Holy Family Catholic High School is excited to announce the establishment of The Hildebrandt Family Scholarship, a NEW scholarship opportunity for charter and public school students joining the Holy Family Class of 2022. This opportunity is available in addition to financial need based grants already offered; however, financial need is not a requirement for the this scholarship program.
Established by Dean and LeAnn Hildebrandt, the Hildebrandt Family Scholarship seeks to assist motivated, goals-driven students from charter and public middle schools in accessing Catholic 9-12 education at Holy Family Catholic High School. The Hildebrandt Family Scholarship honors the excellent experience they and their children had at Holy Family, and aims to help more public school families consider the incredible opportunities that Holy Family has to offer.
Applicants will submit an essay articulating their goals as a student at Holy Family Catholic High School along with two letters of recommendation. Annual renewal of the scholarship is contingent upon the student maintaining good academic standing and providing an end-of-school-year written reflection on progress.
Up to twelve Hildebrandt Family Scholarships of $3,000 each will be awarded to incoming 9th graders (2018-19 academic year) who attended public middle schools.
Just two years ago, when Holy Family opened its new Performance Center, all eyes were focused on how the space would be used. Yes, the “black-box theater” with seating to stage left and stage right is an intimate space for special school Masses. It’s also a place worthy of student art shows, band and choral concerts and the all-school “Coffee House” talent nights. By all accounts, the Performance Center was off to a busy start.
But the ultimate dream for the new Performance Center was to inspire and invigorate Holy Family’s Theatre Arts program, giving students a place to perform, sing, dance, imagine and create.
“We want people to know this school is dedicated to the arts,” says Eric Olson, the school’s new theatre director who joined the faculty this year. “To create an amazing theatre arts program at Holy Family, we’re going to set the bar high so that kids from other schools will want to bring their talents here.”
Olson knew for his theater program to get off to a rousing start, it was time to inspire students to reach for the stars and make a bold theatrical statement. Just weeks after school began, Olson hung posters and got the message out in daily school announcements. Auditions were scheduled for Holy Family’s first production of the year—The Wizard of Oz! He chose the classic for a number of reasons.
Generations love this popular musical, and it is a story that draws big crowds.
It was one of the first movies Olson remembers as a child—“It was so magical and creative to escape to the Land of Oz!”
It sets the expectations high and requires lots of student participation to make it all happen.
Olson didn’t have to wait long for the buzz and excitement to kick in.
“Within the first week, students were pounding on my door,” he shares. “So many wonderfully talented kids came out and wanted to be part of it from many aspects—lighting, sound, costuming, singing and acting. As a director, I can’t ask for anything better.”
Fueled By Passion
It takes more than one director with a vision and the passion to make it all happen. Olson’s challenge was to get everyone collectively excited, particularly in a high school with fewer than 500 students.
He relied on his experience, letting the students know he was ready to embark on something big. Something similar to what he did with his own K-12 theater company that produced 34 shows in nine years.
“I had to talk to the students and convince them to give me a shot,” Olson said.
And that they did. From day one, he has received rave reviews from both cast and crew.
“Mr. Olson gives really good instruction on acting and you know exactly what his vision is,” says senior actor Giselle Shannon, who performed in her first show as a freshman and is finishing with the coveted role of the Wicked Witch of the West. “He has a vision for what he wants and conveys it effectively, even during auditions.”
The excitement for this new level of Holy Family theater doesn’t just come from the actors under the lights or those who have seen the program evolve over the years.
Freshman Collin Nawrocki raised his hand to help with sound, something he was familiar with and interested in. It didn’t take long for him to step beyond his comfort zone, taking on full duties as “student director.” He designed the program, posters and tickets; manages the soundboard; learned the nuances of stage lighting; and came up with a dramatic way to project the “great and all-powerful Oz!”
Olson calls Nawrocki “Boss Man” to the cast, empowering him to multitask and keep everyone focused.
“People have no idea of how much work goes on behind the scenes,” Nawrocki says. “There is coordinating food, mics, costume design, special effects, lighting cues. The most difficult part is not knowing what’s going to go wrong.”
However, he doesn’t feel alone. The cast and crew in this year’s musical has become a tight family ready to help at a moment’s notice.
“You just can’t do it all by yourself,” Nawrocki says. “You have to have people around you that are supporting you. If you don’t, things won’t function well.”
Senior Ben Richards, performing the demanding role of the Cowardly Lion, shares similar sentiments, noting that the sacrifice of time extends far beyond the theater.
“You can’t do everything in practice,” he says. “There is a lot that goes on and has to be done at home. People don’t realize that family members help memorize our lines and master scenes. They are a big part of it.”
One thing clearly doesn’t go unnoticed to many of the students involved in the theatre arts program. Holy Family provides opportunities they may not get at larger schools.
