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Choosing Happiness: Guest Speaker Shares Her Story With Students and Staff

by Jeananne Sciabarra, Grants Manager

As I sat in St. Ann’s lovely chapel for the closing program of St. Ann’s High School, I marveled at the progress our teen mothers have made over the course of the school year. Anna, who has one course to complete before graduating in August, received Certificates of Merit in English, SAT Prep, and Art. Although several teachers expressed how much they would miss Anna, all were confident that they were sending her off with a plan for the future and the knowledge, skills, and attri- butes needed to achieve her goals.

As each teacher presented certificates to her outstanding students, it became clear that Maya was one of the hardest working in the group. She received Certificates of Merit in Geometry, Biology, and Health Studies, and she progressed so quickly through the science curriculum that the teacher had to plan additional labs for her. In addition, Maya took all four Maryland High School Assessments this year, getting particularly high marks on the Algebra/Data Analysis exam.

But the awards were not limited to girls who had been at St. Ann’s for the entire school year. Several went to young ladies who had been here for only a month or two. The teachers recognized their hard work and ambition, encouraging them to continue putting forth their best efforts.

The special guest speaker, Ms. Mary Minor, told her personal story – growing up in foster care, branded “illegitimate” and carrying that shame for years, searching for the right person, the right job, the right “place” that would bring happiness, learning finally that happiness is a choice that we each have to make. She encouraged the girls to make good choices for themselves and their children and, above all, to choose happiness.

I really can’t imagine what life was like for these young women before they came to St. Ann’s. I don’t know all the hardships they’ve endured in their young lives, but I would guess that “happy” is not an adjective they would have used to describe themselves. I do know that staying at St. Ann’s is not an easy choice – the rules, chores, classes, and homework must be overwhelming at times for girls who probably haven’t had a lot structure in their lives. But I know that for girls like Anna and Maya, and all the rest who stay and work hard every day, it is a choice that will change their lives forever. And, hopefully, one that will ultimately help them find happiness.