Belles Blog

a blog about St. Mary's Academy

Busy Belles Summer 2018

Not content to rest on their laurels, many of our Belles were busy with a wide array of camps, programs, and volunteering across the country this summer. Over 50 students used their time away from campus to broaden their horizons, make new friends, and enrich their SMA experience.

Locally, students participated in programs like Camp Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA), USC’s Diversity in Health Care Leadership summer enrichment program, Camp Neuro at USC, Cinemagic film making, Charles R. Drew University Science Day, Design Immersion Days at Southern California Institute of Architecture,  work experience at Payden & Rygel, the Envision Medical Program at UCLA, Sports Medicine Camp at Mira Costa High School, shadowing at MLK Hospital, and volunteering at hospitals like Providence Little Company of Mary, Cedars Sinai, Ronald Regan Hospital, Kaiser Permanente West L.A., and St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood.

SMA student athletes honed their skills in camps for soccer, Indoor, and Beach Volleyball, and several of our basketball players traveled to Kentucky, Georgia, and Arizona for tournaments.

Girls in the Economics for Leadership program got a chance to participate in workshops and classes within the program on the following university campuses: UC Santa Barbara, Oberlin College, UC Berkeley, UCLA, Washington University, Brown University, Rice University, and University of Washington.

Other programs our Belles joined include National Youth Leader Forum: Medicine at UC Berkeley, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo’s Engineering Possibilities in College, Just the Beginning Law Program at Loyola Marymount University, the University of Colorado Denver’s CAP ACE summer camp, Create Summer at Sacramento State University, Black Girls Lead at Columbia University, and even volunteering at clinic in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Let’s hear it for our Busy Belles, and celebrate their many wonderful accomplishments:

Udoka Abada ’19- Economcs For Leadershop, WashingtonUniversity

Danielle Adeniji ’20- Economics for Leadership, Brown Univesity

Samael Al-Alim ’21- Cinemagic

Morgan Betts ’22- Indoor Club, Volleyball

Kimberly Casarez ’19- EPIC– Engineering Possibilities in College, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

Raqeul Ceron ’19- Volunteeer at MLK Hospital

Isr’ael Conerly ’19- Volunteer at Providence Little Company Of Mary Hospital

Alexis Cortez ’19- Camp CHLA & Volunteer at Providence Little Company Of Mary Hospital

Kaliah Davis ’20- Economics for Leadership, UC Berkley

Olivia Dixon ’20- Volunteer at Kaiser Permanente, Baldwin Hills

Elizabeth Elliott ’21- Basketball Tournaments in Kentucky, Georgia, Arizona and Los Angeles

Raylyn Fergerson ’22- Basketball Tournaments in Kentucky, Georgia, Arizona and Los Angeles

Lesley Flores ’21- LMU, Just the Beginning, Law Program

Terrianne Furlough ’20- LMU, Just the Beginning, Law Program

Nayeli Gomez ’20- National Youth Leader Forum: Medicine, Berkeley & Work Experience at Payden and Rygel

Isabella Gonzales ’21- Basketball Tournaments in Kentucky, Georgia, Arizona and Los Angeles

Monica Gonzalez ’19- Cinemagic

Araceli Gonzalez-Herrera ’20- Economics for Leadership, UCLA

Angelique Hale ’19- Economics for Leadership,  Rice University & Camp CHLA & Volunteer at Kaiser Permanente, West LA

Kayce Hansford ’19-  Volunteer at Westchester Convalscent Home

Alyssa Harding ’20- Economics for Leadership, UC Berkley

D’Ajah Hayes ’19- Cinemagic

Karla Jordan ’20- Clinic Volunteer in Guadalajara, Mexico

Heaven Joseph ’19- Design Immersion Days at SCI-Arc

Meron Kahsai ’19 CAP ACE Summer Camp, University of Colorado, Denver

Zainab Kashim ’19 Camp CHLA

Oceanna Lenon ’19- Create Summer Academy,  Sacramento State University & Cinemagic