Richards says, “In a small school, you can do theater, Italian Club, athletics and get it all done. A lot of us are committed to so many things, yet we do well because we manage time and school work well.”
Shannon agrees, knowing that she might not have the same chance to do it all in a larger school.
“Everyone is really understanding of each other because we have so many things we’re involved in,” she says. “Here, the only pressure is to do a good job collectively.
All Hands On Deck
Take a look around the school just weeks before the “curtain lifts” and there are theater activities happening simultaneously in every corner of the school.
The Chorus, a group of students playing support roles in multiple scenes, works on the main stage with student choreographer Lillian Graupman.
Across the school, Holy Family Music Teacher Annelise Brown is fine-tuning a song and dance number in the chorus room with the main cast.
In a storage room adjacent to the theater, art teacher Shelagh Gamble “helps” two students putting finishing touches on the “Munchkin Land” set, one of four multi-paneled scene changes created for the musical. (Dozens of volunteers and students from Art 1 and Painting 2 classes created the massive backdrops.)
During a break, freshman Marie Fahey, cast as Dorothy, practices Over the Rainbow using the new wireless microphones Nawrocki sourced for improved sound.
Back on stage, middle-school students from Guardian Angels Catholic School in Chaska take their place as the loveable Munchkins, practicing their big scene with Dorothy.
None of this, mind you, takes place under Olson’s direction. The students are working independently today, as Olson, who also has a master’s in English and teaches American and Modern Literature, tends to Parent/Teacher Conference duties.
It Takes Unsung Heroes
In the dressing room, senior Costume Designer Natalie Wideman has Gigi (Shannon) try on a pair of black high-tie heels, perfect for the Kansas persona of Miss Almira Gulch, who transforms into the Wicked Witch of the West.
“Do they fit?” Wideman curiously asks, while wheeling a rack of costumes she’s altering. “Can you walk around in them for the whole show? Why don’t you wear them for the rest of practice today just to make sure.”
Wideman shares costume and set styling duties with Graupman. She used to act, but instead has taken a backstage role this year to do what she loves—create awe-inspiring costumes. She learned to sew from her mother while in 4-H, and began designing clothes on her own shortly after.
“I’m taking a 1980s style wedding gown with the big puffy sleeves and making it into Glinda’s dress,” she grins. “It’s going to be fabulous!”
Wideman points out many students helped with this year’s musical, thanks to Olson’s all-school outreach that has made theater arts the talk of Holy Family.
“The whole school is involved. People are volunteering to paint backdrops and bring in props. A lot of people are pitching in with the lifting (of scenes) and helping make this something special.”
And the Show Goes On…
The lights will be glowing bright on opening night—7 p.m. Friday, December 8—when the first of three performances kick off a weekend filled with Oz. With every practice, confidence is growing and the pieces are falling into place.
“Kids in the theater space are full of ideas,” Olson says. “I want collaboration. I want to run the program by listening to students and other teachers, taking in what they want and working together to make it happen.”
No one knows that better than Nawrocki, who spends each day after school immersed in the theater environment.
“I’ve given him (Olson) so many crazy ideas,” he says, “and a few of them have even happened. There are going to be some unexpected surprises (with Oz). We haven’t even figured all of them out yet, but there will be some pretty cool stuff.”
That kind of enthusiasm in the theatre arts experience is exactly what Olson was hoping to bring to Holy Family.
“My biggest goal is to make kids feel welcome and that they have a place to trust in, perform and be expressive,” Olson says. “I want to establish a place where the kids know they can come and have it theirs.”
Getting back to that black-box theater busy with activity, Olson sees it as a challenge that’s even new to him.
“Most theaters I’ve been in are auditoriums with theater-style seating,” he explains. “This is definitely different and it’s uniquely challenging. We have to block things out differently. We’re in a triangle, performing for two sides of the room.
“I think the audience is going to have an intimate experience and see the actors and scenes up close. They’re going to be involved rather than sitting back, feeling like they’re part of every performance.”
Click HERE for the Wizard of Oz performance schedule. We hope you’ll join us for the show!
Holy Family Catholic High School held its 18th Annual Spirit of Fire gala on November 11, 2017. Parent volunteers transformed the school’s Slattery Activities and Convocation Center into a glamorous space for the 345 guests in attendance. The event exceeded its $300,000 goal, netting over $310,000, including an unprecedented $100,000 title sponsorship from Strom Engineering (Strom’s CEO emeritus, John Radick, is a current Holy Family parent.) Proceeds support school programs and tuition assistance scholarships.
Themed “A Holy Family Tradition,” the evening kicked off with a cocktail reception and silent auction, followed by dinner and entertainment from the Holy Family jazz band, drumline, and vocal jazz group, Voices of Fire. Holy Family welcomed alumnus Tom Lano ‘11 as the master of ceremonies.
