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Veterans Tell Their Amazing Stories

This past March Mercy High School Burlingame was pleased to welcome six war veterans. These decorated Vets had served our country in WWII, the Korean Conflict and Vietnam. The girls were treated to some amazing stories of self sacrifice and of just what makes America great. Most of these men, were either underage just barely of age when the joined up to serve their country.

Last year, Aisling Horgan '17, was in Susan Roughgarden's US History class and she interviewed Jack McCloskey for an oral history assignment. Mr. McCloskey is quite a remarkable character and had an extraordinary career as a firefighter in San Francisco, and is a leader in the Bay Area Catholic community. He went to Riordan High School and is one of its most celebrated alumni. In fact, this year he opened the St. Patrick's Day luncheon in San Francisco and gave the invocation and other prayers in Gaelic. During his time in the service he was a Sergeant in the 1st Marines and he acted as the MC for this event as he is a storyteller extraordinaire!

Lt. Col. John Stevens, U.S. Marines, was at Pearl Harbor when the planes flew overhead. He fought throughout WWII, and also went back and fought in Korea. He is the 2nd VP of the Korean War Memorial Foundation (KWMF). The KWMF recently (August 1 2016) had the Ribbon Cutting of a Korean War Memorial at the Presidio of San Francisco. This was the culmination of a seven year effort. The KWMF is now embarked on a mission to educate the public about the Forgotten War. The San Francisco Unified School District has just approved incorporating curriculum about the Korean War into their syllabi."

Chief Johnny JonGordon spoke about WWII and the battles fought in the Pacific and the Leyte Operations and Luzon Attacks in December 1944. He explained to the girls how the battle of Guadalcanal was a major turning point of World War II as it prevented the possible lss of Henderson field, and thus saved Australia from the planned invasion. It marked the beginning of victory in the Pacific for the United States. Mr. Jongordon is the Founder of the USS San Francisco Memorial Foundation which was established in 1996 and has a monument out at Lands End commemorating the USS San Francisco and its men.

Doc Barker, joined the Navy as a Medic and was commissioned over to the Marines during the Korean Conflict. As Navy medic, he spoke to the girls about the challenges of medical triage and saving lives during enemy fighting and explained how in Korea it was all about taking the hill on the punchbowl and how the conflict was fought vertically and not horizontally.

Mike Belmiesseri was a tanker in Vietnam. He was barely 18 when he signed up and he spoke to the girls about the challenges of fighting in a conflict that people didn't understand and how hard it was for those returning Vets. He explained that without our help, communism would have overrun the country and that the world might be a much different place and that the United States did what it had to do to keep us all safe.

Everyone in the audience was mesmerized by each Vet's story and at the end, there was a standing ovation. Upon leaving, many of the girls lined up to shake hands with the Vets and to say "Thank You for your Service" to keep us and all Americans safe.

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This past February Mercy Dance attended Jamz Nationals in Las Vegas. During day 2 of All Star and Schools Competition over 240 dance teams fought for 1st place amongst different 40 categories.

Both the Mercy Lyrical and Hip Hop dance team rose to the challenge and at the end of the day were crowned National Champions!!!

The JV and Varsity Pom also had amazing showing in a highly competitive field with JV placing 4th and Varsity took home a 6th place.

We are very proud of all of our dance teams – they are such a committed group who constantly works hard – they are all champions in our book!

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On a rainy day in January, the art classes visited the billiard room to watch and talk with Alexandra "Alex" Thrapp '06. Alex is a graduate of Laurea and holds a degree in Art Restoration and Conservation Science from Scuola Lorenzo de Medici and is here at the mansion restoring some of our older paintings.

In 2006 three days after her graduation from Mercy Alex Thrapp moved to Italy! During her junior year at Mercy she was part of the Lyons Youth Exchange Program and fell in love with Italy. She came back and vowed that she would go to college in Italy, and in fact applied to no US Colleges!

She moved to Florence intending to study photo journalism, but as the iPhones were just coming into play – now it seemed that everyone could be a "photo journalist." Not sure of her next career step, Alex happened to walk by the Conservation Labs and as they say...the rest is history!

