Mercy Girls are part of a more than 85-year-old tradition of inspiring young women to achieve great things. Here, a girl occupies every role: every seat on student council, every position on a team, every club leadership role. Each day, our students see girls learning, growing and achieving – and take advantage of the myriad of opportunities to do the same. At Mercy, young women are known, challenged and transformed.
The Kohl Mansion, home to Mercy High School, is located on 40 acres of land in the Burlingame hills. The 63 room rose brick mansion was to be the central building in a grand estate which would include tennis courts, green houses, a rose garden, a large carriage house, and a 150,000 gallon reservoir. In 1924 the Sisters of Mercy bought the Kohl Mansion as their Motherhouse. The Sisters opened the high school in the Kohl Mansion in 1931 after building a new Motherhouse on the lower campus.
Mercy Senior Scarlett Aramburu Alvarez '20 has earned the title of Youth of the Year for Mid-Peninsula Boys & Girls Club (MPBGC)! Scarlett was nominated last May, and prepared for months working with a coach and attending workshops to strengthen her public speaking skills. In November, she competed against others in her Mid-Peninsula clubhouse which included individual interviews with a panel of eight judges and ultimately giving a speech to a packed audience about an issue she felt needed addressing in her community.
An active member of the Boys & Girls Club since 7th grade, Scarlett's participation has evolved as she took on more of a leadership role. In middle school, her Torch Club activities included event planning for Halloween haunts and Thanksgiving parties, organizing Christmas gifts for members, and designing the Teen Center. "Now, I have a higher leadership role in the club and volunteer in the broader community, organizing clean-up projects in different cities and helping to design other teen centers," she says.
Over the years, Scarlett's experiences at Mercy have influenced the way she views service to her community she says, encouraging her to be intrinsically motivated and acknowledge the worth of time. "It is important to give back to the community that holds you up and that you represent."
Scarlett is also motivated to grow as a leader through her involvement with Junior Statesmen of America, a club at Mercy. Finding her voice and becoming comfortable making her opinions heard has helped her encourage fellow students to express their opinions during meetings or through participation in events like the student-organized Gun Control rally.
"Scarlett is an active community member and leader on our campus. She has been a leader of JSA and represented Mercy at their State Conferences. We are so proud of the work she has done at our school and in the broader peninsula community," says Claire Rietmann-Grout, Assistant Head of School for Student Life at Mercy.
As a graduating Senior, Scarlett is excited to see what her future holds; "It's time to put myself in new situations where I can apply the knowledge I gained at Mercy in order to create new opportunities and experiences!"
The Boys & Girls Club Youth of the Year program continues beyond the Clubhouse level to Regionals and ultimately, Nationals. Regardless of the extent of her future participation, Scarlett is grateful for the opportunity to hone her public speaking skills and for the mentorship and recognition she has received.
Photo by Mid-Peninsula Boys & Girls Club
It's National Girls & Women in Sports Day! Since its inception in 1987, National Girls & Women in Sports Day has offered an opportunity to recognize the influence of sports participation for girls, acknowledge the accomplishments of female athletes, and honor the progress and continuing struggle for equality for women in sports. Mercy recognizes the benefits and skills that athletic participation brings to our students including confidence, resilience, leadership, and collaboration.
Sara Bermudez '18, a star soccer player at Mercy, is now a sophomore and starting defensive midfielder at Brown University. She recently finished her 2nd season with the Bears, where they had a historic run in the women's soccer program (read more here). She talked with us about the transition to collegiate-level athletics and the impact soccer has had on her life.
Sara Bermudez '18 pictured holding the Ivy League trophy they won this year!
How was last year's transition to college and collegiate-level soccer? Was it as you'd anticipated?
It was an exciting experience, one that I had been anticipating since I was a sophomore in high school. However, it was much more difficult than I expected. Adapting to collegiate-level soccer took patience and discipline. I had to trust my coaches, become more mentally tough, and accept the physical demands. I realized my first year was going to be more about growth and gaining experience than accomplishments. As for transitioning into the academics and the social scene of Brown I absolutely loved it. I loved the freedom of choosing my classes and the excitement of meeting individuals from all over the country and world. I still stop to take it all in sometimes when I am walking around campus.
Now in your 2nd year, do you feel that you've found your stride in balancing sports and academics?
