Roles reversed this summer as alums returned to share new information with their former teachers. Pastoral Ministry reminded teachers how challenging it is for students to step outside their comfort zones by asking them to learn new skills at the recent Faculty/Staff Retreat. Nine alumni led these workshops, and five of them shared answers to some big-picture questions. Their perspectives, as well as the workshops they taught, appear below.
1. At St. Francis, when were you challenged to see life in a new way?
Nick King, '19, freshman at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute majoring in computer science; Calligraphy Workshop:
Definitely on the Senior Kairos retreat. Listening to the witness talks and then to my classmates in small groups really made me see that everyone has a story that you might
not know until you really talk to them.
Libby Prosch, '19, freshman at Loyola University Chicago majoring in Political Science and minoring in Spanish; Conversational Spanish Workshop:
At St. Francis, I was always challenged to be the best person I could be. Even though I was a student, so many of the teachers here treated me as though I was their peer. Teachers and staff encouraged me to learn and grow.
2. What did you learn about yourself at St. Francis, and how does that continue to impact your life?
Michael Novack, '09 University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, '13 B.S. in Mathematics, minor in music; Indiana University Bloomington, '19 Ph.D. in Mathematics; currently postdoc at the University of Connecticut doing research and teaching; Math (and the Universe) Workshop:
My teachers at St. Francis always emphasized the students' intellectual and spiritual growth.
I taught various math classes during all six years of graduate
school and will continue teaching at UConn, and this teaching philosophy is something I try to emulate myself.
Sean Conley, '19, freshman at Clemson University studying Mechanical Engineering; Soccer Basics Workshop:
If you can be yourself at Francis and fit in, then you can be yourself at a much larger institution and even after college and continue to fit in. You just need to be patient and wait for the right people to come into your life.
3. What is an unexpected gift that you received from St. Francis?
Payton Morse, '19
freshman at Indiana University majoring in Entrepreneurship and Business Innovation; Choreographed Dance Workshop: An unexpected gift from St. Francis was a home. Some students enter high school already wishing it away and hoping college will come sooner. For me, I am a Spartan and my heart will always cherish that. St. Francis gave me an amazing group of people that shaped me into the person I am becoming. Leaving St. Francis is leaving my home away from home. I am forever grateful for the years I spent here.
Alyssa Fernandez, '13 University of Wisconsin-Whitewater '17 B.S. Criminology & B.S. ACS Chemistry with minor in Forensic Science; Currently graduate student pursuing a Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences (Department of Biochemistry) at the Medical College of Wisconsin; Health Workshop:
An unexpected gift I have received from St. Francis is friendship with both teachers and classmates. In addition to the many classmates I have kept in touch with since graduation, I have developed amazing friendships with teachers. Even six years after leaving, I still visit former teachers. I have even been a guest speaker in some of the Criminology classes. It has been amazing transitioning from a student-teacher relationship to a personal friendship. The teachers and staff at St. Francis are such wonderful people. They helped me through a really difficult time in my life when I was in high school and continue to be there for me in everyday life. I am so grateful and blessed for the amazing people that St. Francis has brought into my life.
Kairos Senior Retreat was a very unexpected gift, and in addition to that, I'd have to say my entire experience at St. Francis was a gift. The teachers I've had, the friends I've made, the classes I've taken, among other things, have impacted me and shaped me into who I am today.
4. What are the values you took from St. Francis and how do you see those playing out in your life?
Axel Moreen, '18: sophomore at Lewis University double majoring in Physics and Math; Ukulele Workshop:
St. Francis helped me understand what community is about and why community is important. It's not nearly enough for people to exist in the same environment and only carry out the tasks required of us, nothing more. By doing nothing to take care of our relationships and collective emotional health, not only do we lose efficiency, but we might easily exist in a poor and unhappy environment. Instead of this, we need to treat each other like our own, reaching out when necessary, uplifting and taking care of each other. When a group of people can successfully take care of each other, we call this a community. St. Francis is an exemplary model. During my time here, I experienced others looking out for me when times were rough. I owe it to these people for their genuine care and for the community they fostered at St. Francis. It's from my high school experience that I realize the value in reaching out and going out of my way to help others on both a personal level and a community level. I will always try my best to be that same positive influence wherever I may be.
While at St. Francis, I learned humility and patience. Humility is never easy to exercise but is always necessary. Whether it be in the classroom or on the field, court, or track, humility is always important. Patience with peer, teachers, and ultimately yourself is also paramount.
I feel so blessed to have attended St. Francis. This school and all of the teachers have taught me so many values that I know will stick with me for the rest of my life. I could not be more grateful for the foundation of faith that this school provides. I loved being involved in Pastoral Ministry outside of the classroom. But even inside the classroom and the hallways, all of the teachers and faculty here have taught me what it means to be genuine, empathetic, and accepting of others.
5. How were you challenged to grow as a person at SFHS?
The commitment to living out the Gospel through service opportunities at St. Francis certainly challenged me to grow in areas that are more important than academics. That's a unique aspect of St. Francis. It serves others, and it also serves students well in their futures.
During my time at St. Francis, I was challenged to be a better student every single day. Looking back, the teachers pushed me to be a better student and person, saw the passion that I had for learning, and did everything that they could to nourish my interests and potential. As cliché as it may sound, the teachers at St. Francis saw something in me that I didn't see at the time. I truly believe the education, values, and push that St. Francis gave me are the major reasons I am where I am today.
While at St. Francis, I learned the value of dependability, both on myself and on others, in a community where I was pushed to only do my best. I also learned that in order to truly do your best you have to learn to trust yourself. St. Francis showed me that there are always many people
willing to help, but you also need to rely on yourself and your own strengths.