The protestors arrested on campus during last May’s Commencement ceremony, known as the “ND 88,” have been offered a program to avoid trial by St. Joseph County Prosecutor Michael Dvorak, according to a statement by University President Fr. John Jenkins.According to the press release, Dvorak will offer a pre-trial diversion program to those arrested, which would give them the chance to have their cases dismissed with no criminal record. To be eligible, the person must waive the right to a trial, have no criminal record and agree to obey local, state and federal laws for one year.Jenkins said he believes the Prosecutor’s Office’s decision is “balanced and lenient.”The protesters violated University policies regarding campus demonstrations and were given multiple warnings prior to their arrest, Jenkins said in the statement released Friday.“We require that any campus demonstration, regardless of the issue, be organized by a student, faculty or staff member, receive approval from the University through the Office of Student Affairs and be peaceful and orderly,” Jenkins said. “Those who were arrested last spring met none of these criteria.”The University has been in contact with Dvorak, who has been handling the prosecution of those arrested on campus last spring.“To be eligible, a person must waive the right to a trial, have no criminal record and agree to obey local, state and federal laws for one year,” Jenkins said of the pre-trial diversion program. “The program also includes the payment of a fee for cost.”In a letter to the University, Dvorak said his office will work with those who demonstrated a financial need to reduce or potentially eliminate these fees.The protesters took a pro-life stance, but Jenkins said their arrest does not mean the University does not value the sanctity of life.“We at Notre Dame embrace the Catholic position on the sanctity of life. We oppose abortion and support laws that protect life from conception to natural death,” he said. “In this respect, we fully agree with the protestors.“But the University cannot have one set of rules for causes we oppose and another more lenient set of rules for causes we support. We have one consistent set of rules for demonstrations on campus — no matter what the cause.”In the past, the University has banned those who were arrested for trespass. It will not take this action against the protesters given they complete the pre-trial diversion program, are acquitted of charges or plead guilty.Jenkins also said alternative pro-life demonstrations that met University regulations were offered last spring.“Those now charged with trespass could have joined these protests without interference or arrest,” Jenkins said. “These included a demonstration on April 5 in front of the Main Building, a Eucharistic adoration from May 16 to May 17 in one of the residence hall chapels and on Commencement day, a Mass, a rally and a prayer vigil on South Quad and a Rosary and meditation at the Grotto.“Nearly 3,000 people participated in the prayerful protest on the South Quad,” Jenkins said. “None of the participants in any of these activities were arrested.”Jenkins said the University welcomes debate about public issues, as well as protest.“We have great respect for people who engage in the long and noble tradition of civil disobedience and courageously accept the consequences to call attention to themselves and their message,” he said.But he said the University also has a responsibility to maintain an environment that allows students, faculty and staff to continue their work without interference.“It is this dual commitment to free expression and public order that has guided us in this case,” Jenkins said.
A Notre Dame freshman recently founded a news and opinion website that publishes content daily from universities across the country. NextGen Journal, the site that is geared toward college students, launched last week. Freshman Connor Toohill manages the site and currently serves as editor-in-chief. Toohill said he was inspired to start the news site for college students in 2009 when the national budget debate sparked interest in many of his classmates at his high school. “There were a lot of things being talked about that had a lot of impact on the next generation,” Toohill said, “but our voices were never really in the conversation.” Toohill said he wanted to create a forum for the opinions of the younger generation. NextGen Journal currently staffs over 50 college students from universities around the country, Toohill said. Students from universities such as Stanford, Georgetown, and Harvard, in addition to Notre Dame students, contribute pieces that submitted to a core group of editors. Freshman Brendan Moran is one of a core group of editors for the journal. “We went through about 75 college newspapers, picked out their best writers, and asked them to join our staff,” Moran said. According to Moran, this diversity gives NextGen Journal an edge over a single-campus publication. “We have that national focus,” Moran said, “not just only focusing on Notre Dame students and Notre Dame writers but branching out and trying to hear what’s going on and how people in other parts of the country interpret and perceive this content that is very pertinent to college students.” NextGen Journal publishes articles covering topics from international and domestic politics to music, sports and celebrities. “There’s a void out there in the national media lately for analysis and insightful content for college students,” Toohill said. “There is nothing for our generation other than the specific campus by campus content of college papers. So we’re trying to do something national with it.” Creating and developing the site was a long process for Toohill. He spent months laying the groundwork for the launch by contacting possible staff and finalizing the objectives and format of NextGen Journal. Toohill said much of the success of the recent launch to technical director and freshman Chas Jhin, who designed the website’s layout. Now that NextGen Journal has officially launched, Toohill and Moran said they are concentrating on publicizing and growing their venture. “We definitely want to expand as much as we can and focus on expanding it nationally and getting as many people aware of it as possible nationwide,” Moran said. Toohill said he shares this aspiration. “We want to become the foremost site for news and opinion by students for students,” he said. Toohill said students interested in contributing to NextGen Journal can visit the nextgenjournal.com and click on the “Join NextGen” page. “More than anything, [NextGen Journal] is interesting to the reader,” Toohill said. “There’s a lot of really great, interesting, cool, practical content.”