Retha Little ’19- Basketball Tournaments in Kentucky, Georgia, Arizona and Los Angeles & Volunteeer at MLK Hospital

Jasmine Love ’19- Teen Volunteer Program at Cedars Sinai & Charles R. Drew University Science Days

Ashley Mancia ’19- EPIC– Engineering Possibilities in College, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

Briseida Marquez ’21- Cinemagic

Trinity May ’20- Beach Volley Ball

Imani McGregory ’19- Basketball Tournaments in Kentucky, Georgia, Arizona and Los Angeles & Volunteer at Cedars Sinai, Kerlan-Jobe Orthopedic Facility

Leslie Melendez ’19- Economics For Leadership, Oberlin College & SEP Program, USC & Sports Medicine Program, Mira Costa High School

Victoria Miranda ’19- Economics For Leadership, UC Santa Barbara

Amarri Moody ’19- Volunteer at Kaiser Permanente, West LA

Mia Muir ’20- Black Girls Lead at Columbia Univesity & Beach Volley Ball

Bethael Mulugeta ’19 Volunteer at Kaiser Permanente, West LA

Daniela Ortega ’20- Envision Medical Program, UCLA & Camp Neuro, USC & Camp Cardiac, USC

Rebecca Pozos ’19- Create Summer Academy, Sacramento State University & Volunteer at Kaiser Permanente, West LA

Frida Santiago ’19- Volunteer at Ronald Reagan Hospital , UCLA

Alexza Tejeda ’19- Sports Medicine Camp, Mira Costa High School

Giuliana Toscano ’19- Volunteer at Providence Little Company Of Mary Hospital

Jaslyn Usher ’22- Indoor Club, Volleyball

Demilynn Vazquez ’21- Cinemagic & Work Experience at Payden and Rygel

Nicole Washington ’19- Envision Health Career Leadership Program, UCLA

Elycia Wright ’21- Basketball Tournaments in Kentucky, Georgia, Arizona and Los Angeles & Volunteer at St. Francis Medical Center, Lynwood

 

And these are just the Belles that shared information!  Keep it up Belles!!!!!!

Meet SMA Onward Scholars Cohort 1!

St. Mary’s Academy is excited to announce that, through the generosity of The John H. and Cynthia Lee Smet Foundation, 12 Belles from the Class of 2022 make up the first cohort of Onward Scholars at SMA!

The Smet Foundation provides a four-year scholarship for 75% of each Onward Scholar’s tuition costs in addition to a personal stipend of $2,000 to use over her time at SMA. The stipend offsets the cost of activities in line with the mission of Onward Scholars such as summer pre-college programs or off-campus cultural experiences.

Onward Scholars at St. Mary’s Academy receive not only the support services the school provides, but also work closely with the onsite Onward Scholars Program Director to receive mentoring and access to programs that prepare students for the college application and matriculation process. Monthly OSP-sponsored workshops focus on life skill development and topics of significance in the advancement of young women in today’s world.

What has Cohort I been up to since they joined the SMA family last March?  Read the inaugural edition of the Onward Outlook below! We look forward to the continued growth of Onward Scholars at SMA-Cohort II will be selected in March 2019 from the Red Tie Class of 2023!

 

Meet our New Faculty & Staff

Our new Vice Principal, Kris Anderson, is joining us from St. Monica Catholic High School where he spent four years as Dean of Students and Social Studies Department Chair. While at St. Monica, Kris served on the Administrative Council working closely with other curricular and co-curricular directors to shape the vision of the school. Prior to this, Kris worked at three different Catholic high schools as a Social Studies teacher, student moderator, and coach. Kris received his master’s degree from Loyola Marymount University in Catholic School Administration and is currently working on completing a doctorate degree in Educational Leadership for Social Justice from LMU. Kris’s favorite pastime is exploring new neighborhoods and restaurants in the Los Angeles area.