Absolutely. I have found my major and the realm of what I want to study. School is much more enjoyable now because I got the hang of what I need to succeed, like my optimal study spot and time management. I feel more confident in reaching out for help as well from professors, teaching assistants, and deans. I earned a starting spot as a defensive midfielder this year and was able to lead my team to the second round of the NCAAs. Compared to my first year, I was much more capable of balancing school and sports, mainly because I had a year of experience under my belt and I knew what to expect and how to better take care of myself.
What are the top 3 things you love about playing at the collegiate level?
- I love representing my university. I am proud to attend Brown. It is so much deeper than just myself. I am there for my family and every teacher, friend, mentor, and teammate who helped me get here. When I put my jersey on I am reminded of why I put myself through adversity in collegiate-level sports, which makes success that much more rewarding.
- Pregame nerves. I have learned to love the nerves. Before every game, I am very serious and zoned in. I keep headphones in and my head down because it helps me process the anxiety I get before games. Once I get outside for warm-up and touch a soccer ball I am brought back down to reality. The anxiety then becomes adrenaline and I am ready.
- It has made me stronger in every aspect of my life. I have pushed myself in ways I never imagined. Through injuries, through failures, in fitness tests, my body always amazes me with what it can handle - with what I can handle. As expectations increase, so do the demands. But going through it once and coming out okay, in the end, makes the next time easier. I have learned that mentality is so important. What I accomplish in sports and the ways I get stronger reflects in everything else I do.
How did Mercy prepare you for the challenges and rewards of being an athlete at an Ivy League school?
What I put in at Mercy I got out. The same holds true with where I am now. The teachers I was fortunate to have at Mercy have had a strong influence in shaping me into the person I am today. I owe it to their guidance for my ability to take advantage of and keep up with being at an Ivy League School. Mercy has prepared me to maintain a level head through the highs and lows of being an athlete at an Ivy League School. While Mercy instilled in me the value of being independent, it reinforced lifting others as I climb and staying in touch with where my journey began. It is why I enjoy coming back and talking about my experiences with current Mercy students.
Lord of the Flies
When a plane crashes on a remote island, a group of students are the sole survivors. From the prophetic and virtuous, to the lovable and brutish, each attempts to establish control as the reality of their situation sets in. The conflicts that arise throughout the story reveal both the students' capacity for empathy and hope, as well as illuminating the darkest corners of the human spirit. Ideas of community, leadership, and the rule of law are called into question as the characters decide who has a right to power, why, and what the consequences of the acquisition of power may be.
The struggle to find a way of existing in a community with no fixed boundaries invites the audience to evaluate the concepts involved in social and political constructs and moral frameworks.
Presented with Two Casts
This world-famous novel was written solely about boys. But almost 70 years later, with a greater understanding of the equal nature of all people, Director Lawrence Long and the Tri-School Productions casts feel that using both single-gender casts give us equal yet distinct impressions of modern society as a whole.
Before jumping in to rehearsals, Long asked his cast to consider the origins of perceived differences between males and females as they bring the show to life, "What needs to happen for modern audiences to stop noticing our differences and see us all only as human?" The show's cast and crew will encourage the audience to explore with them: When you take away social pressures and expectations, at what point does it not become a story about boys or girls, but about all of us?
Mercy is well represented with 19 Mercy Girls in the cast and crew. Don't miss the opportunity to see this unique and compelling show!
Female Cast: October 26 & November 2 • 7:30pm
Male Cast: October 25 & November 1 • 7:30pm
Gellert Auditorium, Junipero Serra High School
Tickets are on sale now! Buy them HERE.
Mercy strives to support our students and community by raising awareness about mental health and providing resources to directly and indirectly help overcome challenges. Nicholas Smith with the Catholic San Francisco sat down with Lauren Conklin - Assistant Head of School for Academics, Joy Phillips - Wellness Counselor, and Sandy Flaherty - Director of Catholic Identity and Religion Teacher to discuss a new initiative called the ARC Program. The program is a collaboration between departments marking a united effort to care for the whole student and advocate for their well-being. Read the full article here!