In order to be accepted into the program, she needed to speak Italian, and for the next 6 months went to school from 8-3 to learn Italian in an intensive language program. Never learning a Romance Language, and having only had sign language before, Alex found that her skill in sign language actually helped her out. Sign language was originally developed in France and follows the same wording as the French language, and it allowed her to use this signing skill to help to learn Italian.

In about 2007 on a visit home, she sent an email to James Pennuto, the father of Celine Pennuto '09 asking him if she could stop by and visit his studio, just to see what he did as an Art Restorer and Conservator. This chance email worked into an internship, a job working under a Master Restorer and Conservator and a career that she absolutely adores and has a passion for!

While at Mercy, Alex will be working on three portraits that were recently decommissioned by the De Young Museum. Alex plans to work on these paintings for the next 3-4 months, and is currently working on the portrait of Frederick "Freddie" Kohl painted by Gerard Barry in 1912 and will then go on to the portraits of his parents.

The Kohl Mansion was originally built for the "smart set" to have a place to entertain and throw lavish parties on the Peninsula for the World's Fair of 1915. These painting of Frederick Kohl, and his parents originally hung on the walls of the Kohl Mansion, in the Reception Room and Entrance/Foyer When the mansion was sold to the Sisters of Mercy in 1924, the Sisters donated the portraits to the then Pioneer Society of California (which is now the De Young Museum and Legion of Honor).

A recent Mercy graduate, Bridget Bell '16, began working with her father Gary Bell on a documentary of the Kohl Mansion and its paintings, and this research led to finding these painting at the De Young. As Frederick Kohl had no heirs, the Sisters of Mercy are the official caretakers of these portraits and they were decommissioned by the De Young and returned to Mercy.

Working in the Billiards Room Alex told the story of the Kohl family to the students, and said that it is fitting that she is restoring "Freddie" to his former glory in what was said to be his favorite spot in the house! Saving history for the next generation is a real joy for Alex and we are thrilled to have her here to impart her knowledge on current Mercy students!

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This past January, 13 Mercy graduates returned to talk to the senior class. The Alums from the class of 2015 and 2016 were a wealth of information for the seniors who will be facing the new challenge of college next fall.

The alums talked about college and learning to adjust to their new schools, how to manage their time, and encouraged the girls to get out of their comfort zone and to meet as many people as possible those first few weeks!

It was a great way for the seniors to ask questions from someone who has just lived the situation and each of them came away with some new tips and tricks for making the transition to college easier to handle!

Thanks to Cassie Miller, Ally Ick, Sammy Baker, Maddy Gaumer, Melissa Cagney, Emma Colquhoun, Madison Miller, Kari Putz, Rebecca Carmick, Marisa Gimball, Shannon Grady, Kendall Gordon and Hannah Collins for coming back and sharing their college experiences!

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At the Annual Sisters of Mercy Employee Holiday Luncheon, Mercy Chorale groups were invited by Liz Dossa to come down and provide a bit of Holiday Cheer! The girls enjoyed performing for the group and at the end, the group posed for a photo with some of the Sisters.

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Sarah Feller '16 and her team made CCU history this week at the NCCAA National Tournament defeating Oklahoma Baptist University 1 - ­0 and being named the National Champions.

The Cougs came into the tournament as the #6 seed, winning their first two games in pool play and bumping out the #1 seed Grace College. The top four teams would compete in the semifinal match. Christian was reseeded as the #2 team going against the #4 team Houghton College. The Cougs defeated Houghton 3 - ­0 in the semifinal match and was set to face Oklahoma Baptist University.

Within the first 15 minutes of the game it didn't look good for blue and gold. The Bisons had taken four very aggressive shots against CCU, and the Cougs struggled to win the ball. Not much time later in the 19th minute the Cougars found the ball and created an opportunity for freshman #23 Sarah Feller to take it all the way. It only takes one ball, one move, one play in soccer to make all the difference and Feller made that difference for Christian.