Reigning Stanley Cup champions the Chicago Blackhawks begin training camp in the Compton Family Ice Arena on Thursday and will host public practices Saturday and Sunday, with a special student event Friday. Tom Nevala, general manager of the Compton Family Ice Arena, said Blackhawks’ General Manager Stan Bowman, a 1995 Notre Dame alumnus, wanted to bring the team to his alma mater to build community. “[Bowman] just happened to be in the area last February … and suggested that they might want to come to campus for training camp if we could work that out,” Nevala said. “They liked the idea of getting their guys all together to do a little team unity exercise instead of operating from their individual homes in Chicago and just coming to the United Center. They thought to spend a few days on campus with a facility like we have here would be a great way to start their next year.” Nevala said the Blackhawks would take advantage of Compton’s many amenities during training camp. “They’re bringing 60 players here so you have to have the locker space for 60 guys, and I think we were able to provide that compared to what they might be used to [at the United Center],” he said. “I think the opportunity to use both rinks [will be helpful] … Maybe they’re going to run practice on one side and the scrimmages that they’ve been advertising in the main arena.” During training camp, the Blackhawks will split up into three different teams and play two scrimmages a day, he said. The Blackhawks are also looking forward to experiencing Notre Dame’s campus for a few days, Nevala said. “I think they just like being in the campus environment, with Eddy Street [Commons] available,” he said. “They’re staying at the Morris Inn. I’m sure they’ll probably go play golf one day and we’re going to try to get them to football practice.” Blackhawks players will also attend a team dinner with the Notre Dame hockey squad Friday, Nevala said. Nevala said it was the Blackhawks’ idea to sell public tickets to Saturday and Sunday’s practices, which are currently sold out. However, Notre Dame was adamant about doing something special for its students, he said. “All along we were hoping we could do something unique for our students while [the Blackhawks] were here,” he said. “We said, ‘Well, how about we do a day with the students when you aren’t selling tickets,’ and it’ll be a unique opportunity for Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s students to get in and see them scrimmage if they have time during their lunch break or something. We don’t want anybody skipping class, now.” Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s students can attend the Blackhawks’ practice for free Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 12:40 p.m. in the Compton Family Ice Arena with a valid student ID. Nevala said he hopes the Blackhawks cap off their visit to Notre Dame by bringing the Stanley Cup to campus. “We’re hopeful that the Stanley Cup might be on campus at some point during this visit,” he said. “I literally don’t know how long it would be here if it’s going to be here. We’re hopeful it makes its second visit because Stan did bring it here in 2010. After they won the Stanley Cup that year, he used his day with the cup to bring it to campus for the Notre Dame vs. Stanford football game. We’re hopeful it comes again.” Nevala said he hopes the Blackhawks decide to return again next year. “We hope [the Blackhawks] enjoy their time in South Bend and on campus, and maybe they’ll decide this is a good way to start their year again in the future,” he said.
