Sunday, August 25, 2013

Julie's Victory Lap

Part 5:  Graduation!

     As with most of the Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Washington, AHC's commencement takes place at the largest Roman Catholic Church in North America, The National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.  A beautiful and appropriate place to celebrate the 145th class of LOTAs, this Basilica is built on the
grounds of the Catholic University of America.

  The evening before graduation, Holy Cross families gathered for the Baccalaureate Mass held at Holy Redeemer Church in Kensington.  It was a beautiful celebration of faith and included a presentation of symbolic gifts by members of the class. From a class portrait to sports equipment, the foot of the altar was covered.  Julie presented a candle alongside two other LOTAs, symbolizing the light of knowledge.  Why knowledge?

   It had been revealed to us a few days prior to graduation that Julie had been selected with two other students, to be Salutatorian.  An honor and a privilege,
Julie enjoyed graduation even differently than expected.  Along with this title, Julie was able to take part by beginning the commencement with the opening prayer.  She was later honored at the altar with a commemorative glass plaque!

     The graduation ceremony itself was one for our record books.  It featured the emotional procession of the ladies in white caps and gowns.  There were several musical pieces performed and the class of 1963, within which is a graduate whom we all know and love, Sister Sharon Ann Mihm CSC - the Catholic School Principal who gave me my start teaching Kindergarten at Immaculata Catholic School in Durham North Carolina many years ago.  Sister Sharon is a Holy Cross Sister and has been a Principal for a number of
years in Montgomery County.  This was a wonderful surprise for all of us, on a day that was full of surprises!

   In the proud presence of Julie's Grandparents, Parents, and Lisa and Peter, Julie received an award that for us was the true capstone of her time at Holy Cross:  The Cardinal James Hickey Award. It's description and the reason she received it is stated as follows:

     The Cardinal Hickey Award is given in recognition of one’s
personal efforts to live the Catholic faith through its teachings and principles.
     The 2013 Cardinal Hickey Award recipient, Juliana Desiree Balla, has an impressive record of dedication to volunteer service, having used her time and talents to serve many different constituencies. Juliana has maintained an impressive academic record for the past four years and is an International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme candidate. She is a member of both the National Honor Society and the Spanish Honor Society. Most notably, she has also been a four-year member of the Academy’s Honor Board including serving as President. Juliana also shares her talents with the school community through her involvement with the Performing Arts Department and she has served as Treasurer of the International Thespian Society.
     However, it is her dedication to community services that makes Juliana extraordinary. She recently received the Sancta Crux Award for Christian Service Commitment by performing over 350 hours of community service. Much of this work has taken place in China where she has traveled with her family every summer since eighth grade.
     She lives true to the mission of The Academy of the Holy Cross as a woman of courage, compassion and scholarship. Undoubtedly, she will bring her kindness and determination as she joins the Class of 2017 at the University of Southern California where she has received the University Scholarship.

     There are really no words, except, "Congratulations, Julie, we are so proud of you!


Julie's Victory Lap                        

Part 4: Honors and Awards

     As the AHC seniors' final year was drawing to a close, it was time to take a look at all of the LOTA's accomplishments.  Holy Cross does a great job in honoring the work of its graduates through ceremonies that take the time to look back.
    The first of these was the IB Diploma pinning ceremony.  Julie was fortunate to enter Holy Cross as they became involved in the International Baccalaureate Program.  Having already participated In IB during eighth grade at BISS, she was very interested in becoming a diploma candidate.  The philosophy of IB is different than the mainstream program in that it is project-focused and reflective. 
The testing that occurs takes place after two years of intense study. 
An outside group evaluates the assessments to ultimately decide if a candidate has earned an IB diploma.  The IB pin indicates that the candidate has completed all of the requirements.

   Next was Senior Awards' Night. Celebrating the accomplishments of the AHC seniors at their own special gathering, Julie's list of honors outlasted her walk across the stage, eliciting a chuckle from the audience. The highlights included "The State of Maryland Merit
Scholastic Award," "The Awards of Academic Excellence in IB Theater HL2 and IB Environmental Systems SL,"  "High Academic Excellence," the Theology Department Award, and the Sancta Crux award for Christian Service Commitment, logging over 350 hours of Community Service.  Her memberships in the National Honor Society, International Thespian Society and Spanish Honor Society were also mentioned. 

   The grand finale' of the ceremony troika was the Fine Arts Award Gala.  Always a night to remember, this year's theme was reminiscent of the Academy Awards.  There was even a welcome
 surprise as the former Fine Arts Department Chair, Mr. Chanselle-Hary made an appearance with his family, fresh off the plane from their new home state of Nevada. Another great night, as Julie brought home the Senior Award for Theater!


Julie's Victory Lap
Part 3:  The Decision

While we knew that selecting a college could be tough for Julie (a bit tougher than a prom gown!), we had no idea that it would come down to four schools.  With May 1st fast approaching, it became evident that she was really struggling. Each option had huge benefits, and each was unique in its offerings.  In the end, though, the best choice for Julie was the University of Southern California!  In the fall she will start a new West Coast adventure as a Trojan!  With a beautiful campus, fantastic programs, and opportunities galore,  there is no doubt that her college years will be everything she is looking for at USC.

Fight on, Julie!


Julie's Victory Lap
Part 2:  Prom

    When Julie looks for a dress for a special occasion, it usually takes about ten minutes.  I have long given up planning major outings for this purpose.  Starting with her First Communion dress, which I thought would take the day and include lunch, the time spent was so short that it was still time for breakfast when we walked out of the shop.
     Last year was no different as Julie tried on two dresses and decided on the first selection.
    Since this year would be special because it was the Senior Prom, we decided that it would be fun to shop in Montreal for her gown.  We were going to be there anyway for our biennial trip to Marillion Weekend, so with a little research we found an entire shopping district that specialized in formal attire.
    So how many dresses did Julie try on that day?  Two.  The first one she picked out and tried on was the one she decided on.  She only tried on the second one because it seemed like she should.  After thumbing through the racks a bit more, it was a clear choice.  "Try it on once more to make sure," I suggested.  Ten minutes later we were outta' there and onto our next adventure.

     It was beautiful April evening and the "before Prom," Prom, and "after Prom" were all reportedly a "blast" so Julie and all of her friends had a great time.  Even Z made an appearance, enjoying time with his friends as well!


Julie's Victory Lap 
Part 1:  The Best Commute Ever

     For the last two years we have had a commute to school and work that has been second to none.  Because of the locations of Julie and Z's schools, Metro, and Blair High School, the four of us have developed a routine that starts each work day with family fun.
     Beginning with a usual stop at our neighborhood Dunkin Donuts (where they practically know our order), we next head down Beach Drive, one of the DC area's premiere thoroughfares.  Watching the seasons change and the ebb and flow of early daylight is always a highlight, as is the occasional appearance of wildlife.  Deer are an ever-present inhabitant and are both beautiful and dangerous at the same time.
     Commuting together has also given us a chance for Chinese Prayer Practice!  Working on the Rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet in Mandarin is a wonderful way to start the day. The family that prays together...
     Upon our arrival at the Academy, both Julie and Steve get out of the car.  This has often been a strange sight for people who don't know us well, especially when I drive away and leave Steve behind!  The Metro is just a short distance from AHC so he walks directly from there.  Next is Georgetown Prep, just two minutes away, and Z's point of departure.  Finally, off to the Beltway for me, which, at that time of day is more like a race than a traffic jam with everyone in a hurry to get to their destinations...including me!
     Oh, was that the warning bell? Two minutes to spare.