Joining Strom in sponsoring the evening were Silver Sponsors: KNW Group, Jaguar Communications, SevenHills Benefits Partners, Restwell Mattress Factory and LiveWell Chiropractic; Friends Sponsors: Browne+Browne Marketing, Requet Chiropractic, Charter Bank, Culvers, the Anseth family, and the Graupman family; Advertising Sponsors: Lions Tap, PK Services, and Catherine Seck of Edina Realty and a late-night snack provided by the Chanhassen Chick-fil-A.
This year’s fund-a-need focus was STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) education. It raised $98,000 to allow the school to purchase additional 3-D printers and a CNC machine for the Innovation Lab, enhance the science labs and classroom equipment, replace the ceramic studio kiln, add a permanent grand piano in the Performance Center, and provide teachers with additional STEAM professional development.
A fundraiser of this magnitude would not be possible without the commitment of more than 100 parent volunteers who procured and organized the silent and live auction items, managed the logistics of setting up and tearing down the event space, supervised the junior class volunteers, and decorated the activities wing and center.
Holy Family’s new events and marketing coordinator expressed her gratitude after coordinating her first Spirit of Fire, “Through the entire planning process, I have been blown away by the generosity of our sponsors, local businesses, and parents. I am so grateful for the parent volunteers who shared their expertise and knowledge from past events, not to mention the hours of their time in preparing and pulling off such a large gala. It speaks volumes about what this school means to our parents and our extended community.”
Holy Family Service Tradition: Breakfast at the Simpson House
5:00 a.m. Gracie Lund’s mobile phone comes alive, waking her on a “day off.” The Holy Family Catholic High School senior has 15 minutes to load groceries and get to the Holy Family parking lot to pick up a group of waiting freshmen ready for their first Simpson House experience in Minneapolis.
The goal: Serve a hot breakfast by 7 a.m. to homeless men and women who stayed at the shelter the previous night. It’s a simple gesture that means so much. Taking the time to serve a hearty meal and start someone’s day with a smile and a kind word.
“Simpson House is a great hands-on service project because you can see the people you are impacting,” says Lund, who learned the ropes two years ago as a sophomore. “I like seeing the people I’m helping, and it has a big impact on me as well. That’s why it’s my favorite service activity.”
Project Owned by Students
Lund and fellow senior leaders Alexis Pricco and Mark Haran have Holy Family alumnus Rob LaRose (2013) to thank for the early morning wake-ups. LaRose personally launched the service project his junior year, and it has become an ongoing tradition. The students completely organize the program, buy groceries and visit the Simpson House 15 to 18 times each year on days off, late-start days and even during the summer.
“It is unusual for a student group not to have adult supervision,” says John Vodicka, Simpson House Volunteer Coordinator & Shelter Advocate. “It says a lot about the students and their abilities, and the confidence Holy Family Catholic High School staff have in the youth.
“The students are unique in lots of ways,” he adds, “particularly in their genuine interest in serving the homeless poor, getting outside their comfort zone and spending time learning about what must be done to eliminate homelessness in our community.”
John Dols, Assistant Principal and Campus Minister, recalls how LaRose’s passion to make a difference at the Simpson House planted the seeds for a program that is now a Holy Family Catholic High School tradition.
“Rob served dinner there with his family and wondered what they did for breakfast,” Dols explains. “He found out they would have cold cereal or nothing at all. He decided to make a difference, and that he and his family would serve breakfast on his birthday.
“Then, he suggested to me that Holy Family should serve breakfast on days off and late starts. I totally supported that, but told him he would have to run it. He did for two years, and we both decided he needed to train a junior to take over if he wanted to keep it going.”
Reaching Out to Others
Six years later, students continue to make sure the Simpson House tradition carries on. Senior leaders this year took it even a step further, visiting the freshman Independent Studies (I.S.) class to recruit volunteers so they could see what the Simpson House service project is all about.
“We thought it would be good to get all grades involved this year,” Lund says. “It was actually surprising that the kids were so eager to go. We already have people for next time.”
On average, 45 to 50 Simpson House guests stay for breakfast before they have to leave the shelter each morning. Students organizing the project, who shop for groceries the night before, still use the original grocery list created by LaRose 6 years ago.
“Sometimes we change it up, making French toast instead of pancakes, or bacon instead of sausage,” Lund says. Otherwise, the list is fairly consistent. It includes:
7 cartons of 18 eggs
2 bags of cheese
2 bags of precooked sausage
2 boxes of pancake mix
2 bags/containers of grapes, strawberries or other fruit
4 gallons of milk
1 gallon of chocolate milk
2 gallons of orange juice
2 gallons of apple juice
2 bottles of syrup
1 pound of butter
1 package of napkins
1 container of whipped cream
“I think it is important for Holy Family to continue this service tradition and make sure it is student led,” Lund adds. “ It gives students a chance to take leadership, organize and get kids together so they can see how they have an impact on others. That is really important.”