(Photo by Nicholas Wolfram Smith/Catholic San Francisco)
Mercy's Head of School Natalie Cirigliano Brosnan '02 Ed.D. was interviewed by Christina Gray of The Catholic San Francisco about her return to Mercy Burlingame and the changing social and emotional pressures that teens face today. They discussed the "new realities" faced by educational institutions and the students they serve, from active shooter drills to wellness counseling.
In case you missed the print feature, you can read the full article on The Catholic's website HERE.
Today’s installation of Mercy’s Peace Pole was the culmination of activities started by the Heritage Club in 2015. Its dedication was combined with a Prayer Service focused on the Sisters of Mercy’s Critical Concern of non-violence.
A Peace Pole is an international symbol and monument to peace. The pole has the words “May Peace Prevail On Earth” in different languages on each side. The Peace Pole Project was an initiative of The World Peace Prayer Society, an international non-profit organization dedicated to uniting the hearts of humanity through the universal message of peace. The Project transcends race, religion and politics to spread the message of peace. It is estimated that there are more than 200,000 Peace Poles around the world.
The Mercy Heritage Club read, “As we dedicate this Peace Pole today we stand with all those within the human family who work and pray for peace. May we be women and men of peace who sow love and understanding, speak for mercy and compassion and work for justice and the dignity of all people.”
We're gonna party like it's 1985! Tri-School Productions' The Wedding Singer enters its final weekend and has been delighting audiences of all ages. Based on the hit Adam Sandler movie, The Wedding Singer takes us back to a time when hair was big, greed was good, collars were up and a wedding singer might just be the coolest guy in the room. The cast and crew include many Mercy Girls, with the role of Julia played by junior Klara La Guardia '20. We sat down with Klara to talk about playing Julia, her musical theater career, and the Tri-School Productions family. Tickets are on sale now for April 5th and 6th at 7:30pm on the Tri-School Productions website HERE. Don't miss this show!
Had you seen the Wedding Singer (movie)? How does this production compare?
I actually hadn't seen the movie until I was cast as Julia. I held off seeing it because I didn't want to be swayed by Drew Barrymore's interpretation. There are some differences, but it is of course the same story. For example, we couldn't do the famous scene of Sam's limo-driving audition on the stage!
What was your first impression of Julia?
My first impression was that she is very selfless. She tends to put the feelings of others before her own, and take care of other people's needs. Even when she starts to realize that she has feelings for Robbie, she stays with Glen and even sets Robbie up with her friend Holly. She is a hopeless romantic too, which is sweet and fun to play. She is a dreamer and loves to make her friends happy.
It's really fun getting to play Julia. I see some similarities between us - I'm also kind of a romantic, and I have a tendency to want to please people. But I do recognize that Julia doesn't stand up for herself as much as she should. I try to do that more. I always try to take away something from all the roles that I play. People say that you end up putting a lot of yourself into the characters you play, but it's also easy to incorporate the positive traits of my characters into myself.
How long have you been acting/singing?
I started acting when I was 4 years old, and taking voice lessons when I was 8. But I've know since I was 3 that this was something that I wanted to do. I went to a production of South Pacific in Half Moon Bay and afterward I turned to my mom and said, "That's what I want to do."
What was it like to be part of this Tri-School production?
I love Tri-School Productions. Everyone says it, but it really is true: Tri-School Productions is a family, and everyone cares a lot about each other. I'm so glad I found it, and so grateful to be a part of it.
This is my 6th production with Tri-School (not counting a summer performance) and this particular show is just so fun. Our Director has been saying that the world needs more joy, and that's what this production is. I hope that people come away feeling joyful, having had a really great experience.
On April 4th, Mercy will host guest speaker Dr. Carol Langlois! An expert on teen self-esteem, Dr. Carol will present to freshmen and sophomore classes on topics such as bullying, body image, and peer pressure, followed by a Q&A. Dr. Carol is a former University Associate Provost and Dean, a therapist, researcher and published author. Her play, "Girl Talk: Teen Monologue Series" shares true-life teen situations and conversation.
Her blog contains practical information for parents, teachers, counselors and teens related to female self-esteem and empowerment. Her book, Girl Talk: Boys, Bullies and Body Image is a compilation of interviews with teen girls on the topic of self-esteem and also offers an effective and practical system designed to RAISE (Resilience, Attitude, Independence, Self-Respect and Empowerment) teen self-esteem.