Jeanette Bray begins her first year at SMA as Academic Counselor. Jeanette graduated with her AA in Liberal Arts from Mount Saint Mary’s University-Los Angeles, B.S in Human Services, and graduated with her Master of Science degree in Marriage, Family, and Child Therapy from University of Phoenix and is currently working on obtaining a PPS credential from Alliant International University. Prior, to coming to SMA Ms. Bray worked as an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist providing individual and group therapy to adolescents and elementary school aged children. Jeanette’s favorite pastimes include going to Disneyland, cooking, and spending time with family.

Chris Buckley begins his first year at SMA teaching Chemistry and Physics. He will also be working with freshmen students in their Math support block. Chris comes to St. Mary’s from Rolling Hills Prep and Renaissance School. Chris graduated from the University of Miami in Florida and is excited to get to work with his new colleagues.

 

Stephanie Gordon is our new Director of the Health a Careers Path Program. She is joining SMA from Junipero Serra High School in Gardena where she spent the last five years as a PLTW biomedical science teacher, Science Department chairperson, and STEM Coordinator. Prior to her time at Serra, Stephanie was a science teacher at St. Lucy’s Priory High School in Glendora for four years. Stephanie received her master’s degree from Loyola Marymount University in Secondary Education. With a research background in neuroscience and at the USDA, she is looking forward to bringing rigorous and engaging biomedical science curriculum to SMA. Stephanie loves traveling abroad, visiting national parks, gardening, cooking, watching Kings hockey, and hanging out with other people’s dogs.

 

Catherine Knight joins us as a Develpment Associate. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Social Work from Mount Saint Mary’s University. She has nearly a decade of experience working in the nonprofit sector. Catherine’s development career began at the Los Angeles Metropolitan YMCA where she served various roles at both the Westside and Ketchum-Downtown branches. Her experience at the YMCA included annual support campaign leadership, capital campaign assistance, as well as program leadership and development. In addition, Catherine acted as a staff lead during annual fundraising events, and brand manager for the Ketchum- Downtown branch as well as overseeing communications and social media. She is an alumna of Immaculate Heart High School in Los Angeles and grew up participating in Irish Step Dancing and danced competitively at local, regional, national and world levels. Catherine enjoys reading, karaoke, and running, and occasionally still dances.

 

Yolanda Davila will be joining SMA as a Religion and Spanish teacher. She has worked as a Case Manager for Community Build Inc., an LA city-based program for gang prevention and youth development. She has also worked as a high school instructor at Notre Dame Academy and is excited to get back to what she loves: teaching. When at home she enjoys spending time with her German Shepherd, Nikkita, who waits so patiently for her.

Cuong Pham is a new Math teacher at St. Mary’s Academy. Prior to this position he taught middle school math for six years at a charter school. Cuong graduated from Cal State Long Beach with a degree in Liberal Studies. When he isn’t working Cuong likes to golf or play any kind of sports. He was born in Vietnam and is the oldest of four siblings.

Back to School Message from the Principal

Welcome to another blessed school year at St. Mary’s Academy as we celebrate our 130th birthday, making us the longest, continuously run all-girls Catholic school in Los Angeles! We are kicking off to a strong start as all the summer projects are now complete! New projectors are installed in every classroom to enhance the learning experience for all our students. Water fountains now have a refillable feature to encourage students, faculty, and staff to fill their eco-friendly water bottles and stay hydrated. The newly finished gym floors and updated bleachers are ready for our SMA belles to dominate on the volleyball and basketball court. School banners are up hovering over our prominent track proudly showcasing Some of the best features of St. Mary’s Academy. The school doors are now open and ready to welcome the 270 beautiful and bright young women on campus!


Senior red ties anxiously prepare for the college application season and junior blue ties are situating to the new challenges of upper division coursework. Sophomore green ties are now more accustomed to ‘the SMA way’ as they, along with the juniors and seniors, lovingly welcome the incoming future gold ties to the sisterhood community.