The talented young athlete, Sarah Feller won the ball off a Bison defender in the middle of the field and took it up to the 30 yard line where she drove a big boot to the back of Oklahoma's net. It landed right in the middle, over the goalies head in the very top. This was Feller's sixth goal of the season, five of which were all scored in the NCCAA National Tournament. Feller had two goals against John Wesley, and two against Houghton. Her efforts were truly remarkable in the post season play for Colorado Christian. Way to go Sarah!

For the full story, please click HERE.

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French classes at Serra and Mercy held a "Chopped" contest where a Mercy and Serra student were paired as chef teams to make, with a variety of ingredients, a mixed salad, 2 quiches, and crepes.

It was a fast paced fun afternoon. For many, kitchen skills were tested to the max, as others, learned (the hard way) the difference between a cucumber and a pair ended up with only one egg to make a quiche, and burned bacon, but in the end they all persevered and made tasty edible dishes!

The dishes were judged by French teachers Ms. Dowden and Ms. Barthe as well as one student. Special thanks to all who participated. Top winners of the day included First place Chefs Itzel Velasquez and Luke Besse!

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After moving to Kenya in 1998 with her family, Michele Ostertag '87 saw that because of the HIV Aids epidemic there were many widows and orphans living at the poverty level. At that time, over 32% of the population was affected in some way. In the Kenyan culture families are more united – you will see different generations living together and caring for each other but she saw how hard it was for families who were barely getting by to take in another orphan child of a relative and having one more mouth to feed

Having lost her mother as a young adult, she had a special interest to help children, especially orphans, and she began working with the local communities. She found that in order to strengthen the families to allow them to care for the children that they needed to be given life skills. Using her combined skills and experience in business and holistic health, she identified a need for capacity building initiatives that recognized the importance of individual and community growth going hand in hand. She started the first of these community projects in 2002 with the Rafiki wa Maendeleo Lusi Trust and Resource Center in western Kenya.

Here families are taught how to raise chicken and goats to take to market, they learn how to sew and keep beehives. They teach families how to increase their income, so that the profits raised from these businesses would help these orphaned children to be able to attend Secondary schooling, and to eventually be able to pay for all educational fees and not be a burden to their families. In the first Village, the women even created a small Savings and Loan and from their savings were able to "loan" money to other's so that they too could begin to break the cycle of poverty. Michele explained that after a few years, what she was doing came to be noticed by World Organizations. At that time Rafiki was helping 1 village of 83 children. With their help and resources, Rafiki now serves 35 villages with over 2,500 children!

Michele spoke of how Mercy engages their students in what's happening in the world and teaches them to be conscious members of society. For her, this has been a journey of Faith and is her calling in life. Michele stated that "It is all about uniting people, and that once you have that "buy in" from them, then the community takes this into their own hands and moves forward to make improvements in their life. As the saying goes.... If you give a man a fish he has food for the day, but if you teach him to fish he has food for a lifetime! Thank you Michele!

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Last week the girls from Susan Roughgarden's Freshman History class were treated to a special talk by Bud Simon a WWII Vet who fought as a Marine in the Pacific Theater. Bud, who is 95 year's old now explained to the girls about the draft during WWII and how he was part of a Marine Aviation Squadron that protected the 37th Infantry & Calvary on the "Dash to Manila." He also told the girls that a prototype of the Drone airplanes that we see now were actually being developed in WWII and that this information was classified for 25 years after the war!

Bud was joined by Connie Johnson, RN who is a member of the Honor Flight Bay Area Organization. This organization was created to honor American' Veterans for all of their sacrifices. Each year, they transport our heroes to Washington, DC to visit and reflect at their memorials with priority given to Senior Vets.

Bud was honored to go last year, and he told the girls about how moving it was to lay a wreath at the Memorial. Bud's story was very inspiring, especially when he told the girls that he believes that ," Freedom is not Free – It must always be guarded and oftentimes paid for with the sacrifice of others." We salute you Bud Simon!

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The magic of learning becomes more tangible when students relate an experience to their learning life. During their Sophomore Religion class Service Retreat Raquel Camacho and Yasmine Dudum did just that!

The girls had the wonderful opportunity to volunteer at the St. Anthony's Senior Center in San Francisco. Their chance meeting with "Beatriz" presented them a unique moment to connect with one of the seniors. The bonus for them came when their communication unfolded in Spanish, a language both girls are learning here at Mercy! Talk about bringing their verbs and vocabulary to life!

