Abigail Price '20 was selected as the 2020 Cor Unum Award Recipient by the Ursuline Alumnae Association. The award is given to one senior each year. Candidates are judged soley on their love for Ursuline Academy and their honest expression of what the Academy means to them.
What does it mean to you to be in the 293rd graduating class of Ursuline Academy of New Orleans?
I have been at Ursuline Academy for more than half of my life. To say that I will be graduating in May 2020 is one of the most surreal things after having been at the same school since I was three. To me, being in the 293rd graduating class means more than I could ever put into words. For one, it means that from May 16th and onward with the rest of my life I will be responsible for carrying out and displaying the values that Ursuline has instilled in me since day one. It also means that I will be continuing the legacy of graduating from Ursuline as have 5 other women in my family and I’m sure many more will in the coming years. Knowing that I will soon be an alumnae of the 293rd graduating class of this wonderful institution is one of the most amazing things that has ever come to be thus far in my life and I will never be able to thank all of the family, teachers, administration members, and those on the Board for helping me come so far in my life and reach the goals I have which were all made possible through this amazing school.
In what ways do you feel your Ursuline education has prepared you for the world in which we live?
Throughout my years at this school, I have learned a great many things that have helped me to feel more than ready to move onward to college and further in life confidently. From what’s being taught in the classroom to the experiences the administration allows us to have inside and outside of the school walls, they are helping to prepare us for what is so commonly referenced as “the real world.” An example of this would be the career day that is held every year that allows for the students of the high school to choose between a variety of people holding careers they might be interested in and hear about their experiences and ask questions. It was during my sophomore year that I decided I wanted to work in forensics for the FBI after talking to a special agent and a fingerprint analyst from the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office. Another example of this would be the career shadow day that the high school administration allows the seniors to go on. On that day, two other classmates and I spent the day with Mrs. Dona Quintanilla, the same woman whose presentation two years earlier had helped me decide that working in forensics was the path I wanted to follow in life. She is an alumna of Ursuline and that day we discussed not only the ins and outs of her career, but also all of the ways that attending Ursuline helped her in life. After hearing her recount all of those pleasant experiences, some from my own family members, and even my own thoughts - there is not a single doubt in my mind that being an Ursuline girl will help me live to the fullest of my potential in life.
Name the most significant value you learned from Ursuline Academy.
The most significant value I have not only learned, but seen upheld at Ursuline, is family. It may sound a bit cliche to say that there is family everywhere you look within this school, but I cannot think of another way to state it that does justice to the point. For me, I see this value in a multitude of ways with so many concrete examples it’s honestly hard to pinpoint which ones support what I’m trying to say the best. It wouldn’t do justice to what I mean if I didn’t cover all of the different ways I see family and the different meanings the word has to me in reference to Ursuline Academy.
The first and major way that comes to mind is my class. I have never seen a group of young women so set on supporting and encouraging each other as best they can. There are several instances that I think perfectly display what I mean. One of those would be with the changing of the Sioux mascot name. Everyone was shocked and upset in their own right, but underneath everyone in my class knew it was for the best. One morning in the senior lounge, very soon after the announcement, we all engaged in a deep discussion of our feelings on the matter. Some girls were overwhelmed with emotion both positive and negative on the topic, and of course we were all there to comfort them in their time of need. Throughout that discussion and the many more that came to follow leading up to Rally of 2019, we decided that while it was upsetting that there would not be a generation of younger Sioux to follow, we had the amazing opportunity to end the legacy of the Sioux as best and respectfully we could. We pulled together to make sure our little sister class, although now going by a different name, knew that no matter what happened, their big sister class was there to support them throughout the rest of their high school career even though we’d be leaving at the end of the year. We also worked to help the younger ladies in high school understand that there was a need to change the mascot so that the school could be a place that someone of any ethnicity and religion would feel safe and respected. As a class, we worked together to win not only our own last Rally, but also the last Rally that the Sioux mascot would participate in using them theme of “So Long Sioux.” We had originally picked the theme after Rally our junior year, thinking it would be a cute way for our class to say goodbye to the school. However, I have the vivid memory of sitting in English Dual Enrollment with Mrs. Stephanie Carton the day the change was announced and the conclusion we all came to was that it truly was God at work in ways we had not realized at the time of picking it. We had not known or realized how truly perfect and fitting it was. Rather than lamenting the change throughout our exhibition, we celebrated and recounted all of the great times we had at Ursuline while upholding the Sioux legacy. At the end of every Rally while the judges deliberate, there is a time for each mascot's alumnae to join them in a final cheer of the night. Something I noticed every year, including my own 8th grade year, was that very few people ever went up to cheer with the Leps as there were no true alumnae from recent years who had graduated as a Lep. This past year, when Ms. Elizabeth Joubert called down people to cheer with the Leps, my whole class left the bleachers to go and cheer with the younger Ursuline girls. Although we would not be graduating as Leps, or even Macs which is what that class will come to be, we wanted to show our love and support for our fellow Ursuline sisters. While I’m sure most had not been anticipating such an across the board welcoming, heartwarming, and outstandingly positive response to any of the hurdles put in our path, not only but including this one, I honestly expect nothing less from the amazing and inspirational women I call my sisters.
