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College announces three valedictorians for upcoming commencement

| Friday, May 17, 2019

Saint Mary’s students strive for academic success, but every class has students whose academic devotion puts them at the top of their class. On March 25, the College released the names of the three young women who will be the class of 2019’s valedictorians.

Though all three students wanted to excel academically, none of them set out to receive this honor. Communicative science and disorders (CSD) major Elizabeth Priester was simply looking for individual success in each of her classes.

“I just wanted to be really successful in all of the classes I was in. It just kind of led to being valedictorian,” Priester said.

A similar sentiment was reiterated by fellow CSD major and valedictorian Natalie Dock.

“I definitely didn’t think that I would be valedictorian coming into Saint Mary’s — I was just looking to get the most out of my experience,” she said.

Monica McGrath, the third valedictorian, also said she did not seek the title of valedictorian but instead had more personal motivators.

“[I am] always looking for self-improvement,” she said.

In the summer between their junior and senior year, the students were told there was a possibility they would be named valedictorians of their class.

Dock said she tried to make sure this possibility did not change the way she went about her day-to-day life.

“I tried not to let it affect me, because I didn’t want to be motivated by that,” Dock said. “I wanted to do the best that I could. … I didn’t want that to be on my mind.”

Although honored to receive the title, Dock tried not to place much value on the award. Though she considers it an accomplishment, she said she wanted to evaluate it against some of the other things she has done in her life both academically and personally.

“I think in terms of a title it is a great accomplishment,” Dock said. “I guess I try not to be too proud of titles and those big things but also the little things in my life, but this is definitely one of my greatest accomplishments.”

All three women recognized they did not get to the top of their class without help. McGrath said she wanted to share her pride with the people who surround her life.

“I am really proud for my friends and family who supported me,” McGrath said. “I am almost more proud for them than for me. My parents and my friends were always pushing me helping me when I was struggling just being there when I was stressed or just helping me.”

All three valedictorians said being at Saint Mary’s was crucial to their success, and it means something different to each of them. Priester appreciated that the College allows for all students to express themselves and their talents, and said the school offers them a place to show what they have to offer.

“One thing that I really cherished about my Saint Mary’s education is Saint Mary’s is a place that truly recognizes all the gifts and talents that we bring to the world, and it’s a place of community,” Priester said. “It sets up a network of belonging where students feel recognized as both who they are and who they plan to become. I just love this environment and how they allow us to explore and dream and discover our passions.”

Though all of the students said that they focused on academics throughout their career, McGrath said the College also helped them to grow as individuals and people.

“I feel like there was a very good balance here,” she said. “Saint Mary’s helped me grow academically and I definitely feel very prepared for any challenges that I am going to face. I feel educated as a whole. That is something that Saint Mary’s always said on the tours — ‘We don’t just educate academically but as a whole person.’ I have grown to be a better version of myself than who I was when I came here.”

When describing themselves, none of the valedictorians used the words intelligent or smart — they instead focused on traits that helped them get to where they are. They spoke about patience, focus and drive.

“I’m pretty positive, I like to reflect on things that I am grateful for … I’m pretty patient,” McGrath said.

Dock said her grades have always been a primary focus.

“I have always considered myself a very detailed-orientated person. I have always been fairly focused on my grades — maybe that is just in my nature, I always wanted to strive to do my best,” Dock said.

Priester said her academic career has taught her important life skills. McGrath, Dock and Priester will deliver a joint address to their class during commencement on May 18.

“[The road to becoming valedictorian] definitely has given me a good work ethic and a drive for success,” Priester said.

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