By Allison Kanaley
OSWEGO — When five Trinity Catholic School alumni paid a visit to their former school recently, their message had a far greater reach, into a much younger audience, than a typical school reunion.
The five, now upperclassmen at Oswego High School, brought stories of success, achievement, and encouragement to current Trinity students at St. Paul’s Church Feb. 2 to mark the close of Catholic Schools Week. Bishop Robert J. Cunningham kicked off the event with a prayer service, which included short scripture readings offered by Trinity students in each grade level, the smallest of whom used a stool to reach the microphone.
Then, one at a time, Oswego High School seniors Laura Bornheimer, Kristin Skinner, Laurin Furlong, and Allison Pasco, and junior Joshua Thomas, took a few minutes to speak about their experiences at Trinity, and the school’s effect on their high school years.
“I am proud to be here,” said Skinner. “My experience at Trinity is something I will never forget, and as I look around, I feel so much excitement for you.” Skinner, an artist who plans to study graphic arts in college, encouraged the students to look at their present, and their future, as Trinity taught her: “To be the best version of myself possible.”
“One thing Trinity helped me with is leadership,” said Pasco. She said the leadership skills she learned at Trinity were a contributor to her success as a musician. In October 2017, Pasco was chosen as a member of the elite U.S. Army All-American Marching Band, a select group of only 125 in the nation. Pasco plans to study music in college.
“I think this is the first time I’ve been up here and not had to use the stool,” quipped Furlong as she took her turn at the lectern, drawing laughter from young audience members and staff alike. Furlong, who has received local as well as state recognition for her contributions on the volleyball court at Oswego High School, said the foundation provided by Trinity Catholic School is clear to her now as she looks forward to college.
“I learned a lot coming to this school,” said Bornheimer. “I learned to lead with faith, and serve with a smile.” Bornheimer, an accomplished member of the Oswego Buccaneers swimming and diving team, offered this advice to the young students: “When you learn to love something, you want to put 110 percent effort into it.” She plans to study physical therapy at Oswego State University.
“From my experience here at Trinity, working hard and focusing are the most important things you can do to be successful,” said Thomas. He said academics are his strength, but the leadership skills he learned at Trinity are what have helped him excel in high school. For two years, he has been part of the Oswego County Academic Youth League (OCAY) team for his school, which involves an academic competition against other schools.
Each of the Trinity alumni said having smaller class sizes enabled them to learn how to focus academically, with everyone having the opportunity to lead. “Being part of Trinity really helped me focus on being part of a small group,” said Furlong. “It will prepare you to branch out and make new friends. Cherish the moments you have here.”
Trinity Catholic Principal Barbara Sugar said the idea to invite Trinity alumni to speak to current students came to her as she considered this year’s national theme for Catholic Schools Week: “Learn. Serve. Lead. Succeed.” There are about 1.9 million students attending 6,429 Catholic schools across the country.
Trinity’s alumni are testament to the success of its program, and represent the school with their sense of service and community, said Sugar.
“The word ‘success’ stuck in my mind,” said Sugar. She said this was the first event of its kind — inviting alumni back — for Trinity Catholic. “I’m suspecting we will do it again, based on the positive feedback I’ve gotten,” she said.
The event culminated with an ice cream party in Priory Hall on the church’s lower level, where the young students took the opportunity to chat with the teens. At one table, a group of fourth-grade girls were a bit starstruck. “It was really interesting and made me think about what I might want to do when I grow up,” said 10-year-old Leah Kelly.
The oldest Trinity students — those in the sixth grade — had a lengthy discussion about their plans for the future, which will mean leaving Trinity to attend another school next year. “I thought it was very nice of them to step up,” said Bradley Livesey. “I’ve always wondered about what it will be like to leave here. It will be cool, but still a little scary.”
Two seats away, his friend and classmate, David Pearson, felt his confidence growing.
“We’ll be ready.”
Allison Kanaley is a freelance writer and editor who lives and works in Mexico, N.Y. She is a parishioner of St. Anne, Mother of Mary Church.