At St. Mary’s Academy, we are committed to providing the best opportunities for our students to grow and become powerful influencers to make positive social change. It is up to us to build up a generation of women filled with courage, faith, and love to use their gifts to tend to the needs of the world. Great leaders are formed by inspiring educators who model what it means to be good stewards of the world. At the start of the school year, our faculty and staff practiced what it means to ‘serve the dear neighbor’ volunteering at St. Joseph Center and Alexandria house to help men, women, and children transition out of economically difficult situations all while learning about the rich history and traditions of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. We plan to continue this momentum of service all throughout the schoolyear and into the future.


God has blessed us with limitless possibilities for our students. This past summer, many of our belles stayed competitively engaged completing prestigious internships and summer programs scattered all around the country in various career fields. Additionally, we now offer two Project Lead the Way (PLTW) pathways in our Engineering and Health Careers program that focuses on real-world, applied learning experiences to help students develop in-demand, transportable skills such as problem solving, critical and creative thinking, collaboration, and communication. St. Mary’s Academy is also at the center of Inglewood that promises great opportunities for our students in the areas of sports, entertainment, business, the arts, and so much more! I could not think of a more exciting time to celebrate our momentous 130th birthday than now. Join me as we celebrate the past, present, and future successes of St. Mary’s Academy!

 

 

-Mrs.  Mary Rose Batungbacal

Here’s a visual piece of what’s been happening at St. Mary’s Academy!  Thank you to all the students, faculty, and staff who helped plan, create, facilitate, and/or present in this video and to 2yuk productions for filming and editing this project.  Please enjoy!

College Acceptances 2018

As our Gold Ties of 2018 prepare for the next phase of their education, we want to congratulate them for all of their academic achievements, community involvements and athletic talents they shared with our SMA community.

Below is a list of college acceptances and a slideshow of all of our graduating students and where they will be attending college next year.

 

 

 

 

 

Engineering Summer Enrichment Programs

This summer six of our Belles will be attending engineering enrichment programs across the country!  The scholarships total about $9,400 for all attending (this includes tuition, transportation, room & board, food, etc). Four students applied through the ACE Mentorship Program.  ACE partners with 20 schools throughout the Southern California region and mentors over 300 students. Having four of our Belles chosen from ACE is very impressive. Two students that will be attending the EPIC (Engineering Possibilities in College) Summer program at San Luis Obispo were also given scholarships. There were over 1,000 applicants to that summer program, so it was quite competitive.  We’re so proud of our engineering students for putting themselves out there and using their summer vacation to further their education!

Rebecca Pozos and Oceanna Lenon

Rebecca and Oceanna will be attending CREATE Summer Academy in Sacramento.  Students from across California will come together to experience a six-day, five-night camp that exposes them to careers in construction, re-development, engineering, architecture, and the trades. Students will design and build a project for a local nonprofit, complete a needs assessment, meet industry executives, tour active job sites, explore Sacramento, and stay on a university campus.  Thank you to ACE for providing the scholarships for these two students, including transportation.

Heaven Joseph

Heaven will be attending Design Immersion Days at SCI-Arc this summer.  DID is an immersive four-week summer program that introduces high school students of varying backgrounds to the academic and professional world of design and architecture.  Participants are offered the opportunity to explore careers in architecture and design or simply satisfy deep curiosities about how products, buildings, and environments are designed and made. The culmination of the DID program is a one-day comprehensive portfolio workshop, which is designed to introduce beginning design students to the concepts, techniques, and strategies necessary to complete a successful design portfolio.  Thank you to both ACE and SCI-Arc for providing scholarships for this program.

Meron Kahsai

Meron will be attending CU Denver CAP ACE summer camp. She’ll be joining the College of Architecture and Planning for a week-long residential summer camp at the University of Colorado Denver. Faculty from CU Denver’s architecture program will lead an investigation in design, digital fabrication, and sustainability. Students will build from their own design and get to know other students from ACE Mentor programs in the West. Campers will stay at Campus Village, CU Denver student housing. They will use the Design Fabrication Lab and studio spaces at the College of Architecture and Planning. Undergraduate Admissions will host a presentation about applying to CU Denver, so students leave camp with an understanding of what it takes to become a CU Denver student. Thanks to ACE for providing a scholarship for tuition and transportation.

