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In essays, Stone Ridge seniors reflect on their school’s centennial

Natalie Starmann, at left, is a member of the class of 2023 at Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Bethesda, Maryland. Gracie Cooper, at right, is a member of the class of 2023 at Stone Ridge. This school year, the school sponsored by the Religious of the Sacred Heart is marking the centennial of its founding. (Courtesy photo) 

Goals to live by

(The following essay was written by Natalie Starmann, a member of the class of 2023 at Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Bethesda, Maryland.)                                                 

As I reflect on my eight years at Stone Ridge and become a part of the centennial year graduating class, I can’t help but think back to the first time I heard the Five Goals and Criteria of Sacred Heart Education. As a middle schooler, these goals seemed like a to-do list or just banners that line the entrance to campus, rather than a guide of how to live out the mission of the Sacred Heart Education. When I entered Stone Ridge at 10 years old, I didn’t appreciate the importance of the Five Goals that Stone Ridge was instilling in me, and that they would come to shape my view of the world, and me as a friend, leader and learner. 

Overall, the mission of the Five Goals is to encourage us   to lead with love and bring the Heart of Christ into the world. With these guiding principles of faith, intellect, service, community, and personal growth, I have realized a love for science, cultivated a passion for running, built lasting relationships, and developed a compassion for those most vulnerable. 

More specifically, I can attribute certain aspects of my life at Stone Ridge to particular goals. 

Goal I, a personal and active faith in God, has challenged me the most. It’s much easier to say you believe in God than it is to truly have a relationship with God. Two experiences at Stone Ridge that helped shape my relationship with God are participating in Campus Ministry and attending the Kairos retreat. I was able to be a co-leader of Campus Ministry this year and help guide our community through prayer, reflection and liturgies. One of my favorite parts of Campus Ministry was attending First Friday Masses; it provided a calm space during morning breaks to gather with members of the Upper School in prayer. 

Attending Kairos was easily the most formative faith and community experience. Kairos, a three day retreat for juniors led by seniors, focuses on vulnerability with others, listening to talks by seniors and teachers, and gathering together to experience the love of God. I was so excited when I got the opportunity to go back to Kairos as a senior leader this past March and share part of me with the juniors in a talk called “Searching for God.” 

Goal II, a deep respect for intellectual values, has provided me with an outlet to explore and challenge my academic passions. Two classes in particular impacted my love for science the most, Anatomy and Honors Biology. Each sparked an interest in studying the human body and a career in the health sciences. While my science courses have made a significant impact on what I want to study, so have my religion courses. Senior year I took Bioethics for my religion elective. This class helped me to see issues in medicine from the ethical perspective and encouraged me to dive deeper into difficult moral questions our society is faced with.

Goal III, a social awareness which impels to action, provides our community with a thoughtful way to engage with members in the local community and beyond. The Social Action program has enabled me to find issues I am passionate about, namely food insecurity and homelessness. This year I went to the Father McKenna Center in Washington, D.C., which provides homeless men with shelter, clothing and meals, but most importantly they support the men on their journey to stability. This formative experience would not have been possible without the bi-monthly Social Action program. I’m so grateful to Stone Ridge for providing me with a perspective bigger than myself and an opportunity to engage in direct service.

Natalie Starmann is a member of the class of 2023 at Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Bethesda, Maryland. (Courtesy photo)

Goal IV, the building of community as a Christian value, has allowed me to create community across divisions at Stone Ridge. I’ve loved spending time with the Little Hearts, coaching Girls on the Run in the Lower School, getting to know the juniors on Kairos, and being part of the cross country and track teams. Spending time with girls of all ages has taught me to be a leader and to be more compassionate and patient. It’s an incredibly rewarding experience to spend time with and learn from the younger generation of Stone Ridge girls. 

Goal V, personal growth in an atmosphere of wise freedom, is best described as Stone Ridge providing me with the space to be confident in who I am, learn from mistakes, and practice leadership skills. High school always presents challenges, whether that be in sports, COVID, or academic stress, but Stone Ridge creates an environment with supportive classmates and teachers. Through the teachings of Goal V and wise freedom, I’ve gained communication skills with others, confidence in myself, and resilience in working through challenges. 

To be a part of Stone Ridge’s centennial year graduating class means to be part of a group of young women who are committed to exemplifying the Goals throughout their entire lives, compassionate for those around them, passionate about their endeavors, and a group who has more energy and spirit than anyone I’ve ever known. My 97 classmates are sure to make an impact wherever they go, leading with love and the Heart of Christ at each step. 

In the fall, I will be attending the University of Notre Dame (go Irish!). I am so excited to be continuing my Catholic education at a place I love so much. Notre Dame will allow me to continue to live out the mission of the Sacred Heart by practicing my faith, finding my academic passions through taking a variety of classes, becoming involved in service in and around the South Bend area, attending games, club meetings, and dorm events to support a strong community foundation, and allowing room for successes and failures in an atmosphere which I can thrive in.

Treasured connections 

(The following essay was written by Gracie Cooper, a member of the class of 2023 at Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Bethesda, Maryland.)    

The Five Goals of Sacred Heart Education resonate with me and are an inspirational guide. My favorite is Goal III, a social awareness that impels to action. These six powerful words have guided my high school journey. I have learned the importance of helping others by volunteering at food banks, helping organize teachers’ classrooms, donating 100-plus dog toys to a local animal shelter, or simply holding the door for someone. The Sacred Heart Goals and Criteria have been a guide for me, shaping me into the person I am today. 

During my four years at Stone Ridge, I have been encouraged to pursue my interests and take on leadership roles. In my freshman year, my older sister, then a senior, urged me to join Campus Ministry. While I was initially unsure, my time at Campus Ministry has allowed me to experience the true value of Goal 1, a personal and active faith in God. A profound moment in my Stone Ridge experience was the Kairos retreat which I attended as a retreatant my junior year and as a leader my senior year. My Kairos experience allowed me to bond with my classmates and see God’s love for us in community.

In my freshman year, I dreamt of participating in the Sacred Heart Network International Exchange. I planned out everything and submitted all of my applications in advance. I was devastated when sophomore year and COVID came around, and exchange was not in the cards. However, I discovered something even better, virtual exchange. For the past two years, I have met monthly with national and international Sacred Heart students on Zoom, discussing our schools, social issues, and even prom (a topic I got asked about frequently). Although I couldn’t physically go abroad, my love for travel has only grown as I learned about new cultures and made lasting friendships with students from across the globe. Through this experience, I was able to see the value of Sacred Heart education and the instant connections it creates, no matter the distance. 

Reflecting upon Stone Ridge’s centennial year, it is truly inspiring to see how many generations of women have walked the same halls, celebrated each cherished tradition, and graduated confident that they were able to explore and pursue their unique passions during their time at Stone Ridge. 

In the fall, I will be attending Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida. While I am undecided about my major, Stone Ridge has allowed me to develop my interests and cultivate a passion for art and the STEM field, which I hope to continue in college. It’s truly hard to believe that my time as a student at Stone Ridge has come to an end, but I know that I will carry with me the value of the Sacred Heart and the treasured connections I have made with my classmates, peers and teachers. 

Gracie Cooper is a member of the class of 2023 at Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Bethesda, Maryland. (Courtesy photo)