On December 18, we welcomed Congresswoman Jackie Speier '68 to discuss her new book, Undaunted. During the hour-long conversation with Alumnae Relations Manager Jamila Zanette '04, Jackie shared stories about her formative years growing up in South SF and Burlingame. She reflected on her experience as a student at Mercy Burlingame, and how the sisterhood bonds she formed continue to impact her today. She discussed the ways that spirituality has shaped her life - contributing to her resilience and determination - and the influence the Sisters of Mercy's teachings had on her, commenting, "Mercy High School taught me about social justice." Describing the strong women in her life, Jackie shared how their fortitude set an example and informed her outlook. She even recounted stories from her early experience in politics as a volunteer for Leo J. Ryan's state legislative campaign.
In response to audience questions, Jackie shared her thoughts on a range of topics, including challenges facing the Bay Area, as well as her positivity and hope for the future. She concluded that determination and adaptability, themes seen throughout her life and her book, were instrumental in her success and she encouraged all in attendance to forge ahead, undaunted.
Last month, Olivia Siri '19 participated in the National Association for Music Education 2018 All-National Honor Ensemble choir at Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL. Selected through a highly competitive audition process, Olivia joined the 'best of the best' in an ensemble performance directed by distinguished conductor Dr. Amanda Quist of Westminster Choir College, a prestigious music school.
The National Association for Music Education (NAfME) is the preeminent national music education advocacy organization. Students auditioned regionally, rehearsed intensely, and performed for a large audience! Olivia was one of 240 students hailing from 45 states in the All-National Honor Ensemble Mixed Choir. For perspective, 1% of students that entered the regional audition process in California were ultimately invited to participate. This was a great honor, and we are so proud of Olivia for representing Mercy High School Burlingame!
We had a few questions for Olivia about the incredible event and her deep love of singing.
How long have you been singing?
I have been singing for as long as I can remember, but I did not begin my formal training until around fifth grade in Peninsula Girls Chorus. I love singing because it allows me to express myself and is an exhilarating feeling I cannot find anywhere else.
What was it like singing at such a prestigious event?
It was an amazing experience. I met and became friends with talented high school singers from all over the country, most of whom were on a similar musical path - extremely passionate and dedicated to singing, and those wanting to study voice in college, etc. Our director, Dr. Amanda Quist of the world renowned Westminster Choir College, encouraged all of us to continue pursuing music wherever life takes us and to never stop singing. I loved every second of the experience and wish I could do it all over again. My experience singing at All-State and Nationals was not only uplifting and meaningful, but it gave me the confidence to continue pursuing my passion for singing. I felt truly honored to be part of this highly selective choir.
Did you have a favorite song from the repertoire?
I loved every song, but if I had to pick one, I would choose "Great God Almighty" arranged by Stacey Gibbs. It was the best (in my opinion) and the final piece in the program. The timing for the rhythm was difficult and some of the notes were extremely high for some sopranos (up to a high G #). Performing this song was very rewarding due to the challenges it posed.
What has singing taught you?
Singing has taught me patience, determination, and that everything takes practice and dedication. I have also learned good time management skills, which are very important because everything takes time and effort. Singing can be tricky because there are good days and bad days, and sometimes I get sick, which can be very frustrating. Through singing in choirs, I have learned to collaborate respectfully with others and through solo singing, I have learned about performance skills and above all, courage.
A Note from the Chair of the Board of the Directors
November 16, 2018
Dear Mercy Community,
It is with great pleasure that we announce Natalie Cirigliano Brosnan '02 has accepted our offer to be the next Head of School for Mercy High School Burlingame, starting on July 1, 2019.
Natalie is effectively coming home. She is an alumna and our former Assistant Principal for Student Life. Natalie hails from Burlingame, where she graduated from St. Catherine of Siena before attending Mercy and becoming a student athlete and valedictorian of her class.
Natalie graduated from UCLA with a degree in Psychobiology and recently earned her Ed.D in Catholic Educational Leadership with a Minor in Digital Technologies. She also holds a Master of Arts in Catholic Education Leadership - both from University of San Francisco.
After leaving her role in Mercy administration in 2015, she became the Principal of Holy Name School in San Francisco, where she was the academic and spiritual leader working with the pastor in partnership to increase and encourage the Catholicity within the school and parish community.