Ashley Mancia and Kimberly Casarez

Ashley and Kimberly will be attending EPIC summer program at Cal Poly San Luis ObispoEPIC– Engineering Possibilities in College – is a one-week summer camp that introduces campers to the varied fields of engineering through hands-on labs taught by university professors and industry professionals.  EPIC campers see “Learn by Doing” in action as they participate in labs where they design, build, and test their own projects! Campers build rockets, create Android phone apps, develop a solar car, and learn about computer security. EPIC shares the College of Engineering’s mission to “educate students for careers of service, leadership, and distinction in engineering or other fields by using a Learn by Doing, hands-on approach.”  Thank you to EPIC for providing scholarships for these students.

 

We’re so proud of ALL of these Belles and can’t wait to hear about their experiences this summer when we return. Thank you again to ACE for providing such great mentorship and fantastic opportunities for our students.  Here’s the presentation from the ACE Student Presentation Day and Scholarship Award Ceremony on May 12, 2018.  Our Belles presented a new SMA campus!

 

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Senior Retreat

Recently, our Gold Ties ‘18 visited Pine Summit in Big Bear for their 3-day Senior Retreat! Those jam-packed few days allowed time for reflection, sharing, celebration, fun, and bonding. The retreat, led by Campus Minister and Religion teacher Ms. Warner, included talks by each attending faculty member, small group discussion, group work, and some free time to enjoy the facilities’ various activities outdoors. Gold Ties got the chance to try ziplining, paintballing, shooting, and archery! Throughout the three days, students could write affirmations for their classmates, as well as for the faculty members on retreat, and place them in the affirmation boxes in the meeting lodge. One group activity required students to evaluate their personality, then grouped them together by color/personality type. Each color group worked together to create posters representing themselves, then presented it to the larger group. This retreat was only the first of many exciting upcoming senior events, as the Gold Ties make their way towards graduation in June!

“The senior retreat provided me with insight towards reflection and how our past guides us towards God. Reflection with our group as well as teachers’ reflections showed me how we may connect God to every aspect of our lives and grow from each connection. I really enjoyed this retreat as I was able to understand my fellow Gold Ties and realize we all have things that connect and guide us together.” -Jessica Edwards

“Senior Retreat was the most interesting thing so far. It was an amazing opportunity to connect with my Gold Tie sisters. Other than that, there were a lot of activities I have not tried before. I also had the opportunity to open and experience my faith with my sisters.” -Kenya Mayers

“The Senior Retreat allowed me to perceive my peers with an open heart and mind to comprehend their story. The retreat also enabled me to try new activities that I never partook in before. Thanks to the senior retreat, I was able to enjoy my experience with others who were close to me and enjoy the beauty outdoors. In all, the senior retreat allowed me to perceive my peers differently, to be close to them in a different way. It opened my heart to the love God has for me and for them.” -Giselle Melendez

“I have gotten closer to the class, which was something I never knew would happen, especially because I am a transfer student. Overall, this retreat was one for the books. I realized that I was loved and appreciated. As well as that everyone came from different backgrounds and everyone is different, so one should be understanding to everything.” -Vivian Garcia

Arts Week Annual Art Show 2018

Below are all of the artworks and winners from the 2018 SMA Art Show.  We have so much talent among our Belles.  Enjoy!

Royya Martin- 1st Place Winner

Elisa Beltran- 2nd Place Winner

Delilah Navarro- 3rd Place Winner

Laylah Ortega- Honorable Mention

Alani Perkins- Honorable Mention

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St. Joseph’s Week Mission Moments

To celebrate St. Joseph’s Week, each student in religion class reflected on what they appreciated about the mission of our school:

Mission Statement

St. Mary’s Academy, a Catholic, private, college preparatory high school for young women, founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, shapes women of distinction who are committed to lifelong learning and service to the “dear neighbor”.

