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Alumnae Spotlight: Mya Falgout, 2022 Cor Unum Winner

What does it mean to you to be in the 295th graduating class of Ursuline Academy of New Orleans?

At only 13 years old when my mother handed me a small letter which I received weeks later than the ones I was seeing my friends receive at the end of 7th grade. After reading the letter, I was distraught by the cold words on the page and felt hopeless for the future that was planned out. Tossing and turning in my bed that night, re-reading the letter over and over thinking no school would ever be the perfect fit for me. This all changed when I got accepted into Ursuline Academy of New Orleans, and my life hasn’t been the same since. Ursuline Academy saw something in me that I myself had never seen. They saw the potential of a young adolescent who was searching for the perfect family.

Being in the 295th graduating class of Ursuline Academy, I know that the opportunities I have for the future are endless. There are so many aspects to being an Ursuline girl that have forever changed my path in life. I see Ursuline girls everywhere I go, even if they did not have the opportunity to attend an amazing academy like I did. An Ursuline girl is easy to spot when you know what to look for; Courtesy, loyalty, and courage are all the qualities that an Ursuline girl portrays. They glow from a distance, and you can feel their warm presence anywhere they go. In my graduating class, my sisters beside me glow in many different ways, all portraying these three qualities. The 295th class is not just any class. Sure, maybe I’m biased just because I am a member of this class myself, but I truly feel that my class exudes what it means to be a true Ursuline girl due to our diversity. We lift each other up and empower each other to strive for greatness. When I first started Ursuline in 8th grade, I did not know a single girl that attended the academy. I was nervous, I felt left out that most of these girls have gone to school with each other their whole lives. However, I was quickly brought in with loving kindness surrounding me. The teachers, classmates, administrators, staff, and other students all welcomed me with a big smile and a “Welcome to Ursuline!” These words did not just blow over my head. Honestly, typing these words out makes me emotional to this day. Hearing these words, I envision how much I have grown over the years due to this lovely academy. I am proud to be an Ursuline girl. When someone asks me where I attend school, I am extremely proud to say Ursuline Academy. The conversation does not stop there either; It comes naturally to tell them how much I love the academy and everything it has to offer. I am proud of the woman I have become today and I do not think I would be where I am now without graduating in the 295th class at Ursuline.

One last thing I really want to touch on is that being the first girl in my family to attend Ursuline Academy means just as much to me as graduating in this class. My family and I are so grateful that I got the opportunity to attend Ursuline Academy. Anytime Ursuline comes up in conversation with my mother, she always says that God truly had a plan for me to attend this school. I am extremely proud to be the first trailblazer in my family, and plan for my future children to continue the legacy. I firmly believe that any woman who attends Ursuline Academy will exceed expectations in all aspects of life.

In what ways do you feel your Ursuline education has prepared you for the world in which we live?

One thing I find to be outstanding about Ursuline Academy is how excellent their education department is run. The academics taught at Ursuline Academy are no ordinary text-book learnings. First off, the teachers at Ursuline Academy do a phenomenal job at helping the girls excel in their classes. If an assignment is not understood, every single teacher will go the extra mile to make sure that each and every student understands the material. Ursuline offers help before and after school and even tutoring by the National Honors Society, which I have been gratefully accepted in. One of my favorite things about the education I have received at Ursuline is that it is hands on. In every assignment I do, I get to incorporate creativity within it. Hands on learning includes assignments like physical projects, having access to the smart lab, and real conversations all while still including the standard formative assessments. All of these aspects have prepared me for the real world that I will experience after May 21st. 

Ursuline Academy goes beyond their academics by allowing their students to encounter real world experiences. Two things that prepared me for the real world at Ursuline Academy had to be the Sudden Impact program and the service sights we visit on St. Angela’s Feast Day. My junior year is when Sudden Impact came to Ursuline and performed a mock car crash, with my fellow students as the cast. Prior to the presentation, I was expecting this to be an ordinary Sudden Impact event where there is a slide show and a speaker talking about the dangers of drunk driving. Soon, I realized this was no ordinary showing. I broke down and could not keep myself together. I was bawling my eyes out watching the presentation and feared for this situation happening to me or one of my loved ones. I know that Sudden Impact is not directly an Ursuline program, however, the time and energy Ursuline puts into showing this program for its students is what needs to be recognized here. I'm sure the academy could have just had a presentation like similar schools do, however, they wanted to go above and beyond and show their students the true dangers with a real mock crash for their safety. This surreal performance opened my eyes and prepared me for the real world and how these situations are not just seen on television. I will forever remember that mock-crash and am so grateful I got to experience the showing at Ursuline Academy. The other way Ursuline has prepared me is with the service sights we go visit. Every year on St. Angela's Feast day, each grade at Ursuline visits a different service site revolving around their area and gives back to the community. 8th graders work with the elderly, freshmen work with children/education and literacy, sophomores go with special needs, juniors deal with hunger/poverty and homeless, and seniors care for the environment. Starting as an 8th grader, the sites only seemed to get more and more difficult to witness. I felt uncomfortable, but in a good way. Ursuline pushed me out of my comfort zone, showing me that these are issues that people have to struggle with everyday. Working with these five areas has prepared me to step up and make a difference in the world, just as St. Angela Merici strived to do so within Serviam as a lived reality. As I write this essay, I can look back on my journey at Ursuline and know that I am prepared for my future and all of it's unexpectedness. I know now that life will not cater to anyone, and that what matters is how I choose to react. Now I am ready to take the next chapter of my life into my own hands.