Dols agrees. “Sometimes, adults get in the way. This program is the students’. There is a true sense of ownership and pride,” he says. “Service is integral to our faith and an essential aspect of our Lasallian Charism. It is who we are.”
Shark sighting! At Holy Family Catholic High School? Business sharks, that is. Nearly 30 students met at Holy Family on October 5 to kick off the newest extracurricular academic activity —the Holy Family Business & Marketing Club.
The big turnout shows strong interest from its leaders, parents and students in expanding Holy Family’s business offerings. And it dovetails seamlessly with the Holy Family Catholic High School goal of providing academic and extracurricular activities that allow students to gain real-life experiences.
“Many of you said you want to figure out if business is what you want to do in college and for a career,” Robb Richter said to a packed room of seniors who attended the kickoff meeting. “If you eventually decide business is what you want to pursue, you’ll learn enough here alone that should help you get that internship as a freshman.”
Richter, a Holy Family parent and, more importantly, an accomplished business leader in corporate acquisitions, is taking a no-nonsense approach when sharing his knowledge with this group of highly engaged students. Here are just a few thoughts he offered at the first meeting:
“I have been inside companies so deep that things scare me. You’re going to learn why we didn’t buy those companies.”
“If asking for money, wear a tie or break out your best.”
“So many companies have debt. It’s become a way of doing business. If you can avoid it, don’t do it.”
And when it comes to a company’s vision, “If you don’t outline what your organization wants to be or how it wants the world to see it, you won’t get past the first meeting.”
How much more real-life can you get?
Richter’s plan for the Business & Marketing Club goes deeper than sharing personal experiences. It’s a hands-on approach that gives the students full exposure to broad business topics to help them get a sense of which business tracks interest them most.
Twenty-eight sessions are scheduled throughout the school year, all conducted in the evenings, with students attending on their own time. The first nine meetings are already planned, and students will weigh in on where the program goes from there. Topics to be covered include:
Creating a corporate vision and mission
Understanding EBITA, COGS, GM and IRR
Creating effective business presentations
Understanding corporate financial statements
Outlining the nuts and bolts of marketing and advertising
Building resumes and talented teams
Also planned are field trips to Twin Cities businesses and visits from corporate leaders who will share their real-world knowledge.
The club’s sequence culminates with the students pitching their own business ideas to “shark investors” in a real boardroom. By that time, they’ll be prepared to answer the tough questions, while putting their business savvy and creativity to the test.
“I hope you get something out of this that is different from what you get every day in school,” Richter said to the students attending the kickoff.
The Holy Family Business & Marketing Club is open to current seniors at Holy Family High School, with the pilot year helping establish a broader plan for Holy Family’s curricular business offerings.
“While I was a member of the strategic planning committee, the idea of some type of business program surfaced multiple times and the demand for it was also voiced in surveys and focus groups,” Richter shares. “These seniors will help formulate the next iteration of what business and marketing education becomes for future Holy Family students.”
Life is full of big decisions. At the time, none seems more important than deciding where’s the right place for your student who’s ready to make the leap to high school. While that decision may be a critical turning point in your student’s success, it doesn’t have to be difficult, frustrating, nerve-racking or exhausting. In fact, that is exactly why Holy Family Catholic High School has made its Shadow Day program a realistic reflection of a day-in-the-life of a Holy Family student. No red carpet. No showering with expensive gifts. No formal tours.
Just a real-life experience of what it’s like being part of “The Family.”
“We are taking the whole idea of learning what a school is about to a very real experience,” says Scott Breimhorst, Holy Family Executive Director of Admissions. “We want to provide an experience that is as identical to a day at Holy Family as you can possibly get.”
This seeing-is-believing approach allows shadow students to “walk a mile” in another Holy Family student’s shoes. They get to see the daily routines of students just like them, with similar interests, hopes, dreams and goals.
Shadow Day visits begin in late September (this year, it starts September 22 to coincide with the FIRE 22 theme for the Class of 2022) and continue until mid-May. It’s easy to schedule a visit. Just contact Holy Family. Don’t forget to check out what you need to know before you visit.
Before you make that phone call or send us an e-mail, here are the five must-see-to-believe Shadow Day experiences your student will enjoy at Holy Family Catholic High School.
PERSONALIZATION: No Student’s Visit is the Same
Every Holy Family student has unique interests, abilities and personal gifts. (We have more than 60 extracurricular activities to check out.) That’s why each Shadow Day is personally tailored to meet the needs and expectations of each prospective student.