They wrote their reflections on pieces of “ lace” to symbolize the skill of lace making that The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet taught to young women hundreds of years ago in Le Puy, France.  When they founded St. Mary’s Academy in 1889,  the Sisters had the same mission- to empower and educate young women. The aim of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet and the lay women and men of the faculty at St. Mary’s Academy is to educate young women to take an active part as Christians in society.  It continues in this tradition to educate and guide young women toward maturity in an ever changing world.

See some student responses to our mission below.

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St. Mary’s Academy Alumnae & Guests Present at the 2018 Career Day Event!

St. Mary’s Academy hosted the bi-annual Career Day event on Friday, March 16, 2018 to educate our Belles about various career paths. This year’s theme “She Believed She Could So She Did” served as an important reminder that women are capable of pursuing their career aspirations. It starts with students believing in their charism (gifts) and using their talents and knowledge to make a difference in the world.

Career Day provides our Belles with an opportunity to explore different professional fields through workshop presentations geared towards the students’ career interests such as law, medicine, engineering, business, arts, social work, finance and education. Red Tie Captain Brenda Threatt ‘71, the Executive Director of U.S. VETS – Long Beach, served as this year’s Keynote Speaker.

A total of 54 women presented at our Career Day event to share their expertise, provide advice, and answer questions. 74% of the presenters were SMA alumnae! We thank each of the presenters for providing an inspiring experiential learning opportunity for our Belles!

Below are a few biographies of our Career Day speakers:  

Kristen Berry has more than twelve years experience developing and executing strategic communications programs for a variety of travel, aviation, interior design/decor, lifestyle and consumer tech brands. Her expertise includes media relations, securing coverage from publications spanning Vogue, Travel + Leisure, Fast Company, and the New York Times; designing effective media and consumer events; blogger ambassador programs; social media activations and more. Kristen also crafts a wide array of communications content in her role, including product news, campaign messaging, press materials, reactive statements, infographics, social media updates and distilling industry/consumer research into coverage-generating highlights.


Jovon English, Blue Tie of 1996, is the Associate Director for Division Operations at  Homeless Outreach Program/Integrated Care System Division (HOPICS). She has over 10 years of extensive finance, operations and management experience to her position. Jovon holds a M.A. in Business Administration from the University of Phoenix and a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Southern California. Before coming to HOPICS, Jovon spent over 10 years in banking honing skills that will sure enhance her primary focus; increasing fundraising and meeting strategic goals and financial targets.


Sherry Hayes-Peirce, Gold Tie of 1982, has experienced different professional roles including: social worker, corporate trainer, television news/producer and on-air personality, executive assistant, motivational speaker and now entrepreneur as the President and CEO of Communications Consultants Inc. As a social media strategist, Sherry helps Catholic Churches, University and Health & Safety Industry businesses to create effective social media strategies and provide marketing advice. She has served as a guest lecturer at UCI, University of Australia, University of Washington, LMU|LA and has written an academic paper for the Academy Institute Journal Leadership on social media. She holds a BA degree in Sociology and Communication Studies from California State University, Dominguez Hills.


Monica Henderson is President of Encore Wellness & Weight Loss Management, Inc. She brings over thirty years of experience in the healthcare field to the organization and understands the importance of integrating wellness into the corporate culture to create a more productive and healthy workforce. As founder and principal consultant with Unisource Insurance Services, Inc. and The Unisource Group, Inc., she has served California employers for over twenty-five years. The firm provides employee benefits brokerage and consulting services to small businesses, large national corporations, municipalities and non-profit organizations with a focus on risk management, benefits plan design, wellness program development and identifying effective funding strategies for the clients’ core and voluntary benefits. Monica brings a depth of experience to Encore and is committed to delivering the most effective and sustainable approach to healthy weight loss. With a focus on improving nutrition and establishing healthy rituals, Encore members are able to achieve lasting results. Monica holds a BS in Business Administration with an emphasis in Marketing and Finance. She is on the Southern California advisory board for US Bank and is a member of the Los Angeles Chapter of the National Smart Set social organization of professional women.


