Andruszko was the first of the two to speak to the 270 soon-to-be graduates, family, friends, alumni and O’Hara faculty and staff. She started off with a bold quote from poet T.S Eliot, “[w]hat we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from,” then proceeded to reflect on the journey that she and her classmates had experienced since they first stepped foot in O’Hara.
She reminisced about carrying huge backpacks and learning to navigate the stairways during freshman year and then transcended her story into how O’Hara transformed them into leaders within the school’s community.
“There is so much about O’Hara of which to be proud, Andruszko said. “However, the thing I am most proud of at O’Hara is our class. We have all worked so hard to get to this day.”
And work hard they did. As mentioned, Andruszko and Culbert succeeded academically amidst their other contributions to the school and were highly recognized for it. Both young women were eligible to participate in the Diocesan Scholars Program, a program that allows the top students in the class to enroll in college courses during their senior year for both high school and college credit. While it is an excellent opportunity, Andruszko ultimately declined the offer.
“I didn’t take any classes off campus because I wanted to be here for my senior year. I just love O’Hara so I wanted to be here,” she said in a personal interview.
Andruszko instead took three advanced placement (AP) courses at O’Hara during her senior year, which she identified as the most challenging, yet rewarding curriculum. Specifically, she called out AP Calculus taught by Mrs. Lee Keller.
“I learned the most in AP Calc but it was definitely the hardest. The math was really difficult but you have to keep practicing and keep practicing and when you do everything over and over again, you really do get better at it,” she said.
Culbert, on the other hand, did participate in the Diocesan Scholar Program and therefore spent half of her senior year in class with Neumann University students. She too had been enrolled in AP classes at O’Hara and says that they, especially Sr. Lucy Schulth’s AP History, prepared her for being a Diocesan Scholar.
“Sr. Lucy expected a lot from us and it was a lot of work. But through that work we learned so much and I didn’t even realize how much I learned until I went to Neumann this year and took a political science course,” Culbert said in a personal interview. “I loved the Diocesan Scholar Program because I still got to be in high school with my friends but then see what college is really like before I went there.”
In just a few short months, Culbert and Andruszko will begin their journeys as college freshmen. While the idea of starting new will be daunting to many Lions, Culbert is assured that O’Hara has prepared them for the forthcoming years. Following the conferral of their degrees at commencement, she stepped up to the podium to address her classmates.
“The future is terrifying. How are we supposed to know what our future holds for us?” she said. “[But] here is my piece of advice: don’t stress.”
College is often identified as a period where young adults find themselves, though the path to those realizations may not be easy. Culbert realized that the upcoming years will be unlike anything that she or her classmates have faced yet but remained optimistic about what is to come.
“This is the time for us to try new things, meet new people and find our true passions in life,” Culbert said. “Over these next few years, we need to be brave, to step out of our comfort zone and to not be afraid of making mistakes. It is no big secret that nobody likes or enjoys failure, but the fact is that we learn so much from our mistakes.”
“So now, class of 2016, go out into the world,” Culbert said in her speech’s conclusion. “Be courageous. Take risks. But most importantly, do not be afraid of failure. And always remember, in the famous words of Fr. Chiriaco [a former O’Hara teacher] to ‘be who you is and not who you ain’t!’”
Come August 2016, Culbert will be attending the University of Pittsburgh majoring in biology with a pre-med track and Andruszko will be attending Loyola University studying chemistry.
This is the first article in a series featuring members of the class of 2016 and the story of their time at Cardinal O'Hara High School.