Ella Dahlin: Using her gifts and sense of justice, this 2014 Holy Family Catholic High School graduate brings opportunities to others. She credits Holy Family for positively influencing and nurturing her in and out of the classroom.
“One of the most powerful aspects of Holy Family’s community is the support system that believes in its students. In high school, I felt important and valued by my teachers, staff, coaches and peers. I was taught to own who I was unapologetically. It gave me the confidence to make decisions and believe in them.” —Ella Dahlin, 2014 Holy Family graduate
Alumni Profile: Ella Dahlin
Elementary/Middle School: St. Joseph Catholic School, Waconia
University Attended: Loyola University Chicago, graduated in 2017
Degree: Bachelor’s Degree in Human Services
Holy Family Activities:
- Campus Ministry
- The Phoenix
- Cross Country
- Nordic Skiing
HF: Catch us up—what are you doing today?
ELLA: I am an elementary site supervisor with the Boys and Girls Club of Garden Grove (BGCGG) in Southern California, where I’m responsible for the implementation of an after-school program for 100 students. BGCGG provides free after-school programs that focus on academic success, provide positive role models and create opportunities for children to realize their worth.
HF: What are you most proud of at this point of your life?
ELLA: I am proud of working hard to graduate a year early from Loyola, taking a risk and moving to California, and for pursuing my true passion by working towards social equity with the Boys and Girls Club. As blessed as I am, I know it is not by some coincidence. I have been able to achieve what I have today because of my amazing family, friends and educational opportunities. I was extremely lucky to attend a high school and university that shaped me into the person I am.
HF: How did Holy Family influence your extracurricular activities while at Loyola?
ELLA: My favorite club at Loyola was the Women’s Lacrosse team, where I was a captain, treasurer and board member. If it were not for Holy Family, I would have never been introduced to the sport in the first place, so I am very grateful for my high school program.
During my time at Loyola, I was also a resident assistant and worked as a student office assistant with Residence Life. In many ways, these roles were just the continuation of (Holy Family’s) campus ministry, as I was responsible for programming, decorations and welcoming new students on campus.
My activities also included:
- Social justice internship program
- Volunteering at Catholic Charities Madonna House
- Alpha Phi Omega (a service fraternity)
- Alpha Sigma Nu (a Jesuit honors society)
Loyola is an amazing university with an abundance of opportunities, so I was able to pursue the interests that started with my time at Holy Family. Although I have some innate interests in these activities, it was Holy Family that started the fire that encouraged me to pursue them.
HF: Did a Holy Family teacher have a particularly positive impact on what you are accomplishing today?
ELLA: The strongest asset Holy Family has is its amazing, committed teachers. I will always remember the way Mr. (John) Dols encouraged me to take on opportunities and let my light shine. Mr. (Jacob) Dueck provided insight, created community and always acted from a place of care. Mr. (Andrew) Witchger challenged and supported me, and Dr. (Holly) Pottebaum encouraged me to dig deeper into the history of social justice in our country.
The list could continue forever, but the point is—every teacher impacted the way I thought and helped shape me into the critical thinker I am today. I am so appreciative of the holistic, caring education I received that prepared me for college and my life after college.
HF: Do you have a favorite memory from Holy Family?
ELLA: A collective feeling that is present in all my favorite memories is one of accomplishment—planning a trip to Haiti, scoring a goal in lacrosse or contributing to Christmas convocation. Holy Family does a fantastic job at offering opportunities that actualize students’ efforts and ideas. With a strong support system, I was empowered to be uncomfortable, take risks, and work hard to make my ideas a reality.
HF: How have you changed since leaving Holy Family?
ELLA: I have grown into a more educated and experienced individual. When I was younger, I was idealistic to a fault and have become more realistic through the years. Although slightly jaded, I am still an optimist who believes in the potential of every person. Through my experiences after high school, I realized the world is much more gray. I am and always have been an opinionated person, but I have learned the importance of listening to those who contradict me. I must understand other people’s life experiences to create a community that can come together.
HF: How did Holy Family help you be successful in pursuing your dreams?
ELLA: Holy Family taught me that hard work, determination and a passion for what I believe in is powerful. I will never forget the class where Mr. Dols shared a quote that says:
“Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us…Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you.” — Marianne Williamson, author
The staff and students at Holy Family embody that idea. I was fortunate enough to receive an education that molded my character and empowered me to believe in myself. My education challenged me to apply for challenging jobs, to take on opportunities that make me uncomfortable and to own who I am as a person.
HF: How did Holy Family help build your confidence and skill set in a highly competitive world?
ELLA: One of the most powerful aspects of Holy Family’s community is the support system that believes in its students. In high school, I felt important and valued by my teachers, staff, coaches, and peers. I was taught to own who I was unapologetically. It gave me the confidence to make decisions and believe in them. I was no longer uncertain or half-hearted in my ideas but rather fully committed. This skill set prepared me both for college and now my life after college.
I’m not afraid to ask questions. I am not afraid to admit my own mistakes. I am not afraid to learn. Since I was believed in, I believe in myself, so I do not fear a competitive world. I will work hard, I will show up, I will follow my passions, and I know that with time, I will succeed.
HF: What advice do you have for current and prospective Holy Family students?
ELLA: Take on the opportunities that Holy Family offers. Since Holy Family is smaller in size, I was able to participate in sports, clubs, and events that I may not have been able to at other schools. I started Nordic skiing my sophomore year because I wanted something to do. I joined Math League because my friends wanted to try it. I fell in love with writing when I joined The Phoenix. If you want to feel valued, if you want your name remembered, if you want to be able to join any team or club simply because it interests you—then this is the school for you.
If you already attend Holy Family, join those activities! There is nothing to lose and everything to gain.
SHARE YOUR HOLY FAMILY EXPERIENCE. If you have a unique story, experience or twist in life because of the positive impact Holy Family Catholic High School has had on you, share it. E-mail your story to: firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll spotlight stories from Holy Family parents, students, and alumni.
Wonder where our graduates go to college? Visit http://www.hfchs.org/follow-graduates/ to see a list of colleges.