The following speech was given by Emma Lopez, a non-Catholic graduate of St. Augustine Academy, Ventura.

Good afternoon and welcome teachers, graduates, parents, families, and friends to Saint Augustine Academy. What makes St. Augustine’s so unique is that it is more than a school, it is a family. Here, everyone is important, if you are gone, people notice. At this school, everybody knows everybody. Often, the 4th and 5th graders will spend their lunch recess just hanging out with the high schoolers, admittedly sometimes to the high schoolers annoyance. But this school truly has a spirit of unity that comes from its solid Catholic culture and a common goal for the school in the mind of teachers and students. It desires to teach students to be well rounded people, well prepared to face life’s challenges.

What I love about this school is that it teaches its classes not as separate units, but as part of a larger whole. In history, we discussed the morality of many of the most historical moments. We used logic and natural law in Theology as we read CS Lewis’ Mere Christianity. Physics was not simply an abstract class, but its concepts were applied to real life. In English, we studied the style and techniques the Founding Fathers used to call for the revolution and the abolition of slavery. The music we learned in choir is the music we sing for Mass on Tuesdays. And we will never forget Latin, the inflected language and the importance of the chocolate chip cookie.

Not only this but the teachers actually care about us students, they teach so we can learn, not just so we can pass some standardized test and spit out meaningless information. If we needed help in any class, all we had to do was ask. They are always willing to teach and help you out. And it surprised me how the different teaching style here, geared toward curiosity and retaining of information, can totally change your attitude towards a subject. I always thought that I would never like history class, with way too many dates to know and names to memorize, but the way it is taught here, it is told like a story, about real people and places, and surprisingly, I remember quite a bit of it.

And what has Saint Augustine’s taught me? Definitely hard work and perseverance. A perfect example of this is the school’s drama department, the play. It was rough in the middle of the season as the practices dragged on without any noticeable improvement. And the last few weeks before the play were extremely busy with practices almost every day to make sure we were all ready. And on top of all that, there was school itself and homework. But though all this, St. Augustine’s expected excellence and surprisingly most everything that had to get done, got done. Do not get me wrong, it is hard. The teachers do expect a lot from the students. But that is because they care; as the saying goes, “Spare the rod, spoil the child.” So it is with school. Homework might seem like a rod, but it is good. Along with book learning, the lesson of hard work is an extremely crucial lesson for graduating students today. Which is why I am so very thankful to St. Augustine and its good work ethic. As one of my friends and I were saying recently, it doesn’t matter what the expectations are, we can handle it, we just need to know what they are. Thank you for expecting a lot, because it proved to us just how much we are capable of.

And a word to the 8th graders; enjoy high school. Savor the very short four years you have left. When I was in 9th I could not wait to be done with high school. There would be no more school, (college, which is more school, was somehow overlooked). I would have my license. I could hang out with my friends whenever I wanted…and the list went on and on. But now, as a graduating senior, I’m looking back and I realize all the good times I had in high school, whether I was in a very interesting class, or a really boring one, where I passed the time passing notes. My point is, realize what an incredible school this is. Your classmates are like family. Spend time with them. Get to know them. Don’t get sucked up into your busy schedule and forget what an amazing thing friendship is. And St. Augustine’s has modeled and encouraged this spirit of real friendship very well.

This school, I truly believe, has helped me be who I am today. I consider myself blessed to have been able to attend such an amazing school that taught real knowledge, hard work, true friendship, and most importantly, the faith. This school has deeply strengthened mine. Catholicism is taught here without compromise. You will not find a school more committed to God than St. Augustine Academy, willing to teach what may not be socially correct. This school lays the foundation for a solidly Catholic generation. Thank you.