look back, look forward…

look back, look forward…


sitting in my designated faculty chair at the seniors’ graduation last friday, i got to wear my black faculty robe with the colored hood and chevron, designating my bachelors degree for my comm major from usd. i had the privilege of attending college – of graduating from college, and this year, i was given the opportunity to teach in an institution, as mother cabrini high school. wow.

it has been such a blessing to teach at the high school, and to be entrusted to serve as a mentor to the students. not only in the classroom, but outside of the classroom – talking to them about the importance of their education, their challenges in their homes, and the drama they seem to have with their friends at times. it’s an all-girl school. it is definitely bound to happen!

even though i only teach the sophomores, i have built strong and meaningful relationships with the other students at the school. i love that i have a desk with a computer that the students make fun of (they say it’s too slow and it’s falling apart – which is, well, kinda true! but it still functions just fine!), but importantly, i love that i have chairs around my desk. all perfectly placed so that the students feel the warm invitation to sit, at any time. that is, at times when ms. catalan isn’t stressing out due to the disorganization of stacks of papers on her desk. i can certainly thank my student, natalie for helping me “de-clutter.” 🙂

seeing the chapel full of happy and proud parents brought me back to my own high school graduation. my eyes began to water and tear up when i saw how happy each of the seniors were, and i thought back to my many encounters with each one of them – the times when they would be stressed out about the senior events that seemed to happen all at once, the times when they would complain about all of the exams and papers they had, the times when they would try to talk me out of giving them an assignment when i would be their substitute, the many times i saw them try and work really hard – yes, their work all did pay off, and now they are graduates of high school, and are now about to enter college. woohoo!!!

i laughed when the salutatorian mentioned in her speech, among their senior year memories, “that one time, when 30 girls piled in one room on senior retreat, and surprised ms. catalan!” yes it is true. michelle and i were at senior retreat, on our final rounds of making sure the rooms were all quiet, and sure enough, i went into one of the rooms cause it was pretty loud, but as soon as i walked in, lights were off, and it got super quiet, so still, i said, “girls, it’s time to be quiet! gotta get up early tomorrow, ok?” a couple girls said, ok, no problem. lights were still off, so i just said, “ok, good night girls!” and in unison, i heard, “good night, ms. catalan!!!” i flipped on the switch, and there indeed were pretty much 30 girls in that room! my goodness. haha, i laughed about it, laughed WITH them about it, then said, dang!! so then, they all piled out. hahaha, and THAT was that. 🙂

i reflected about my graduation day, how hard i worked to graduate in a white gown as a valedictorian (anyone with a 4.0 or above gpa), and the blessing that i had in being able to speak at my graduation. no, i was not the scholar of scholars (highest gpa) or the senior class president, but rather, i competed for the third senior speech, and i got it! i uncovered it, and here it is – such a trip reading it after 3 years, seriously!:

As we hold our diplomas in our hands, we can look back on the long, arduous journey we individually endured. All to reach one goal and to be there on one day. Graduation. Though rough, and sometimes steep, we conquered those obstacles. The long days spent studying before finals and the anxiety and stress we would feel, staring at a challenging test. We all got through it. We are here today at graduation. Of course there were those fun days we spent at the spirited sporting events and the pep rallies where we watched the talent of our fellow classmates. These are all days we have shared together at Aliso Niguel. Days full of laughter, frustration, stress, smiles, worry, but above all, hope for the future.

Remember how you felt hanging out with that one friend, exceeding your goals, and realizing you took the risk you thought you could never take- all experiences in high school that we have all been through. But now we are graduating. Graduating from the long hours at sports practices, practicing for band for countless hours, rehearsing on the weekends for drama- but what is important, is we are all graduating together. We entered high school as individual freshmen, and leave Aliso Niguel as the Class of 2003. We can remember our last football game, our last competition, the last time we struggled with a decision.

These are all memories that we can hold on to, look back on, and smile about. We have gotten through it, and everything has paid off.

Our actual time and effort, earned us that A on a test. Our hard work, determination and focus brought us here today, with signs of distinguishment and accomplishment.

We are being rewarded today for our work since preschool, and after today, we must move forward and keep our eyes open for all opportunities available to us. But we have to remember, our parents and teachers won’t be there every step of the way, holding our hands and telling us what to do. Rather, we have been taught the skills that we hoped to refine throughout high school. Among us may be future CEO’s of world class companies, recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize, famous actors/actresses, or even individuals who will become teachers who will change the lives of their students just as our mentors here have done for us.

When we finally walk off the field today, it’s not too late. Thank that teacher, give that friend a hug when you’re taking pictures. Thank your parents. Let go of the little things and no longer sweat the small stuff. Do this today.

Look back and remember all of the memories, then look forward and know that our place in this world is waiting for us. We ARE the class of 2003, and we are ready, more than ever to stand up, walk and make our own path in the real world.

Good luck my friends- I love you all.

reading over this graduation speech, a few things stand out for me…i got to serve as a teacher (NEVER thought that would ever happen), i have friends who indeed turned out to be actors and talented actresses, i certainly had the heart for community (“entered high school as individual freshmen, and leave Aliso Niguel as the Class of 2003”) and the second to last sentence -“we are ready, more than ever to stand up, walk and make our own path in the real world.” that was definitely inspired by the bible. when Jesus said “Get up, pick up your mat, and walk!” John 5:8.

i never really made this connection until now, and i definitely don’t think i was aware of that when i wrote that into my speech, but truly, this has become one of my favorite scripture passages, especially after hearing a homily from msgr. torgeson at st. monica’s. when the man got up and picked up his mat, yes, he walked, but he walked with his mat. he didn’t throw it down and trample on it, but he took the baggage he had with him, and walked. that which once held him down, he still took with him, and he walked on. i found this as, it’s not about just leaving things behind, after i am able to move on, but to remember it all – the good and the bad…for it is in all of these moments that make up who i am. it was a good reminder. especially in the midst of transition. so that was a nice little throwback, and now, i can love even more, this second to last week that i have with the students.

it has been quiet the journey, my friends.


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