"We met a nice lady named Beatriz who had had a stroke earlier in her life. Because of this she had great difficulty speaking," said Raquel. The girls were told that Beatriz's native language is Spanish. "And we were interested in knowing where she was from, but she couldn't tell us," added Yasmine. Naturally the girls moved easily into conversation in Spanish. Beatriz lit up with a smile at hearing these young girls reaching out in her native language. Every effort to speak failed her, so our girls found a solution – give Beatriz paper and pencil, and so they asked her to write her country...and naturally, they asked in Spanish!. Raquel remembered learning somewhere that the right hand is dominant, but noticed that Beatriz was mostly paralyzed due to her stroke. Beatriz continued trying to write, but to no avail. Suddenly, while looking into their inspiring eyes, she finally managed her verbal thought, blurting, GUATEMALA! Raquel and Yasmine hugged her in recognition of her efforts and her success. Truly they witnessed the power of caring and the power of language!

Photo: Yasmine Dudum and Raque Camacho l retelling the story to Kristen Dudum

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This past week the Mercy High School Junior Class participated in the first ritual of becoming an upper classmen...they received their High School Rings!

The girls came together for a lovely service and Assistant Director of Student Life and Athletics, Claire Rietmann-Grout gave a wonderful talk about the Mercy sisterhood and what it really meant to her. The service ended with roses being passed out by Karen Hanrahan, Head of School and currently Mercy Alumnae on staff.

It was truly a special moment, when Junior, Kiley O'Brien compared rings with that of her Grandmother, Susan Pringle Smith '63....although some things many change, some Mercy traditions continue to this day!

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Students from Mercy, Notre Dame and Serra were lucky enjoy to participate in a Poverty Simulation on October 12 at Mercy High School. This was an opportunity for students to learn about poverty in the Bay Area through an engaging interactive presentation.

Not only did they learn about poverty but also about the housing crisis and immigration issues particular to the Bay Area. Special thanks goes out to the Inter-Faith Council of Oakland who facilitated this simulation for the three schools.

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Mrs. Nazira Kury-Arnold Chair of the VPA Department at Mercy Burlingame stated that "The annual visit to photography class is one that we all look forward to!" This year's visit included a lizard, an opossum, a barn owl and a hedgehog. The photos will be used to create Warhol styled Pop Prints and will be featured at the Mercy ArtsFest in May. Special thanks to Madeline Morales for the photos.

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This past Mercy Day, at a joint mass celebration with St. Peters School, Mercy Burlingame Head of School, Karen Hanrahan took a moment at the end of mass to honor two Mercy students. Ms. Hanrahan announced that Julianna A. Bencze of Half Moon Bay and Sin Ting "Abby" Hui of Millbrae had been named Commended Students in the 2017 National Merit Scholarship Program.

About 34,000 Commended Students throughout the nation are currently being recognized for their exceptional academic promise. These commended Students placed among the top five percent of more than 1.6 million students that entered the 2017 competition by taking the 2015 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT).

We congratulate Julianna and Abby for their outstanding academic success!

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Classes from 2006 to 1946 gathered together to celebrate the Mercy High School annual Alumnae Homecoming which was held on Sunday, September 18th. Over 150 alumnae gathered together and enjoyed Coffee with the Sisters, followed by Mass and a wonderful luncheon! Alumnae loved being together – many not having been back to Mercy since their graduation! The

Class of 2006 was excited to be able to meet Margaret Trembly Wyman '46 and posed for a photo! Click HERE to see some of the Class reunion photos.

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Last week we celebrated Women's Equality Day, and we were pleased to welcome Congresswoman Jackie Speier. Congresswoman Speier, a 1968 graduate of Mercy High School Burlingame explained to the girls that a joint resolution was passed in 1971 by Congress granting this date be established to commemorate the 1920 certification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, granting women the right to vote.

Jackie brought out various items, and asked the girls to guess if the price was the same for the same product, and the girls found out that they weren't – and she explained that she is working on repelling the "Pink Tax" – which refers to the extra amount women are charged for certain products or services. Things like dry cleaning, personal care products and vehicle maintenance.

