As I walked through our beautiful, quiet campus today, I thought about how well Catalina celebrates each of us by offering opportunities for connection and growth. Last night the seniors welcomed their ring sisters into the Santa Catalina sisterhood. After three days filled with skits, costumes, kindness, and sheer joy, these young women took part in the time-honored tradition of juniors moving up and receiving their cherished rings. On Friday, our middle schoolers had the fun of dressing up to attend their dance; the Upper School Mock Trial team rallied around each other with three days of fierce competition; our eighth-grade students traveled to San Francisco to see Hamilton; and our third grade visited the Steinbeck Center. In many respects, this week was like many others—filled with time for our community to invest in learning and growing. Yet, there are moments for me when I hit the pause button and reflect about the very special nature of how our core values are lived.
At Santa Catalina, we believe that students learn and grow best in a loving and supportive community. This emphasis on the value of relationships has been Santa Catalina’s charism, or “special gift,” since the founding of the school. It has been one of our enduring strengths and it is what has made attending Santa Catalina such a powerful experience for so many.
Santa Catalina teachers and staff are inspired daily to create a loving and supportive environment in which to learn. Recently, teachers, staff, and administrators gathered together to attend a professional development program led by Linda Smith, former director of educational programs at Duke Integrative Medicine, who came back to Santa Catalina to lead us through an introductory workshop on Motivational Interviewing. The goal was to provide faculty and staff with a conversational skill set to help students come to new understandings, find solutions, and gain the ability to move through obstacles—to equip students to transition into the world with resiliency and confidence in their ability to meet challenges.
Ahead of our workshop, I invited Lara Wheeler Devlin ’02, the recipient of Catalina’s 2019 Sister Carlotta Distinguished Service Award, to share remarks she presented at a recent Board of Trustees meeting. After thanking the many colleagues she collaborates with, Lara said:
I feel so lucky that my job is watching young women develop into who they are meant to be. In the process I get to do things like take groups to New York for an immersive week of performing arts; I get to watch students who could barely say “here” during roll call progress to the point of leading a cast in a pivotal role; I get to see students of all ages get on stage for the first time; I get to help seniors plan their futures and watch them find their best fit colleges; I get to cultivate new initiatives like being a part of the initial health and wellness committee; I get to dance; I get to laugh; and I get to be a firm hand to show girls that someone who cares about you doesn’t always give you your way.
A few days ago, I began a rehearsal with a Winston Churchill quote:
Success is not final.
Failure is not fatal.
It is the courage to continue that counts.
I relate it to theatre: ever-evolving, never perfect, slightly scary, but so rewarding in those moments that come together perfectly. Theatre echoes the human experience. No one is perfect, we are always changing, struggling to better ourselves. Learn, grow, and repeat. I try to remember this every day. I tell the girls, ‘The greatest character you will ever develop is your own.’ I hope that I am able to be an example of that for many years to come. I am overwhelmed with gratitude, and still completely surprised to receive this honor. So, with love and appreciation, I humbly say thank you. It is a gift to work at Santa Catalina.
Indeed, it is a gift to work and be part of the Santa Catalina community—“Learn, grow, and repeat.”