In response to the Status of Girls in Indiana report, Saint Mary’s alumna Molly Bell, class of 1997, created the Bloom for Girls seminar, an opportunity for mothers and daughters to celebrate the gift of womanhood in a fun, open environment. The event will take place on Saint Mary’s campus on Sunday, July 13.Bell said she introduced the idea for Bloom for Girls, aimed at young women between the ages of 10 and 19, in the summer of 2012 at a reunion weekend at Saint Mary’s.“I was invited to present a lecture on the inundation of ‘pink’ into the marketplace targeting girls,” Bell said.After discussing the effects of the messages and images to which girls are exposed daily, Bell said she suggested moms start discussing this issue with their daughters before they enter high school.“Bloom for Girls workshops were the solution,” Bell said.Saint Mary’s contacted Bell six months after her discussion and asked if she would like to launch the program on campus, Bell said.“There could be no better fit to launch this program than a campus that supports women and where I spent four years building and harnessing my own power and voice as a woman,” Bell said.Bell said after graduating with a degree in communication, she spent ten years working as an advertising executive, an experience that showed her how companies market to young girls.“I became ingrained in the retail landscape for moms and tween girls when I worked with OshKosh B’Gosh on their national advertising campaign to launch a sub-brand called Genuine Girl,” Bell said.Bell said after attending focus groups, listening to moms all over the country and completing intense research on competitive brands, she thought she understood the market ⎯ that is until she had her daughter six years later.“I began noticing aisles of pink toys, sexy dolls, purple Legos themed with dog grooming and fashion shows and countless princess images, toys and books,” Bell said.Bell said she began to research this change in the market landscape and was able to justify her concerns with several books on the topic, in which she said she found terrifying statistics about the self-esteem and depression rates in American girls.“According to a study by NYU Child Study Center, the average American girl’s self-esteem peaks at age nine,” Bell said. “This was further reinforced by the Status of Girls in Indiana report compiled by Saint Mary’s College that showed Indiana girls have higher rates of depression and suicide attempts than boys.”Although the Bloom program is not connected to the Status of Girls in Indiana report, the event does promote a positive and action-oriented experience to counteract the high rate of depression among young girls.“Raising my daughter in an educated, upper-middle-class community, I naively thought my friends would be aware of these issues,” Bell said. “I quickly decided there was a need to start talking about some of the challenges our daughters are facing and to give our daughters the tools to maneuver through the pressures of technology, body image, friendship, stereotyping, gender biases ⎯ and the list goes on.”Bell said through art projects, interactive activities, skits and journaling, girls and moms are given the tools and conversation starters to build self-esteem.“Studies show that no matter how much extraneous ‘noise’ from the media peers and society surrounds our daughters with, it is within the family that a girl first develops a sense of who she is and who she wants to become,” Bell said. “A parent armed with knowledge can help her daughter reach her full potential.”Bell said the event starts with a few fun group activities that focus on the goals of the seminar. Participants also have the opportunity to share personal experiences in the workshops.Following the discussion, Bell said participants break for a catered lunch and then participate in a workshop called “Love Your Body.”“This workshop will address media images of our bodies versus a healthy body, inner beauty rather than outer beauty, a mother’s influence on a daughter’s body and our power over our own bodies,” Bell said.Bell said she hopes moms and daughters will leave the seminar with new knowledge and tools to spark conversation when friendship crises, bullying and other self-esteem challenges occur.“I’m thrilled to bring this program to my alma mater and to a place that offers countless empowering opportunities for women that extend far beyond Bloom for Girls,” Bell said. Tags: Bloom for Girls, Indiana report, moms and daughters, ndsmcobserver.com, seminar, SMC