Name the most significant value you learned from Ursuline Academy; please use concrete examples to support it.

The most significant value I have learned from Ursuline Academy is self-improvement while learning the importance of bettering my education and opportunities for myself. I have come a long way since 8th grade and have been more determined every year to better myself with the help of Ursuline Academy. Having the ability to use all my opportunities to their fullest has allowed me to grow and strive as the woman I am today. My classmates empowered me to participate in class and go the extra mile in school activities. I have had the opportunity to take on many leadership roles here at the academy such as being the Key Club President and the Tennis Captain. Both of these roles at Ursuline have brought out one of my best qualities, leadership. When I joined Key Club sophomore year, I was drawn to the basis of the club. Key Club is a club surrounding serving others and caring for the environment, something I have grown passionate about due to St. Angela's Feast Day. I was determined to be a good club member because I was so passionate about what the club had to offer. My junior year I was asked by the moderator if I was interested in being the president. I was excited to finally lead something at the school I loved the most and went above and beyond to make my club the best it could. I also decided to pick up tennis that year. Never picking up a racquet before, I was excited to go out of my comfort zone and try something new. I fell in love with the sport and was determined to get better and succeed in something I found true joy in. Two years later, my senior year I was awarded the position of captain of the tennis team. I dedicated myself to bettering my sport for two years─now I stand here, committed to play tennis for a division II school.

My determination for improving who I am did not stop there, my love for education only grew stronger as the years went on. One class that changed my life was Mr. Ian Graham's U.S. History class my junior year. World History has always been my favorite subject, however, this class flipped a switch for me. In this class, I felt free to ask a ton of questions, trying to better my understanding of our history and the world around us. I became so invested in learning more; I studied the world map over and over, I did more research after I turned in assignments because of how curious I was, and I would even go to Mr. Graham so we could discuss topics we were learning in class. I sparked conversations with the intent of understanding other people's perspectives in class. I took action to relearn ideas I had neglected before. I dove into opportunities that would allow me to grow my leadership skills. All of these actions I took to focus on bettering myself through my education is thanks to Ursuline Academy. Ursuline has given me endless opportunities and instilled in me many values to uphold and take with me for the rest of my life: At Ursuline, you are not overlooked as just a number towards enrollment. You are a unique and success driven woman. I am motivated to make myself better everyday and I know anyone that attends Ursuline Academy will feel the same way.

What one word describes Ursuline and why?

The one word that shot to my mind right when I read this question is growth. This idea of growing and bettering oneself is a common theme seen throughout my essay. For this reason, I truly believe that growth is the one word I would use to describe Ursuline anytime anyone asks me this question. Oxford Languages describes growth as: “The process of developing or maturing physically, mentally, or spiritually.” I firmly believe that anyone who enrolls into Ursuline Academy will not just grow with age, but grow in numerous ways. Ursuline Academy prepares young women to grow their faith and guarantee everyone some type of spiritual formation, regardless of religion or beliefs. All around, Ursuline allows its students to develop oneself as a whole through community, academics, and uniqueness. If I had not attended Ursuline Academy, I know that I would not be where I am today; I can confidently say I would not have been able to grow and reach my full potential as the woman that I was born to be. I watched my classmates grow as well and finally find their niche and discover their true passions. Every one of my classmates has grown beautifully and I wish I could tell each and every one of them that I notice change in all of them. I won the senior superlative of “Most Changed” this year. Most people would think that this superlative is back-handed, however, I hold this title with pride. I am proud to say that yes, I have changed over the course of my years at the academy. The amount of change I have experienced as a young woman is phenomenal thanks to the lessons I have learned at Ursuline. Since 1727, Ursuline Academy has grown a little more everyday and continues to change the lives of girls like me who want to make a difference in the world as a trailblazer. Growth has always been important to me in this journey, but the way I define growth is more important to me thanks to Ursuline Academy.