Congresswomen Speier explained to the girls how important this is, and that although we have come a long way, with our rights and privileges, including the right to vote and Title IX for women's sports, that unfortunately we still have a ways to go – especially in the area of equal pay for equal work.

Congresswomen Speier then introduced Phyliss Gould, one of the original Rosie the Riveters. Phyliss now 95, told her story and explained that she was one of the first six women welders to be hired by the Kaiser Shipyards in Richmond, Calif. There she and many other took over the job previously occupied by the men called off to WWII and not only did they do the same work, but they did get equal pay – so it can be done, we just have to make sure that equality happens for all. She is currently

very involved in the Rosie the Riveter Museum in Richmond and one of the last items on her bucket list is to have a National Rosie the Riveter Day, which Congresswomen Speier has agreed to help her obtain!

At the end of the rally – Congresswomen Speier introduced her daughter Stephanie Sierra '12 who also told the girls to enjoy their time at Mercy as it will go way to quickly and encouraged them to always follow their dreams!

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Mercy welcomes the Class of 2020 alumnae moms and daughters.

This year's class includes: Brenda Palala Almes '82 and Alexa, Amanda Fischer '94 and Avery (not pictured), Erin Welch Galea '96 and Ryan, Phaidra Pavia Garcia '88 and Caitlin, Linda Cuneo Giusto '86 and Angela, Kellie Quinn Richards '91 and Kaylie, Jacqueline Birkeland Rodriguez '92 and Riley, Karen Gallagher Sammons '82 and Reagan (not pictured) and Lori Smiley-Klingler '89 with Jacqueline and Haylee. Congratulations!

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Mercy is pleased to honor all students who have distinguished themselves academically, artistically, and in service to their school, class and community. Mercy High School is proud to recognize these students who exemplify the mission of the school as they strive to become young women of faith, academic excellence, influence, and compassionate service, embodying Catherine McAyley's spirit of Mercy.

Special congratulations this year's Valedictorian Hannah Sidhu and to Cassie Miller, this year's Salutatorian.

Please click HERE for the 2015-2016 Undergraduate and Senior Awards.

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It was a bittersweet moment as the faculty, staff and students of Mercy High School Burlingame honored Kathy Mountain and Eileen Horan. These two long time and beloved faculty members will be retiring at the end of this school year, At the assembly they were awarded Mercy highest honor, and presented with McAauley Medals for their many years of service.

These two wonderful women have become part of the true "Heart of Mercy." For the past 25+ years they have put their heart and soul into the education of young women. During their time at Mercy, Ms. Horan has taught English and Ms. Mountain taught both English and Social Studies.

They are true examples educators teaching in the "spirit" of Cahtherine McAuley, Foundress of the Sisters of Mercy. For each of these women, the girls came first; and they have always done everything in their power to see that each student they taught took something away from their class that would help them along in life.

Though the years, there has not been a costume that Ms. Horan has not donned for one of her Advisories, for a rally or for Bowlathon! She has always been there to offer a gentle hug or a kind a word of encouragement or helpful critique for her student's writing.

As for Ms. Mountain, there isn't alum around who doesn't still remember "Ms. Mountain's Words", or how they learned the art of debate or remember the great times they had at a JSA Convention because she prepared them so well!

We wish them well as they begin their new adventures, and look forward to having them come back walk the halls of Mercy as often as they choose!

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Congratulations to Lauren Rocheleau '17 winner of the "Spirit of Mercy Memorial Scholarship in Memory of Moira '90, Cindy '92 and Angelina '99." The Spirit of Mercy Memorial Scholarship was established on May 9, 2006 by the O'Donnell and Caughman families. This annual scholarship is awarded to a junior student who exemplifies the Mercy spirit and the values that guided Moira and Cindy's lives: "faith, love, courage, compassion, generosity, social justice, and a joy for life." This is the highest award presented to a junior student. The parents of Moira, Cindy and Angelina were present at this year's award assembly to congratulate Lauren on her accomplishments in honor of their daughter's!

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