While at Holy Name, she served as the Vice-Chair of the Board of Trustees for Mercy San Francisco and this past summer served as Co-Interim Head of School. She is now Chair of the Board.
Natalie firmly believes in Mercy's mission and embedding the Critical Concerns into our curriculum and how we govern to ensure our culture and environment pays tribute to Catherine McAuley's vision. Natalie's background, skills and experience make her uniquely qualified to assume the role of Head of School and we are pleased that she will lead our exceptionally talented faculty and staff as we embark on such an exciting future.
We would also like to thank the Search Committee, who is listed at the end of this announcement for their tireless efforts to find our next Head of School. We were lucky to bring together such a strong group of individuals representing all of our important constituents. They were committed to ensuring our next Head of School would embody the spirit and vision of Catherine McAuley.
We are in the process of developing a transition plan, focusing on a smooth transfer of duties next year. We thank those of you who participated in the survey seeking input for the important qualifications for the next Head of School. The feedback we received will be instrumental in supporting this transition and the continued progress of the school.
As we look to the future, we would like to thank Karen Hanrahan for her leadership and we look forward to welcoming Natalie Cirigliano Brosnan home.
Bob Grassilli, Chair of the Board of Directors
Tri-School Productions' Sense & Sensibility opens this week! The Cast & Crew have been working hard for months to present their playful new adaptation of Jane Austen's beloved novel. Nine Mercy students were cast in the production, including one of the lead roles, Elinor Dashwood, being played by sophomore Mia Faillace. The story follows the fortunes (and misfortunes) of the Dashwood sisters—sensible Elinor and hypersensitive Marianne—after their father's sudden death leaves them financially destitute and socially vulnerable. Set in gossipy late 18th-century England, with a fresh female voice, the play is full of humor, emotional depth, and bold theatricality.
Below, Mia answers our questions about the 're-boot', playing an iconic character, the Tri-School Productions family, and more! Tickets are on sale now on the Tri-School productions website or here.
How is the 're-boot' different from the original?
I had gone into the role thinking it would be similar if not the same as Emma Thompson's interpretation, but as I started to discover the character more, I learned that she is quite different. I think the story as a whole has its similarities and differences, such as the gossips, which bring a lot of life to the production, and the interpretations that everyone is bringing to their roles.
What is it like playing Elinor? Can you relate to her?
Playing Elinor Dashwood has been such a privilege. She is unlike any role I have played, and I have been doing theatre since preschool. Elinor is a young woman with the weight of the world on her shoulders. She is very kept together and sensible. Unlike her sister, Marianne, she hides her feelings from everyone, and tries her best to support her sister and her family. I find it pretty easy to relate in some ways, considering high school is stressful and I'm balancing all my responsibilities. Though I can relate to some of Elinor's personality traits, I think we vary in most instances, which has made this discovery a little challenging but also more fun. I have found I relate more to Marianne.
Though the play is set in a different century, are there themes that are relevant today?
I think this show really demonstrates the struggles the women had to face in the 1800's. Though women aren't struggling with the same obstacles today, we still are struggling. I think that over the years we as Women really have proven that we are worth fighting for, so it is really empowering to play a young woman who starts to realize that and acts on it. One of my favorite scenes in the show is between Elinor and Willoughby, One of Marianne's love interests. This is one of the first times we see Elinor really step up and put a man, who has done wrong, in his place. As a teen in our day and age getting to play a woman who in her time period stand up to a man, is really eye opening and a privilege to get to bring to the Tri-School Stage.
What do you hope theater-goers will get out of the performance?
I hope that theatre-goers, not only adults, but students from other schools notice how much time and effort went into this show and that Tri-School Productions is a group of very passionate and dedicated performers. Our cast and crew care about how we present ourselves on stage which comes with being serious about our craft, and that goes without saying how much fun we have not only during rehearsals but also the actual performances.
What do you like most about being part of Tri-School Productions?
I love the dynamic of Tri-School Productions and how welcoming everyone is. In every sense it is a family, and I am so glad I found them. From the directors to the students, I have never witnessed or have been a part of something like this, and I have been doing theatre since preschool. Everyone is extremely supportive of one another and it has been a gift and privilege to be able to work alongside the amazing young women and men in the 3 Tri-School Productions that I have participated in.