What are your interests? When you schedule a shadow visit, our admissions team will ask your student about his or her academic and extracurricular interests. Why? That way we can best match prospective students with a student host.
Interested in robotics? Get paired with a student on our world-qualifying robotics team.
Nordic ski? Play hockey? Love performing arts? We’ll team you up with a student who will introduce you to others with the same interests. You’ll be able to ask questions and get answers from students just like you.
Passionate about singing? Play an instrument? Bring your talents and join in.
Can You Request a Shadow Host? Absolutely. If you have a friend or neighbor you want to shadow, just let us know. And if your interests are somewhat different, that’s okay. You’ll still meet students, teachers or coaches who will make your high-school experience memorable.
Time Challenged? While we recommend experiencing a full day at Holy Family, we know sometimes busy schedules make it difficult. Partial-day visits can be arranged. And if you want to bring a friend, we’ll make sure both of your interests are addressed.
REAL-LIFE: A True Holy Family Day
It’s important that prospective students get a realistic feel for what their own Holy Family day might be like. That’s why we team 8th grade shadow students with freshmen, in most cases. Transfer students from other high schools are matched with students from their same grade. How do we make our Shadow Day as real as can be?
Follow Actual Class Schedules. Shadow students follow their host’s daily schedule, including attending their classes. Shadows experience typical freshman-year classes, including Biology, Sacred Scripture, World History and Geography, World Literature and more! Want to experience band, chorus, or an art class? Let us know!
What’s Convocation? Any Holy Family school day isn’t complete without our student-led Convocation. Each day, we hold an all-school gathering that anchors our students and teachers in faith, celebrates our accomplishments, and keeps everyone in the loop about school news and upcoming events.
What About Lunch? Read on…that one deserves a shout-out all its own.
MEET & GREET: Students, Teachers and Coaches
With almost 150 shadow students visiting Holy Family Catholic High School each year, our Holy Family students are accustomed to seeing prospective students in the halls, sitting among them in classes, or visiting clubs or athletic teams. “Hey, Shadow!” greetings, followed by high fives are not uncommon. We want to make sure you meet as many students as possible.
The Inside Scoop. We’re proud to say that our students really know each other—who plays what sport, who is passionate about particular subjects, who is a member of what club. This allows the student hosts to connect shadow students with other students who have similar interests.
Class Action. Our teachers enjoy meeting shadow students and involving them in class activities too. They won’t call you out—but if you want to jump in and participate, it’s all you!
YOU DESERVE A BREAK: Lunch and Fun
There’s a lot to digest over the course of a school day, and shadow students and their hosts welcome a pause in the action. Time and again, we hear how prospective students say that the Holy Family lunch program is a Shadow Day highlight.
Lunch On Us! Shadow students can order the special entree of the day, cruise the fresh salad bar, tower their trays with à la carte items and, for dessert, they won’t want to miss out on our very own Carol Gestach’s freshly baked cookies. They. Are. Legendary.
Beyond the Classroom. Yup, it’s a real thing, with the acronym BTC. This is a chance for students to unwind after lunch. Students and, yes, sometimes teachers, compete in friendly ping-pong matches, organize pickup basketball games or just enjoy time to catch up with friends. It’s flexible and fun, and meant to be that way. If it is game day, students sometimes use this time as a study hall to get a jump start on homework.
BE HEARD. We Want Your Feedback
Shadow Day doesn’t end once you leave Holy Family Catholic High School. We want to hear from you, both students and parents.
We want to know how the day went.
Answer your questions.
Hear your student’s thoughts.
Are there more areas of interest your student wants to explore? We can arrange that.
Questions? If you or your potential student has additional questions before or after a Shadow Day visit, contact Scott Breimhorst, Executive Director of Admissions, or Rob Bell, Admissions and Financial Aid Officer, at (952) 443-1955, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’ve all been there. We invest in all kinds of activities for our kids to pursue. It’s part of the growing process: developing the whole person, not just academically, but physically, socially and emotionally.
Then, as high school nears, that little voice sounds the alarm in the back of a parent’s head. Is my daughter or son good enough to make the team? Can they continue with music? Get a part in the play? Compete with other students? Is high school the end of the line?
“It’s interesting comparing Holy Family to other large schools in the area,” says Activities Director Nick Tibesar. “We have kids staying with programs longer than what I saw in public schools. So often, in other schools, kids come in playing ball with friends during their summers and evenings, sometimes for years, and all of a sudden they end up as a high school freshman and sophomore not on a team anymore.”
Not at Holy Family Catholic High School. Here, students get an opportunity to participate in the sports and many other activities they are most passionate about. Plus, they often discover a wide variety of other sports, academic teams, clubs and activities they never considered.
