6/8/2017 Villa Victoria grads reflect on strong sense of community
The 13 young women who gradated Villa Victoria Academy, Ewing, stand on a stage June 4 during the commencement ceremony of the all-girls school. Thomas Wiedmann photos
Valedictorian Francesca Bottini speaks of camaraderie and success in her address to her fellow students. At right sit Filippini Sisters Elizabeth Toft and Lillian Harrington, academy president.
Francesca Bottini's Valedictory Speech
Msgr. Mullelly, honored guests, board of trustees, board of directors, administration, faculty, family, friends, and my fellow graduates, I’m so happy to stand up here today and have the opportunity to address all of you for one last time. I represent the class of 2017, an amazing and kind and funny and crazy group of girls who I am proud to call my Villa sisters.
It’s hard to capture our class’ essence in just a few minutes of speaking because there is so much we could mention. In fact, when I started writing this speech, I got the same feelings I get when I’m about to write a timed essay— confused, slightly panicked, trying to recall everything I’ve ever learned. On what should I focus? Should I make an outline? Where do I even begin?
Our class has done so much together these last four years, and we’ve learned lots of things from our teachers and each other. That’s a lot to talk about. But in all these subjects, there is an important factor that I’d like to focus on: we should be grateful for all that we’ve experienced and shared while at Villa. It’s easy to take our time at Villa for granted, especially if we already have your sights set on college, but we are lucky to be here. We are lucky to have a class comprised of intelligent, witty and generous young women, we are lucky to have teachers that see us as individuals instead of names on a roster, we are lucky to have parents that would do anything to help us succeed. We are lucky to be Villa girls.
You can’t find the same type of community that Villa has at just any other school. The Villa community and the Villa experience are unique. Some of us have been here for fourteen years, or nine years, or four years, or even just two, but we have all been impacted by Villa and likewise, have made an impact on the school. We should be grateful for everything that we’ve experienced here — the good, the bad, the challenging, all of it, because each moment taught us something new. When we won the spirit week dance competition during sophomore year, it showed us that hard work and communication lead to great results. When we had a mouse issue in the lounge this year, we learned that sometimes we have to clean up our act— literally and figuratively. And for those times when we had so many assignments to complete that we thought we would never sleep again? Time management, coffee, and sheer willpower became our best friends. Of course, we couldn’t have gone through any of that without the support of our family, friends, and teachers. You’ve always been there for us, both cheering us on and telling us when to chill out.
We are lucky to have people like you in our lives — people who want the best for us. There is no parent, administrator, or teacher here who would deny us help if we needed it. When we have questions, you always have helpful answers, unless we ask things like “can I have the answers to this test?” or “do I actually need to go to school today?” Your advice means the world to us even if it looks like we’re not taking it (“maybe you shouldn’t wait until the last minute to do that” yeah, okay. “Fran, slow down while you’re talking” we’ll see about that). We should be grateful that we’ve had such a strong support system throughout high school, because we wouldn’t have made it here today without the help and advice from our parents and teachers.
Of course, the strongest bonds we’ve formed over the last four years have been with each other as a class. We have become true Villa sisters, practically real sisters. We give each other advice, we (sometimes) argue, we eat each other’s food, we wear each other’s clothes. We support each other no matter what. When we’re not in school, we’re talking to each other in a group chat that can’t seem to keep the same name for more than two weeks. We share memes that remind us of each other. We send Snapchats of our meals and of our pets, but more often than not, we send Snapchats of our faces at the most unflattering angles. Our class is always talking, and if you know us at all then it shouldn’t be a shocker. I know my class agrees when I say that we are thankful for the bonds that we’ve created at Villa. We are grateful to have found such funny, supportive, intelligent and hardworking Villa sisters in each other. In fact, I can’t imagine having spent my time at Villa with anyone else, because our class really is the dream squad.
All that we’ve experienced at Villa has shaped us into the women we are today. My class and I are strong, confident, faithful leaders who know when to take charge and when to follow. We know that even when we feel lost, God is there to guide us. We’ve learned to stand up for what we believe in, to fight against injustices, and to advocate for equality. We recognize the value of hard work, honesty, and integrity. Villa has helped transform us into powerful women who can accomplish whatever we put our minds to. We will be CEOs, veterinarians, surgeons, engineers. We will be the women running national ad campaigns and the women who change the face of technology. We’re not just going to break the glass ceiling, we’re gonna kick a hole through it. But no matter what we do in the future, we should always be grateful for where we come from and remember the support of our Villa community. Our school is special; this class is special. We are thirteen true friends, true sisters, and we’re going to show the world what true Villa women can do. Peace up, A-Town, thank you.
By Ken Downey Jr. | Correspondent
Standing in gowns of white, 13 young women took their tassels from the right side of their caps and moved them to their left. The simple movement ended their long journey, and the Class of 2017 from Villa Victoria Academy, Ewing, was presented.
Some of the young women who made up this graduating class have been attending the pre-K to 12th-grade, all-girls school for almost all of their lives. But on June 4, it all concluded with a ceremony and Baccalaureate Mass celebrated by Msgr. Thomas J. Mullelly, diocesan episcopal vicar for clergy and consecrated life.
“I’m going to tell you all a piece of advice that I learned when I was younger. With these two words, you can accomplish anything: seek excellence. No matter where you go in life, seek excellence,” Msgr. Mullelly said.
In her address, Valedictorian Francesca Bottini said, “It’s hard to capture our class’s essence in just a few minutes of speaking. There is so much we could mention. It’s easy to take our time at Villa for granted, especially if we already have our sights set on college. But we are lucky to be here. We are lucky to have a class composed of intelligent, witty and generous young women.”
The graduating students who make up Villa Victoria Academy’s 80th class all plan to continue their education in the fall, attending colleges and universities throughout the country. The Class of 2017 earned more than $3 million in scholarships.
“You cannot find the same type of community that Villa has at just any other school,” Bottini said. “The Villa community and Villa experience are unique. Some of us have been here for 14 years, or nine years, or four years, or even just two. But we have all been impacted by Villa, and likewise have made an impact on our school.”
Following Bottini’s speech, Filippini Sister Elizabeth Toft, who is celebrating the 50th anniversary of her graduation from Villa Victoria Academy, addressed the group.
“I remember that day very well,” said Toft, recalling her graduation day in 1967. “There was an overwhelming feeling of joy and anticipation that filled me, and I know it’s filling your hearts at this moment, too.”
Toft left the graduates with a piece of counsel for their upcoming journey into adulthood.
“No matter what difficulties you encounter, no matter what problems may loom over you, no matter what you have to suffer, God chooses to surround you with his love.”
The ceremony finished with the singing of the Villa Victoria alma mater, and each of the graduates came together outside of the Villa Victoria theater to throw their caps in the air in unison.
“We are 13 true friends, true sisters, and now we are going to show the world what true Villa women can do,” Bottini said.