This year, the Mercy community recognizes the many extraordinary women - past and present - who have changed the world through their dreams and actions.
The celebration of Mercy Week is a beloved tradition for the Mercy Burlingame community. Themed dress-up days and the Mercy Day Rally spark school spirit, while the Mercy Day Mass is an important time to gather in reflection and prayer. We will recognize the incredible example of women like Mother Catherine McAuley, foundress of the Sisters of Mercy, and Mother Mary Baptist Russell, the intrepid pioneer who led a group of sisters from Ireland to San Francisco in 1854 to establish the first Mercy community on the West Coast. While September 24th marks the exact date when Catherine McAuley established the first House of Mercy in 1827 in Dublin, Ireland, this year we will commemorate Mercy Day on Friday, September 21st.
The theme of Mercy Week 2018 is "Women with a Dream", in honor of the Sisters of Mercy's Critical Concern of Women. On Wednesday, students will watch RBG, the recent documentary about U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg; freshman and sophomore students will have the privilege of seeing Congresswoman Jackie Speier '68 introduce the film.
Mercy Day will also coincide with our 3rd Annual Alumnae + Friends Giving Day. We invite all alumnae to participate. All proceeds from the event will benefit The Mercy Fund, the annual giving program that helps bridge the gap between tuition and total operating expenses. Learn more about Giving Day by viewing this year's video, or support us by making an early gift on our countdown page.
Mercy is proud to participate in the #BeKind21 challenge!
The Born This Way Foundation has created a global challenge to help make kindness - to ourselves and our communities - a habit by practicing an act of kindness each day for 21 days.
We think it's a wonderful way to start the school year with a focus on kindness, positivity, and community. Coming together to reach in with reflection and reach out with action is great reminder that kindness IS mercy. Doing something for 21 consecutive days helps turn it into a habit, and we invite our community to participate in fostering a culture of compassion and wellness!
For the next 21 days, we will be posting kindness activity suggestions, and we hope you will join us! If you want to share your experiences, use the hashtag #BeKind21 ! You can also tag @mercyburlingame and @btwfoundation.
Dear Mercy Community,
After serving our school community for the last five years, Karen Hanrahan has decided to retire as Head of School in June of 2019 - at the end of the next school year.
Karen has had a storied career as a Catholic School administrator for over 30 years and is a passionate advocate of all-girl’s education.
Under Karen’s leadership, our WASC accreditation was granted for a full six years and long-range strategic planning, including plans to address long term facility needs is underway. The Class of 2018 is ready to embark on their college journey having received acceptances from Ivy League schools to private, Catholic, State and UC institutions both across the country and internationally. These young women have benefitted from small class sizes and exceptional programs, from academics to the arts and athletics. All areas of Mercy life emphasize 21st century workplace skills like critical thinking, collaboration, and innovation, crucial for success after graduation.
Under Karen’s leadership and with a dedicated faculty and staff, our school community has come together to make Mercy a strong and vibrant environment, focusing on the potential for each young woman to grow and develop. An environment in which each girl is known, challenged and quite literally transformed during their four years here. With their dedication, Mercy girls gain the confidence to carry their passions-and their voices-into the world to make a difference in the lives of others.
The Board of Directors of Mercy High School has developed a thoughtful transition plan and will embark on a search, enlisting the support of additional outside resources to find our new Head of School. I am confident that there will be many highly qualified candidates who will be interested in this new leadership position, and it is our intention to choose Mercy’s new leader in a thoughtful manner. I shall keep you informed of our progress.
Since Catherine McAuley opened the first house of Mercy in 1827 in Ireland to serve the poor and educate young women, the Sisters of Mercy have continued to fulfill her vision-educating students to be women of faith, compassionate service and justice. Our students are challenged to grow in faith and use their gifts to make a difference in the lives of others. We thank Karen for her tireless devotion to Mercy High School and our cherished students as they grow into women of faith and compassion equipped to make a difference in our world.
Bob Grassilli, Chair of the Board of Directors
Given as College Scholarships to the Class of 2017
Average Service Hours Annually
Students Average Class Size
Play more than one Sport
Mercy Sister schools globally
Students Average AP Class Size
Participate in an Extra-curricular Activity
Student to Teacher Ratio
Students in Leadership
"Best of Both Worlds"