“We encourage kids to try new things and stretch limits,” Nick says. “We want them to be involved in multiple things to fight some of the outside pressure to specialize in just one of them.”
Smaller School Size, Big Opportunities
With a student body of 400 kids, Holy Family provides unlimited opportunities to explore new things. Students often participate in more than one activity, not just during the school year, but also during a single season.
“When looking at sports, there are students who were on the trap and lacrosse teams, or tennis, track and baseball,” Nick says. “But more common is a kid who participates in both a sport and one of our academic competitions.
“We had a player on our basketball team who also was on our varsity Math League team. As a coach, I recall a half dozen times he had to go to Math League. No one acted like that was strange or gave him a hard time. We said, ‘How did Math League go? And cool you’re doing so well.’
“It’s fun to be in a culture where someone is not ostracized for picking academics over athletics.”
With over 60 extracurriculars to choose from, your Holy Family student is destined to pursue his or her talents, while trying new activities outside of the classroom.
“There are a lot of people who chose Holy Family for the right reasons—faith-based environment, college prep, joining a community where their student is known and cared for,” Nick adds. “All of those things extend to our classroom, lunchroom and after-school activities.
“We consider extracurricular activities the last class of the day. And, they provide the same values as everything else at Holy Family.”
92% of Holy Family students participate in extracurricular activities
90% of Holy Family students participate in multiple extracurricular activities in a school year
60+ Holy Family extracurricular activities are offered each school year
In June, a group of 50 Holy Family students, adult chaperones, and teachers traveled to the capitals of the British Isles for an educational enrichment summer trip. Junior Maggie Berg ’19 kept a travel log to share their experiences.
Thursday, June 15, 2017 – Off to London
Our large group showed up at the MSP airport for an early flight to Chicago. After a quick flight, we made our way onto the largest plane that most of us have ever been on with nine seats across. Filled with so much excitement, many couldn’t sleep while others dozed during the 8-hour flight.
Friday, June 16, 2017 – Our First Day in London
When we got off the plane, it was technically Friday; we gained six hours flying from the Midwest to London. We scrambled off the plane filled with excitement and climbed on a bus for our first day of touring London.
The first thing we noticed is that in Europe, they drive on the left side of the road and the drivers’ seats are on the right side of the car. This is because when people used to ride horses they would ride on the left so they could hold their swords in their right hand during a duel or, instead, extend a hand peacefully.
Our first stop in London was the Covent Garden for lunch, shopping, and entertainment. In the main square, there was an entertaining street performer on a unicycle and lots of different types of architecture. To get around the city, all 50 of us took London’s subway transportation, the Tube, for the first time. We were overwhelmed by the new experience of subway lines and routes, but would soon master them.
Everywhere we went there were new people to meet and we enjoyed listening to their British accents. Our next stop was Trafalgar Square, which had the National Gallery, Nelson’s Column and multiple statues. From the top of Nelson’s Column we could had a perfect view of Big Ben and Buckingham Palace. These breathtaking sights made us excited for the rest of the journey. We enjoyed a dinner of chicken and mashed potatoes at a pub and then headed to the hotel.
Saturday, June 17, 2017 – Visits to famous places and glimpse of the Queen
Today our local tour guide took our bus around the bank area of London. We jumped off the bus in front of building across from St. Paul’s Cathedral and took a quick elevator to the top for the best view in all of London. All of London’s most famous buildings were visible in the distance.
Our next stop was the Prince Albert Memorial commissioned by his wife, Queen Victoria, after his death. She lived 40 years longer and only wore black after he died.
We visited Westminster, which has Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and the Parliament building. The tower that everyone thinks is Big Ben is actually called the Elizabeth Tower and the bell inside is Big Ben.
From Westminster we hopped onto the bus to Windsor, a small town where Windsor Castle, the residence of Queen Elizabeth is located. Windsor had fun shops and restaurants. At the top of the hill was Windsor Castle. The castle has multiple buildings; the oldest was built in 1070.
While we were there, the Queen was returning from her “birthday” celebration in London, and we saw her she rode by in her black Range Rover.
After visiting the castle, we returned to London for fish and chips, a classic British meal. That night, the majority of our group went on the Jack the Ripper tour. The tour brought us to the East End of London, away from tourists. The tour put us back in the late 1800’s and we were brought on the path of the murders committed by a man no one has ever been able to convict or identify. We were able to put ourselves back in time as witnesses as we listened to the tour guide explain to us the evidence and different conspiracy theories that are still being discussed to this day.
Sunday, June 18, 2017 – Sunday Mass at St. Paul’s Basilica
In the morning, we went to St. Paul’s Basilica for Sunday Mass. This service was different from home for all of us; it was a music-less Mass, everything was spoken. Everything was nice and direct and finished in 45 minutes. The rest of the day was free time until dinner. Most of us checked out the infamous luxury department store, Harrods. Others went on a Harry Potter tour, which brought them to different locations where the movies were filmed.
