It's that time of the year, Graduation Season. To all of the 2009 graduates, congratualtions! A new chapter of your life is about to begin, but please remember to cherish this past chapter and relfect on all of the good times.
Today, the Department of Education here at Northeastern had the pinning ceremony for all of our Education graduates. I was helping out with the event, setting up and cleaning up. However, I had the priviledge to stay and sit through the ceremony. First off the food was great but that was not the best part of the ceremony.
The best part of the ceremony was Sister Mary Hart who was the keynote speaker for the day. Now let me tell you a little something about Sister Mary Hart. Sister Mary is about 75 years old. She has been a Sister of the St. Katherine Drexel church for 55 years and has been an educator in the Roxbury community of Boston for about the past 30 years. She has a full head of grey hair. stands about 4'9 but her heart and presence is larger than life.
I first met Sister Mary back in Janurary 2007, my freshman year when I used to volunteer at the St. Katherine Drexel after-school program. She came into my education class at the time to recruit some volunteers for the program. She stood at the podium and had the respect and attention of the 75 students in class. Sister Mary had my respect the moment she started talking and I knew I wanted to work for her. The first day I was there, she came up to me and asked what my name was. She proceed to give me a valuable lesson that I will never forget as an educator. Sister Mary looked up to me and said "you need to be firm with these kids. Tell them when I say "sit down" I mean it." I shook my head "yes" and she went on to tell how much she appreciates me being there. She meant business, teenagers in the program who are about 6 feet tall are scared of her. They can be messing around all day, causing trouble but as soon as they hear or see that Sister Mary is coming, they would sit down and be quiet.
Fast forward to 2009 now, I haven't seen Sister Mary in almost 2 years until Today. She still remembers who I am and my name. She told me that she had to retire and cut back from the after-school program because she had became ill last year. However, being Sister Mary she still goes everyday.
On to the ceremony, a good friend of mine Earl Stafford from NEU's Balfour Academy had the priviledge to introduce Sister Mary. Now Balfour Academy is an after-school/summer prep program affilated with Northeastern for high school students, helping them get into college. My man Staff was telling all of us the first time he met Sister Mary back in 2003. She wanted to get these two kids Patrick and Jason to be admitted into Balfour. Staff told her that they would have to go through the interview process like everyone else in the program. Sister Mary then handwrote Staff this two page letter and he read a paragraph of the letter...and I am paraphrasing
"I would only give you the best of the best, the cream of the crop. I can promise you that Patrick and Jason can match up with any 7th grader in the city of Boston. I am giving you my word and my word will be our bond. Earl, please just give me this opportunity."
Staff told us that Patrick and Jason went on to Balfour and are now seniors of Boston Latin School and Boston Latin Academy two of the best high schools who will be going to Northeastern and MCPHS respectively. As Staff was about to finish, I noticed that these two tall boys were walking down the aisle in Sister Mary's direction. At this point, no one knew what was about to happen. There they were, Patrick and Jason greeting Sister Mary with a pat on the back as they go up to the podium to introduce the person who played an important role in their lives. Just as Staff gave Sister Mary a chance for these two kids, Sister Mary gave them the first chance to succeed. By then, everyone in the room was teary eyed except for Sister Mary, she was happy. She was bouncing up and down in her chair.
The theme of Sister Mary's speech was to give back. Sister Mary told us that she has been dealt a good hand to play the game of life. She told stories of her father telling her that she was blessed that her last name was Hart. She had more priviledges than others but that doesn't mean that you take that priviledge and run. You have to give back to the community. She said that no matter how much money you have, what nice cars that you drive, what designer clothes that you wear, the measure of your success is deeply rooted in your community. She reminded us that even if you think you have everything, without support and love from your community you have nothing. When she finished, Sister Mary got us thinking, our emotions running and our faces smiling.
Sister Mary is one of those people that you meet in you life who will make a difference. I always talk about the quiet heroes, and she is definitely one. Sister Mary is the definition of a woman warrior. She has spent her entire life spreading the message of love for the people. She will go to bat for anyone and she will make you realize your potential. You know movie stars, sports stars, polticians, musicians do not change your life but Sister Mary does. She cares for you from day 1 that you meet. She has given opportunities to countless youths in Boston, and deservingly so, she is beloved in the community. She gave me the opportunity to learn from her and has always reminded me to stay humble. I gain a valuable lesson by just listening to her speak and by being in her presence knowing what kind of work she's done. If I become half the person Sister Mary is, I know I am doing a good job.