JUNE 2019
Jennifer Crusco
Communications Assistant

AHA Class of 2019 Poised to Begin Life’s Next Chapter

Demarest, NJ: The Class of 2019 from the Academy of the Holy Angels gathered on May 31st for the Academy’s 139th graduation exercises. This year’s baccalaureate Mass and commencement ceremony were held at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark.

Those who addressed the graduates included The Honorable Reena Raggi, J.D. (AHA ’69), Senior Commencement Speaker Olivia Mandella, and Second in Merit Ashley Hess. Hess was chosen by her peers to deliver the senior response.

Mandella was named Senior Commencement Speaker, the highest honor an AHA graduate can earn from her alma mater, for maintaining the top cumulative average in her class. Mandella served as president of Mu Alpha Theta (the National Math Honor Society) and is a member of the National Honor Society, the Societas Latina Honoris, and the Science National Honor Society.

Her love for running led her to organize a 5K to benefit Saint Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. She planned this race with Abby Sheehan after the two attended the 2017 Hugh O’Brien Youth Leadership Seminar. Mandella’s contributions to the athletic program at AHA include helping her 4x800 relay team become the first from AHA to qualify for the Championship of America race at the Penn Relays. She received First Team All-League and First Team All-County honors for her contributions to cross country. Mandella received a Sister Nonna Dunphy Scholarship in the fall of 2018 and recently earned the Scholar Athlete Award from the Big North Conference.

This fall, she will begin her freshman year at the University of Notre Dame.

Hess is a top-ranked scholar athlete who recently became a National Merit Scholarship Finalist. Her all-out effort on the tennis court earned her a win in the 2018 large school first singles Bergen County Championship. She was also an individual finalist in the 2019 State Tournament, where she finished as the second seed. Hess is a 2018 and 2019 National High School Tennis All-American. She recently earned the Edith Martin Girls 18’s Sportsmanship Award from the Eastern Section of the United States Tennis Association. This is the highest honor presented by the USTF.

This Cedar Grove resident recently represented Holy Angels at the National Girls and Women in Sports Day held at Seton Hall. During the 2018-19 academic year, Hess served as president of the Student Council Executive Board.

She is a member of the National Honor Society, the Société Honorarie De Français, Mu Alpha Theta, the Science National Honor Society, and Rho Kappa (the National Social Studies Honor Society). She is a lector at Saint Catherine of Sienna church and public speaking coach for grammar school students.

AHA Academic Dean Francesca Tambone-Puzio introduced Hess, describing her as a talented, honest, poised, intelligent, and humble young woman who has worked countless hours for the good of the entire student body.

In her speech, Hess reflected on how friends inspire each other and change us for the better. She recalled meeting several classmates, and their raw, honest discussions.

Hess has signed a letter of intent to play tennis for Dartmouth College.

The Honorable Judge Reena Raggi is Senior Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which serves New York, Connecticut, and Vermont. She was appointed to the Circuit Court by President George W. Bush in 2002. Judge Raggi previously served on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, having been appointed by President Ronald Reagan. She has been a member of the AHA Board of Trustees for six years, and will be concluding her service to the board this year.

On the 50th anniversary of her graduation from AHA, Judge Raggi urged the Class of 2019 to take responsibility for their studies so they would be employable and truly educated. She recommended that they take survey courses to become well rounded, and surround themselves with geniuses by reading works by authors such as Jane Austen, Shakespeare, and the Greeks. She told the graduates to stick with their faith and take their time in changing the world. Raggi told the Angels they should strive to make all people feel good about themselves, and express their gratitude by writing one thank you note each week.

AHA Principal Jean Miller presented the class, and AHA President Melinda Hanlon and Deans Tambone-Puzio and Andréa Beyer conferred the diplomas. The exceptional group collected one last time for a cap toss on the steps of the cathedral. Then they headed off with their families into the glorious spring afternoon.

Founded by the School Sisters of Notre Dame in 1879, the Academy of the Holy Angels is the oldest private girls’ school in Bergen County. While AHA is steeped in Catholic tradition, this prestigious high school serves young women from a broad spectrum of cultural and religious backgrounds. Over time, thousands of women have passed through AHA’s portals. Many go on to study at some of the nation’s best universities, earning high-ranking positions in medicine, government, law, education, public service, business, arts, and athletics. The Academy’s current leaders continue to further the SSND mission to provide each student with the tools she needs to reach the fullness of her potential—spiritually, intellectually, socially, and physically, by offering a first-rate education in a nurturing environment where equal importance is placed on academic excellence, character development, moral integrity, and service to others.


Academy of the Holy Angels

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