By Emma Wulfhorst |
LONG BRANCH – Family, friends, staff, and current students of Trinity Hall filled the seats of Monmouth University’s Pollak Theater on Sunday, June 4, to celebrate the all-girls high school’s historic first commencement.
The idea to establish an all-girls high school in Monmouth County began in 2010. By 2012, a board of trustees was created and the school had a name. In September of 2013, the founders of Trinity Hall saw their hard work come to fruition with the all-girls school’s official opening for their first freshman class.
In the fall, the school moved from its temporary location at Croydon Hall to its permanent campus in Tinton Falls, in a building on the former Fort Monmouth Army base.
Last weekend, the 32 young women who took a leap of faith in 2013 were bestowed diplomas as Trinity’s first ever graduates as the Class of 2017.
Several students said they could not have been happier with their experience at Trinity Hall. The challenges they faced as the first class in a new school were not disadvantageous, but instead empowering for them. “It was scary, I’m not going to lie,” said graduate Lilly McCann of making the leap into the unknown of a new school. “I felt like I was kind of in ‘eighth grade, part two’ my freshman year.”
Holly Koerwer, the inaugural valedictorian, agreed that being the first class of Trinity students was an interesting experience, one which she compared to being “basically seniors for four years.” However, Koerwer believed this was a blessing in disguise, allowing her classmates to forge a new path and make their own traditions.
New traditions seemed to be a theme throughout the day, especially in Koerwer’s valedictory address. She talked about the many responsibilities she and her fellow graduates had as Trinity’s first class. “Out of all the responsibilities we gladly took on, I believe the task of establishing tradition here at Trinity Hall is the one we held closest to our hearts,” she said. Koerwer went on to list some of those traditions, like team chants and prayer, and especially the freshman bonding trip where they jumped “into turtle-infested waters,” according to Koerwer.
Koerwer, who is continuing her education at the U.S. Naval Academy this fall, attributes her success to Trinity Hall. “Trinity helped me so much,” she said. “I discovered my love for engineering and technology here.” Koerwer says Trinity pushed her to take on challenges and gave her a new confidence in herself she believes she would have never known at another school.
The founding chair of Trinity’s Board of Trustees, Sean Clifford, delivered the commencement address. Clifford, a founder of the school and father of three girls, two of whom are current students at Trinity, spoke to the graduates about their school’s motto—leadership, respect, perseverance, and faith—and what those values represent. “No matter who you are, from where you came, or where you are going, you must persevere,” he said. Clifford is himself a product of single-sex education, having graduated from Christian Brothers Academy (CBA) in Lincroft. He holds a B.A. from Loyola, an M.B.A. from Fordham and is a chartered financial analyst in the investment industry.
Prior to the creation of Trinity, CBA was the only single-sex high school in Monmouth County, serving the boys of the greater Jersey Shore area. Trinity’s founding leadership team, like head of school, Mary Sciarrillo, and assistant head of school, James Palmieri, felt the lack of a corresponding all-girls school was a disadvantage for young women in the area.
Sciarrillo, a Monmouth County native and mother of three, sought to fill this educational void when she agreed to be Trinity’s founding head of school. Before joining Trinity Hall, Sciarrillo worked at Oak Knoll School of the Holy Child in Summit, New Jersey as their Upper School principal. Sciarrillo saw Trinity as an exciting opportunity to depart from traditional methods of teaching. “Our instruction is more innovative than traditional high schools can be,” she said.
Some of the teaching methods Trinity employs are small class sizes, an individualized learning environment and increased use of technology in the classroom. Graduate Brianne Dwyer said the small class size is one of her favorite aspects of Trinity. “I felt the teachers were able to be more one-on-one with us and I was able to get the support that I needed,” Dwyer said.
The assistant head of school, James Palmieri, joined Trinity four years ago after Sciarrillo had signed on as the head. He was originally added to Trinity as a consultant after working as an administrator at the Kent Place all-girls school in Summit for eight years. Palmieri shared Sciarrillo’s sentiment about the need for same-sex education for girls. He believes it is important for any geographical area to have quality educational options, and that “this area, in general, lacked significant options for high school, especially for girls.”
Inside the Pollak Theater on Sunday evening, a standing ovation broke out after the last of the seniors received her diploma, officially signifying the completion of Trinity Hall’s first-ever commencement. There were tears of celebration among the school supporters.
Trinity’s student body is growing, due to efforts by Trinity’s administration, staff, and advancement team, like Theresa Kiernan, the director of advancement and admissions. In its larger location, the school is now able to accommodate over 70 girls who have registered for the 2017-18 school year.
Kiernan said she was filled with admiration for the bravery and spirit of the class of 2017. “It is history,” she said. “We are seeing these girls make history.”
Trinity Hall Class of 2017 Acceptances
- American University
- Babson College
- Bates College
- Bucknell University
- Catholic University of America
- Centenary University
- Drexel University
- George Washington University
- Iona College
- Lafayette College
- Lehigh University
- Loyola University Chicago
- Loyola University Maryland
- New Jersey Institute of Technology
- New York University
- Pace University
- Penn State – University Park
- Providence College
- Purdue University
- Saint Joseph’s University
- Stetson University
- Stevens Institute of Technology
- United States Naval Academy
- University of the Sciences
- University of Virginia
- Villanova University
This article was first published in the June 8-June 15, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.
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