Donna Simone Johnson, Green Tie of  2005, is an actress who was recently awarded the 2018 NAACP Award for Best Lead Actress for her work in “Broken Fences.” She is seen on TV shows like Shots Fired (FOX), Pilot Season (NBC), Teachers (NBC), Agent X (TNT), The Inspectors (CBS), and a host of commercials for Dannon Yogurt, Walmart, Adidas, and Nike. Most of the time, she is on stage, and has played some of the most lovely roles in the world over 4 continents, 14 countries and many cities. She proudly has a BA degree in Theatre Performance from Vanguard University, a MA in Dance from New York University and a MFA in Acting from California Institute of the Arts (CalArts).


Dr. Nicole Johnson, Blue Tie of 1996, is a coach and consultant who develops leadership programs to inspire the next generation of leaders. Nicole has worked for many years as an educator, including 17 years in k-12 and higher education. Her research interests includes: organizational behavior, mentoring and program innovation. Nicole has presented her work to the American Psychological Association and served as an Ambassador to its convention. She is a Governor’s Teaching Fellow and professor. She has taught at UCLA and the University of San Diego and her present appointment is National University. Nicole earned her BA in English, her M.Ed in Teaching & Learning from the University of San Diego, and her EdD in Organizational Leadership from Pepperdine University.


Veronica Lewis, Blue Tie of 1996, is the Director of the Homeless Outreach Program/Integrated Care System Division (SSG/HOPICS) where she oversees more than 30 million dollars in annual funding for 30 different programs from 10 funders for mental health, substance use disorder treatment, reentry support, homeless and housing services, and trauma-focused services; and a multidisciplinary team of 180 employees. She has spent the greater part of her life working to educate, empower and provide resources to underserved youth and families. She is a recognized leader in LA County in the homeless services and reentry sectors. Veronica graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a Bachelor of Business Administration, Business Law Concentration and received her Master of Public of Administration degree from California State University, Dominguez Hills.


Major Lydia Lygon Thomas, Blue Tie of 1968,  is a member of the California State Military Reserve (CSMR), the official State defense force. She is currently embedded with the 578th Brigade Engineer Battalion as the Behavioral Health Officer. In this role, Lydia provides psychological support for Soldiers and family members. Every month she drills at the National Guard Armory in Manhattan Beach, and once a year she accompanies the Battalion on Annual Training field missions to Camp Roberts, Fort Hunter Liggett, or Camp Pendleton where she provides emergency crisis intervention for Soldiers at risk, and presents training briefs on suicide prevention, PTSD, combat stress and resiliency. Lydia was awarded the California Commendation Medal and the Army Achievement Medal for her service to the National Guard. She was also featured in the California National Guard magazine, Grizzley, for her pioneering work as an embedded therapist. Before her retirement career as a Soldier, Lydia served the Department of Social Services for over three decades as a Branch Chief with Disability and Adult Programs Division, Los Angeles South Office, and District Manager of Community Care Licensing Offices in Culver City and the San Fernando Valley. Lydia is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) with a Masters degree in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine University. She is an active member of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. Lydia resides in Los Angeles where she has a private practice.


Pamela Martin-Polk is a graduate of the historical HBCU Howard University in Washington D.C. with a professional degree in Occupational Therapy. She also attended Oakwood College in Huntsville, Alabama.  Ms. Martin-Polk has worked in various settings such as The National Rehabilitation Hospital (Washington D.C), Queen of Angels Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital, Skilled Nursing Facilities extending from East LA to Palos Verdes, Home Health Care, Suburban Medical Center and the Great Daniel Freeman that was once located across the street from St. Mary’s Academy. Besides being a career woman and Clinical Instructor, she is compassionate and enjoys serving others as God has opened several doors for her. Her greatest accomplishment is being the proud mother of Kennedy and Kyla Polk – Green Ties Class of 2021 – at St. Mary’s Academy!


