts Council Young Artists Award 2013 in Dance, Yearbook Editor-in-Chief, Winner of the English and Science Medals, Winner of the 2nd Century Scholarship from SMU-Dallas, Ronald Reagan Student Leader Award, graduating with 1st Honors and going to Southern Methodist University.

Cecilia Marie Scott – Winner of the John Greenleaf Scholarship from Whittier College, graduating with 2nd Honors and going to Whittier College.

Deanna Shahverdian – Captain and 2nd Team All-League–JV Volleyball, Scholarship at Entrance to Arizona State University.

Peter Anthony Zwart, Jr. – starting pitcher and League MVP in Varsity Baseball, Captain and All-League–Varsity Basketball, Ronald Reagan Student Leader Award, graduating with 1st Honors and going to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.