Student Senate met Wednesday night to discuss mental health resources and general stress levels of students at Notre Dame. The goal of the conversation was to begin an ongoing dialogue about student experiences with stress and how the university’s resources can better assist the issues.Student body vice president Matt Devine began the meeting by asking the group in attendance if students are aware of their stress levels and how the levels impact their lives.The group discussed the stigma that exists when students admit to and seek mental health resources; however, the representatives also noted that the dorms serve as support system for students, giving them friends nearby to talk to about stress.Kristen Gates, a representative from Walsh Hall, said she thinks the stress levels of students stems from the desire to succeed.“There is such a high expectation for Notre Dame Students to be extremely involved and excel in academics while holding it all together, but this idea of perfection has negative effects on student stress levels.”Senate plans on holding three focus groups in the future to further gauge student perception on mental-health resources.Senate also voted to pursue a discussion with the registrar about the University’s auditing policy, which entails being able to sit in on a class and receive credit without paying for the class.Student body president Lauren Vidal also presented the State of the Union to the senate. Vidal discussed the senate’s most recent accomplishments, including the O’SNAP program, as well as other goals for the year. Vidal encouraged students to be catalysts of positive change in the campus and the world.“We must look to a time when we have all already graduated and how our actions now will effect students for generations to come,” she said.Tags: Senate, Student government
Before Notre Dame fans packed the football stadium last Saturday to cheer for the Irish, the Notre Dame ROTC units – Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps – spent 12 hours shoveling snow out of the stadium to prepare for game day.Master Sergeant Marshall Yuen said the shoveling, which lasted from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, was part of an agreement made between Notre Dame ROTC and stadium staff in 2008.“Back in 2008, before a Stanford game, the campus got hit by a really big snowstorm,” he said. “It was on a Thursday and Friday, and [Facilities Manager] Dan Brazo had a hard time getting all the snow cleared for the game. So after that, he called over here to coordinate a community response with us for the next time something like that happened.”Yuen said last Friday was the first time since 2008 that the ROTC was called to help clear the stadium, and in all, about 75 percent of students involved in the Notre Dame ROTC program helped shovel snow.“Quite a few of our cadets were [shoveling] in between class periods,” he said. “[Some of them] went to class at eight o’clock in the morning. They had an hour break, so they walked over to the stadium and did some shoveling and then went to their next class. Some did it over their lunch breaks.“Every one of the ROTC commanders was out there shoveling snow, and some of them were out there for six or seven hours.”Sophomore Naval midshipman Ian Tembe said involvement in ROTC service like this is personally important to him.“I like to participate in everything the battalion does,” he said. “For me, Navy ROTC (NROTC) is the main part of my life as far as my future and my career. … Another thing that I really like is the relationship between NROTC and Notre Dame, and I wanted to help further that [by participating].”Shoveling snow in the stadium also helped strengthen the bond between the four different ROTC units, Tembe said.“It’s important for the cadets to do [service for the University] so that [ROTC] can instill that ‘God, Country, Notre Dame’ kind of ideal and that service to community,” he said. “It’s important to strengthen the relationship between the Navy, the Army, the Marine Corps, the Air Force and Notre Dame.”Senior Elizabeth Terino said the relationship between the four ROTC branches extends beyond shoveling snow together on Friday. The units have multiple events with each other throughout the year, she said. Tembe said this relationship between the branches is an important one.“The camaraderie between the units, we have kind of a sibling rivalry,” Tembe said. “But we’re really more tightly involved than you might think. And that’s important because once we graduate and become officers, joint relationships between the branches are very important to the military objectives of the United States. Each service would like to say they’re the one that does all the work, but really the work can’t be done without all the armed services.”Shoveling snow on Friday was a way to show ROTC’s appreciation for Notre Dame, Terino said.“Notre Dame is so supportive of the ROTC program,” she said. “Shoveling the stadium is just a small act of service that we can perform to give back to a University that gives us so much.”Ultimately, though, Yuen said the service Notre Dame ROTC provides to the University also benefits the cadets.“What it really teaches our cadets is that if somebody asks for help, you go out there and help them without expecting necessarily a monetary reward or a pat on the back,” he said. “When your community calls you to help, if you have time to do it, you go out there and do it.”Tags: Football Friday Feature, ROTC