Another way I see and experience family is the teachers I have had the pleasure to learn from throughout my time at Ursuline. An example that comes to mind is from when I was in 4th grade. Near the middle of that school year I got very sick and the doctors discovered I had mono and due to this I missed a lot of school. Even after I was cleared to return as I was no longer contagious, it was very hard for me to make it through a full school day. One of my teachers at the time, Mrs. Anna Hero, was so supportive and helpful throughout this difficult time. She understood how much I was struggling with my health and how it was affecting school for me. Without her help, I very well may have not been able to move on from the 4th grade that year. I still feel as though I have not thanked her enough for that. Another example of this would be when during my 8th grade year, my home was damaged by a tornado. Obviously, this not only impacted my personal and family life, but also my school life. I missed at least two weeks of school as our main focus was on repairing our home. When I had emailed my teachers telling them of the situation and why I would not be in class, I expected a simple response somewhere along the lines of “okay, thank you for letting me know. I will send you your assignments.” However, what I received was far greater. I began receiving emails from teachers that I didn’t even have that year along with those I did offering help with things from fixing my home to tutoring me in subjects I was having trouble with during and after my absence. As an eighth grader who felt like the most irrelevant and unimportant student compared to the many others, this touched me in ways I cannot even put into words. Upon my return to school, a teacher that I felt especially close with, Mrs. Maureen Cremaldi, sought me out to give me a bracelet with the charm of a saint on it. She went on to explain that St. Philomena, the patron saint of youth, was who she’d been praying to for my safety and well being and hoped that I could find solace in that. I keep that bracelet in my backpack to this day. None of the teachers who showed so much attention and care towards me had to do any of that, but they did because they genuinely care for and love their students as if they were their own family. The care and love I felt from my teachers throughout that entire experience has stuck with me today to the point that I would never question how much a teacher could possibly care for their student. I believe them wholeheartedly when they say that.
The final way I have learned and see family within Ursuline is in the literal sense of the word: my blood relatives. As I previously mentioned, five women before me in my family have attended and graduated from Ursuline making me the sixth and my younger sister to be the seventh when she graduates with the class of 2025. All of those ladies in my family who attended Ursuline have a great love for it and I can honestly say I see it whenever I discuss anything about school with them. I can’t help but see memories and reminders of my family everywhere I go within the school. I see their graduation pictures when I walk down high school hallway. I remember the stories of my parents' wedding every time I enter the chapel. I am reminded of my cousins coming to visit me on the early childhood playground everytime I walk past it on my way to the gym or wellness center. There are so many more instances that I could fill pages about just this. However, what I hope I’ve conveyed through my last few paragraphs is that Ursuline has taught me that you can embody family in many different ways. It has also taught me that while family is of course those you’re related to, it is also the relationships you build that can last a lifetime. There is no doubt in my mind that anyone who attends Ursuline Academy can find family within the school walls.
What one word describes Ursuline and why?
A word I would use, and have many times when asked to describe Ursuline, is love. I believe this directly ties in with the value of family I described in the previous paragraphs and if you look back you can also find the word love in there many times. Everyone in connection with the Ursuline has a mutual love for everything the school embodies and represents as well as their faith. Everyone willing to act as a family with one another stems from their love. You can tell that the administration of the school loves it and wants the best for the school, everyone in attendance, and the teachers. You can see the love the teachers have for their job and their students through their commitment to go the extra mile and help someone who is struggling. You can see the love the students have for their education through the hard work they put in and the love they have for each other through their actions and support of one another. I have included many examples throughout this essay when requested and although one was not in this instance, I think it displays exactly what I am trying to say. I have been taking theatre as an elective with Mrs. Amanda Zirkenbach, who we lovingly address as Mrs. Z, for four years now. I have also had her for classes such as public speaking my 9th grade year and I currently have her for dance.
At the beginning of my 9th grade year I was diagnosed with anxiety, making classes such as theatre and public speaking exceedingly hard. Both the students in class and Mrs. Z recognized that it was a struggle for me but continuously supported me. Following that year I continued to take theatre and ended up with most of the same girls in my class every year following. I would always have trouble with things like giving solo performances but Mrs. Z would always put in the extra energy to help me be more confident in myself and my skills as did other students. None of that was necessary, she very easily could have left me to struggle on my own but she didn’t. Her love for her students and the art of theatre is obviously prevalent through her care and actions. I am sound in my belief that if presented with a similar situation, any teacher would do exactly the same out of their love for teaching and their students. Before writing this essay, I do not think I fully realized just how blessed I am to have been able to attend such a wonderful school. When first presented with the prompts I had tried to think of answers and I will honestly say it was kind of hard. Once I began writing though, I realized I was trying to think of answers people wanted to hear, not what I thought. I took a lot of time to sit and really reflect on all of the time I spent at Ursuline. I sifted through what memories and experiences I could remember from all of the fifteen years I have spent at UA and focused on the feelings I gained from those. This entire essay is ultimately what I came up with along with many, many more things. Both those recounted and not have shaped me to be the woman I am today and can only hope to continue to be and grow as. I hope that I accomplished my main goal of my essay which was to truly explain just how much I love my soon to be alma mater and how much Ursuline means to me.