Kimberly Morris, Gold Tie of 2002, critiques self-identity, ideas of beauty, popular culture, and race in America via video, sculpture, photography, and painting. She inserts herself into her work by casting her own body, using her hair, and portraiture—all forms struggling with the constraining expectations society imposes on women of color. She writes “Through the lens of beauty, I examine my position in the diaspora. Pressures of fitting into what the majority culture defines as normal: neater hair and constrictive body type casting, dictate my daily routine.” Kimberly has a BA and MA from California State University Northridge and her MFA from California State University Long Beach. Recent exhibitions include Biomythography: Currency Exchange at Claremont Graduate University, Who Are You? at the Museum of Latin American Art, Insights at the CSULB University Art Museum.


Cristina Nieto, Green Tie of 1997, is the Associate Director for Data and Quality Assurance at Homeless Outreach Program/Integrated Care System Division (HOPICS). She manages several rapid rehousing programs for families and singles, employment services, data integration, and quality assurance. In former professional roles, Cristina worked as the Associate Director for Hearings at a Social Security Disability law firm and interned at the San Diego Mediation Center where she decided to pursue a career working with families and individuals  She earned a Bachelor’s degree in International Security and Conflict Resolution with an emphasis on Mediation, Negotiation and Conflict Resolution from San Diego State University.


Tressa Smiley is the Host and Executive Producer of VIP Live Empowerment Talkshow, creating a positive platform designed to educate, elevate and empower all seeking life advancements. She also serves as the Associate Producer and Social Media Manager for Women In Film, assisting with PSA productions with nonprofit organization charity Access Book to promote literacy within public schools. Tressa has served as a co-host for the Red Carpet VIP, interviewing high profile celebrity and non-celebrity guests during pre and post award ceremony. She was also a co-host News Anchor Ed.TV and News for the Long Beach Unified School District helping to identify stories, subject and guests for the daily program. In 2009, Tressa was a Talkshow Contestant for the Oprah Winfrey Network. She has an Early Childhood Education and Teaching degree from Brenau University.


Captain Brenda Threatt, Red Tie of 1971, currently serves as the Executive Director for U.S. VETS- Long Beach. She directly oversees 15 programs with a 7.1 million dollar budget providing daily housing, services and support for over 600 veterans. Brenda’s mission is to ensure that men and women who have served our country in all positions, in all wars, from every walk of life, receive the dignity of life and a place to call home. Prior to U.S. VETS, Brenda served as the shelter system manager with the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, overseeing the 14 winter shelters including 3 National Guard Armories, housing 14,700 persons countywide. She facilitated services and shelter for homeless veterans and other homeless individuals.Previously, she was director of veteran outreach, acting as sole liaison to the veteran community for the City of Los Angeles, during Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s Administration. Her rank is Captain serving as a military chaplain in the California Guard as the Southern Regional Command Chaplain at Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training base. Her duties include advising the Commander on religious matters, providing religious support, deployment support, chapel services, marriage and family counseling and support for chronically homeless veterans at the VALBMC.Brenda was the designer of the California 9-11 personalized license plate which memorializes the lives of the victims who perished September 11, 2001. This plate has raised millions of dollars in funding to support the families of the victims and funding for anti-terrorism in California.


Wenonah Valentine, Blue Tie of 1972, is the founding director of iDREAM for Racial Health Equity, a project of Community Partners®. She is passionate about her ministry to improving Black maternal health and birth outcomes. She was recently featured in the L.A. Sentinel Religion section as a “Champion of Faith”, providing an opportunity to highlight ordinary people inspired by their faith to make a difference in the community. In recognition of Women’s History Month, L.A. women will be showcased during the month of March. Wenonah’s faith in Christ is a three- braided cord and her worship is expressed through alumnae collaborations, lived experience and service leadership. Wenonah has a BA degree in Black Studies and Economics from the University of California, Santa Barbara and a MBA degree in Christian Business and Professional Leadership from Azusa Pacific University.

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