Monday, June 19, 2017 – Leaving the busyness of London
Today we took a train all the way through England north to Scotland. There were many rolling green hills and a calm peacefulness compared to the busyness of London. We toured Edinburgh on the bus and then drove up the hill to Edinburgh Castle. The castle overlooks the entire city of Edinburgh. After we toured the castle, the time was ours to explore different parts of the town and shops. The roads were filled with hundreds of people and many bagpipe players. For dinner we ate at the Spirit of Scotland. Some people tried Haggis, which is a traditional Scottish meet, or sheep heart. We ate and enjoyed a traditional Scottish performance from singers, dancers, a violinist, and a bagpipe player– a true delightful taste of Scottish culture.
Tuesday, June 20, 2017 – From Scotland to Northern Island
We all took a bus to Cairnryan, Scotland, and then a ferry to Belfast in Northern Ireland. The ferry was similar to a cruise ship with lots of seats, entertainment, and food. After we arrived in Belfast, we enjoyed a beautiful view of the Irish Sea. Of course, we had a potato dinner, a typical meal in Ireland. It was fun to think that today we woke up in Scotland and went to bed in Ireland.
Wednesday, June 21, 2017 – On the edge of Ireland
In the morning we all drove to Bushmills, Northern Ireland. The drive was beautiful with rolling green hills and many sheep, but on top of that was a stop to Giant’s Causeway. We walked down and we were literally on the edge of Ireland and could see where the land cuts off at a cliff. As we walked down toward the shore, there were these amazing hexagonal shaped rocks to climb. They were formed from volcanic activity over 60 million years ago. We soon learned of the legends of the rocks that say they were rocks thrown into the sea by giant Finn McCool.
Later, we visited the other side of Northern Ireland called Londonderry or Derry, a naming dispute between the nationalists and the unionists. Derry has a recent history of attacks from the Irish Republican Army, also known as the IRA, and lots of peaceful movements to unite the Protestant and Catholic sides of town. There were many peace murals and a peace bridge connecting the two sides of town. After a long day of touring all of Northern Ireland, we landed back in Belfast for dinner at our hotel.
Thursday, June 22, 2017 – An afternoon at the Titanic Belfast
Today we took a tour around Belfast and got off the bus to sign the peace wall and leave our mark in Ireland. We learned some Irish slang like the word “crack” means “fun” and “boot” is a trunk of a car.
After the tour we visited the Titanic museum. The museum is as tall as the original Titanic and is built to look like the iceberg that it hit. The Titanic was constructed in Belfast and cranes used to build the ship remain standing. We were supposed to drive straight from the museum to Dublin, Ireland. We left Belfast and 15 minutes later, our bus broke down. After two hours waiting for bus, we were began the 2-hour bus ride to Dublin, Ireland. We enjoyed the whole Irish experience by eating dinner at a pub and then we were off to the “hotel”.
It wasn’t quite a hotel. Technically called “student accommodations”, it was a boarding school and its property was quite cool. We were all able to explore the grounds including an old castle on campus. There was a tunnel made out of bushes tall enough to fit our whole tour group. They also had “footgolf” which is like a combination of soccer and golf. A small group of us took a walk from our accommodations to the Irish Sea. The ocean was beautiful and we found some great shells and met an adorable puppy.
Friday, June 23, 2017 – A day to explore
Today was our exploration day in Dublin, Ireland. We saw many important landmarks including St. Patrick’s Cathedral. St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland. We saw the Book of Kells, which is the oldest book containing the four Gospels and is housed at Trinity College. We then had free time to shop around and visit different museums. We met for an Irish meal of beef and potatoes. Some people stayed at the dinner longer for an Irish dance performance while others went back to the accommodations for free time. For our last night in the British Isles we ordered a late night snack of many giant pizzas for all of us to share.
Saturday, June 24, 2017 – Back to home
We woke up at five in the morning to start our long trek home. After a flight delay we finally made it on the plane for an 8-hour flight to Chicago. Because our flight was delayed, we missed our connection, so instead were once again on a bus for six-hour ride home. We were reunited with our families, dogs, and friends. We also brought back many new experiences and stories to share.
The opportunity to travel throughout the British Isles was an amazing experience. Seeing the sights we’d only read about in our textbooks helped us all learn so much more about the history and cultures of the countries we visited. We have gained a new knowledge of people and places around the world and let’s hope that’s just the beginning. The whole experience made the countless hours of traveling and the patience needed to enjoy a new part of the world worth it.
See a video of their trip HERE. View a gallery of Maggie’s photos from the trip HERE.
