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AHA Students Return from Service Trip with New Perspectives.
2017 June 2

AHA Students with Sister Genevieve 2017

AHA students with S. Genevieve in Wilton, Connecticut.

A spring service trip to Caroline House in Connecticut left seven students from the Academy of the Holy Angels with favorable impressions of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, who sponsor AHA and Caroline House, and the many immigrants the SSNDs tutor.

Kathleen Sylvester, director of campus ministry at AHA, described the weeklong trip as an enormous success. She noted that the goal is to immerse the students in SSND life while they are performing their service work.

This year, AHA’s contingent included Nirvana Rajkumar of Teaneck, Anjianie Perez of Teaneck, Julia Malnak of Montvale, Abigail Sheehan of Wyckoff, Tara Lyons of Pearl River (NY), Amanda Hawthorne of River Edge, and Gabriella Ligresti of Montebello (NY).

The group stayed in Wilton and visited with the sisters, including AHA alumna and avid seamstress Sister Marie Anna Moltz (Class of 1939). Several SSNDs shared stories about their work as missionaries and teachers. Those SSNDs who are AHA alumnae also commented on their personal experiences at the school.

“(The students) also spent three days at The Caroline House, where they worked with immigrant women and children, and listened to their stories. They came away with a deeper sense of how hard these women work, and how complicated their lives are,” Sylvester said.

When the students visited the sisters at the Lourdes Health Care Center, they had the opportunity to meet Sister Genevieve Kelleher. Sister Genevieve is AHA’s longest-serving SSND. From 1948 through 2011, she served in various capacities, including school librarian, and taught English, French, religion, biology, and history. Before she retired, S. Genevieve also worked in the school’s finance office. This fall, the former convent on the AHA campus where S. Genevieve once lived will be named Kelleher Hall in her honor. The building will include state-of-the-art instructional space.

“This experience opened my eyes,” Abigail Sheehan commented after the trip. She was particularly impressed by a recent immigrant who is working hard to fulfill her career goal, and came away with a favorable view of the patient, selfless teachers at The Caroline House who help the immigrant women to learn English.

While the AHA group was visiting, the English students were practicing their use of the future tense and writing about their goals.

“All these women have dreams: One wanted to learn English so she could go to college and get a degree in nursing, while others had the dream of being with their family in America,” Julia Malnak observed.

Anjianie Perez found herself inspired to “become fluent in as many languages as possible.”

Nirvana Rajkumar enjoyed making a connection with a woman from Africa during a tutoring session. The two bonded as they worked on vocabulary and spelling one-on-one.

The AHA students also bonded with each other. One individual noted that the group was fairly quiet on the ride to Connecticut, while the trip home was significantly louder as the students talked about their various experiences.

Since 1879, thousands of women have passed through the portals of Academy of the Holy Angels high school, the oldest private girls’ school in New Jersey. Many go on to study at some of the nation’s best universities, earning high-ranking positions in medicine, government, law, education, public service, business, arts and athletics. Our goal is to provide each girl with the tools she needs to reach the fullness of her potential—spiritually, intellectually, socially and physically, by offering a first–rate education in a nurturing environment where equal importance is placed on academic excellence, character development, moral integrity and giving service to others.

- Jennifer Crusco, the Communications Assistant, The Academy of the Holy Angels