The Saint Mary’s Center for Women’s Intercultural Leadership (CWIL) will sponsor a new summer study abroad program in Jamaica, starting in May 2016.Dionne Bremyer, assistant professor of English, said she started the program because her family heritage is Jamaican, and she believes the island is full of culture most Saint Mary’s students can appreciate but do not know as well.“It’s a good place to go in terms of getting a different cultural experience and still being English-speaking,” Bremyer said. “I think some students might be intimidated by going places where there’s a language barrier, but they still want to have a cultural experience that’s different. … You can get a really different experience in Jamaica, but it’s still an English-speaking country.”Bremyer said she will be teaching a course on travel writing while in Jamaica.“We’re going to look at the dichotomy between being a tourist and being a traveler,” Bremyer said. “We’re going to talk about what it means to travel as opposed to what it means to engage in tourism. Jamaica is the perfect place to do that because its economy is so driven by tourism. Some of those questions about the ecological, the cultural, the financial impact of what tourism does to a country are really at large in Jamaica.”Bremyer said she wants students to have a better understanding of the world through their experiences in Jamaica.“It’s an amazing opportunity to experience a country that is so close to the United States and one that is so influenced by the United States, but one that people don’t really know a lot about,” she said. “[People] haven’t thought much about what this country is, who the people of this country are, and so much of that is defined by this tourist perception.“I think it will be a really unique opportunity to experience a place that is so close in terms of geography but so very different in terms of culture.”She said students in the program will gain a sense of how the cultures of the United States and Jamaica interact.“[It is] a chance to think critically about what it means when we spend our dollars traveling somewhere — what it means to make choices about the environment, about the world that we live in, about how we value other countries in relation to our own,” Bremyer said. “ … To experience the world and to think about the ways in which we can understand ourselves and the world and each other better by having an understanding of all the people who live on our planet.”The program will teach the history of the island to students through trips to a marine village and Port Royal, a hike in the Blue Mountains and visits to Jamaica’s Great Houses — plantation-style homes that used to be cotton and sugar farms. Students will also attend the Calabash Literary Festival, a three-day long festival with readings by published authors that celebrates the long literary tradition of Jamaica.Tags: CWIL, Jamaica, Saint Mary’s Center of Women’s Intercultural Leadership, SMC study abroad
The Student Diversity Board’s Social Media Committee at Saint Mary’s invited the College’s own Business Professor, James Rogers, to speak about the effect social media can have in a company’s hiring process.Rogers introduced his discussion by challenging students to ask themselves a single question before posting anything on their social media: “What could possibly go wrong?”According to Rogers, over 90 percent of employers recruit using info gathered from social media networks.“They care about the person with whom they’re about to associate,” Rogers said.In most states, he said, it is legal for an employer to ask for a prospective employee’s social media passwords. Rogers said employers may do this even if it is not a prospective employee’s first job.“It really is about the rest of your life,” he said.Rogers said in an average company, the cost of hiring an employee can be greater than $100,000. He asked students to put themselves in the employer’s shoes.“If they choose to associate with you, their reputation could be on the line,” he said.Even if a prospective employee were to present themselves well during interviews, Rogers said the final decision may come down to social media. “This could be the make or break point for you,” he said.Rogers said students should avoid three pitfalls with respect to social media.The first is to avoid remaining friends on social media with people who may tag you in questionable posts — unfriending someone on social media is not unfriending them in real life, Rogers said.“You can’t have stuff of theirs tagged with you. It spreads virally,” he said.Another pitfall to avoid is a boring or nonexistent online presence, Rogers said.“The competitive process requires us to stand out in a positive way,” he said. “In the end, you want people to find someone who is hirable.”The final pitfall, according to Rogers, is having a tattoo as one of the first things a potential employer sees on social media.“I know it sounds unfair and prejudicial,” Rogers said. “But maybe the employer world isn’t going to be excited that this is the first thing they see about you.“ … I’m not telling you to pretend to be someone you’re not. They look for honesty. I urge you to be as transparent as one can be without placing yourself under peril.”Rogers said that as negative as social media can be in the hiring process, social media can be positive and provide prospective employees with an advantage.“You have to drown the negative,” he said. “Find the things that you are passionate about and use that to your advantage.”Sophomore business major, Kiersten Lieurance, said Rogers’ lecture changed the way she thought about social media.“I didn’t really think there are positive ways to impact your social media that your job will see or that they would be interested in,” Lieurance said.Rogers recommended his students accomplish this by simply revealing their values and strengths through social media.“Get down to the core of what it means to be a Saint Mary’s College student,” Rogers said. “The values that it represents — understanding education, ability, passion, spirituality — bring those things forward in your social media activities.”Rogers closed his talk with a reminder.“Our expectation of realistic privacy online is none,” he said.Tags: job search, SMC, social media