Thank you to the sponsors, golfers, and volunteers who made the 2017 Ready Tee Fire Golf Classic a HUGE success! This year’s event was one of the largest in our 21-year history with a full field of 145 golfers and a record number of alumni participating. The event raised a budget-breaking $45,000 of net proceeds to support Holy Family programs.
2017 Ready Tee Fire Golf Classic winning teams are:
Open Division: Noel Rahn, Rich Balm, Tom Peterson, Joe Gleason Second Place: Tim Browne, Andy Olson, John Bohmbach, Jim Bergerson Alumni Division: Ryan Swanson ’14, Dylan Woolf ’14, AJ Spaulding’14, and Joey Marooney ’14 Women’s/Mixed Division: Chris Moakley, Marty Moakley, Meaghan Moakley ’13, and Mike Brennan
2017 on-course game winners are:
Hole #2 Closest to the Pin: Karen Menzuber Hole #4 Men’s Longest Drive: Tom Peterson Hole #4 Women’s Longest Drive: Alexis Pricco ’18 Hole #9 Longest Putt: Mike Iversen Hole #10 Women’s Longest Drive: Meaghan Moakley ’13 Hole #10 Men’s Longest Drive: Adam Dooley Hole #16 Closest to the Pin: Joe Finley Hole #18 Longest Putt: Jeff Felmlee ’08
Thank you to the following generous sponsors:
Friends Sponsors Merrill Lynch/The Polhen Terris Group
This event would not be possible without our 14 student volunteers and 11 adult volunteers. Thank you for your time!
Tom Mahota: Known for putting his best effort into everything he takes on, this 2017 Holy Family Catholic High School graduate explains opportunities and those around him helped shape a path for success.
“My family has always encouraged me to do well in school and work to become a better person, but being around people and friends who strive for the same things makes it much easier and more natural. Holy Family is an easy place to do this because there are so many good people who want success for themselves and others.” —Tom Mahota, 2017 Holy Family Graduate
Elementary/Middle School: Our Lady of the Lake School, Mound
Attending: University of Minnesota–Twin Cities
Major: Engineering Mechanics and Astronautics
Holy Family Activities:
HF: What is your definition of “success?”
TOM: I think that someone who is successful in life is someone who has found happiness in themselves and in others. I’ve met a lot of people—good, bad and everything in between. One thing I’ve learned is that people who can recognize that their happiness doesn’t come from just themselves treat others with a particular kind of kindness.
Everyone has ups and downs in life, but the people who are able to find happiness in others are the ones who stand out to me. I would definitely consider this success.
HF:How have your varied experiences connected to the person you are?
TOM: One of the most valuable things that I’ve found in being involved in such a wide scope of things is how to deal with many different types of people.
It is amazing to experience the difference between the atmosphere of a locker room and an art fair. Neither one is better than the other, yet the people, the atmosphere and the temperament are completely different.
There is value in both, and the people I have met in both have definitely shaped me.
Anyone who knows me will tell you I’m a very competitive person. A big reason for this is from the years of sports and having such a large part of my life be competitions with amazing coaches and mentors.
Then there is also the creative side. I’ve been building things for as long as I can remember, and the people I’ve met at places like workshops or art fairs are some of the most interesting and kind people I’ve encountered. I’m hoping that those traits are rubbing off on me as much as the competitiveness.
HF: With so many interests, how do you remain focused on what is important?
TOM: I think the best way is to simply surround yourself with the right people. My family has always been encouraging me to do well in school and work to become a better person, but being around people and friends who strive for the same things makes it much easier and more natural. Holy Family is an easy place to do this because there are so many good people who want success for themselves and for others.
HF: How do your interests transform how you perceive the world?
TOM: My perception of the world is through a lens of all the different things I do and the connections I can make between them. I’ve found my experience with things that seem totally different helps me excel when I bring qualities from each together.
One example is robotics. When designing and developing a machine to shoot balls, I used concepts and ideas from baseball pitching machines. I’d been around them my whole life and was able to draw a similarity from baseball to benefit what we did in robotics.
HF: Now that you have graduated, do you see yourself as a role model for other high school students?
TOM: The way I perceive myself is no differently than the way I see other people. Everyone has his or her own talents, interests and shortcomings, including myself.
I feel like a lot of times people see someone do something amazing and say, “Oh, there’s no way I could do anything like that,” before even trying it.
The only thing I would say that has helped me succeed is this: I never tell myself I can’t do something, or that something isn’t for me before I try it and decide for myself.
SHARE YOUR HOLY FAMILY EXPERIENCE. If you have a unique story, experience or twist in life because of the influence Holy Family Catholic High School has had on you, share it with us. E-mail your story to: email@example.com. We’ll spotlight stories from Holy Family parents, students and alumni.