In celebration of The Observer’s 50th anniversary, former Observer journalists discussed changes to the journalism industry in Carey Auditorium on Friday. The panel was moderated by Tom Condon, class of 1968, a former columnist and chief editorial writer for Hartford Courant.Speakers included Michelle Krupa, class of 2000, who serves as news editor for CNN Digital, Tom Jackman, class of 1982, who runs the The Washington Post’s True Crime blog, Noreen Gillespie Connolly, Saint Mary’s class of 2002, who serves as deputy sports editor for Associated Press and Madeline Buckley, Notre Dame class of 2011, who reports for The Indianapolis Star.Condon began the panel by noting the technological changes he’d seen since he graduated from the University.“The only thing that tweeted were birds,” he said. “… Reporters wrote stories on paper and were edited with crayons or pencils, something red.”Krupa said she first experienced the massive changes of the digital era while working for The Times-Picayune in New Orleans.“When I was at the Picayune, I was faced with my first sea change in the industry, which was that the Newhouse Company … they decided that in the digital age, presumably because stories can be online 24 hours a day, they would reduce the staff by more than half and start printing the paper three days a week instead of seven,” she said.Krupa said these changes pushed her to embark on a new career path, so she headed to CNN, whose digital platform provides expansive opportunities.“We have a different kind of parameters but a different kind of freedom … there’s this new freedom in digital where we can hit publish at any time of the day,” she said. “We’re on sort of self imposed deadline. We want to be first. We want to be the ones with the most interesting and correct information.” Jackman said he witnessed dramatic challenges at The Washington Post, such as Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos purchasing the newspaper.“The Post’s mission for many years was covering Washington,” he said. “ … So Jeff Bezos said we need need to be bigger than that and go to the world and build that brand. People had heard of that brand. There was this thing in the seventies with a hotel and a break in and all that stuff.”The change to digital forced Jackman to slightly alter his role, he said.“I’ve had to make the change to digital … and also learn how to file all the time, and that was new, and a lot of the people at The Washington Post have been dragged kicking and screaming into the digital age because we liked one deadline,” he said.Gillespie Connolly said the changing nature of journalism has forced her to be more flexible.“In my 15 years with the AP, I’ve been a reporter, I’ve covered government, and I’ve been a manager,” she said. “Three years ago, after a decade in news, I switched to sports.”Adaptability, Gillespie Connolly added, is a necessary trait in aspiring journalists.“I would say that the biggest thing [is] as industry has changed, as text has become video, as print has become broadcast, long form becomes short form and goes back to long form,” she said. “Don’t get too settled on a particular path because you’re going to have opportunities that you would have never expected,” she said.Buckley said one of the biggest changes she noticed concerned the social media aspect of reporting.“When I graduated in 2011, newspapers were fully immersed in the digital world, but it was only until my last year at The Observer that the website was becoming less of an afterthought,” she said. “So the things I’ve had to do in my reporting since graduating really [have] changed and surprised me. Just yesterday, trying to tie things up for the weekend, I wrote sample Facebook prompts for a story that’s running Sunday. I wrote news alerts for a story that’s running Sunday. I worked on video with a photographer.”Despite these wholesale changes, and the seemingly dire straights of print journalism, Gillespie Connolly said good journalism is crucial in informing the American people.“I think that we’re sitting right now in a political time where you’ve got a President of the United States challenging the credibility of journalists every single day, and I think what is going on and the reporting that is stemming from the political narrative is getting more readers, more interest in what we do,” she said. “Yes, there are allegations of fake news. … There is more going on in journalism right now and more smart, good news reporting that it makes it more necessary than it’s ever been.”When asked whether students ought to pursue journalism, Jackman said “Yes. Hell yes.”Tags: Associated Press, Madeline Buckley, Michelle Krupa, Noreen Gillespie, The Observer, The Washington Post, Tom Condon, Tom Jackman
Editor’s note: This is the first of a five-part series profiling the valedictorians of Saint Mary‘s class of 2018.For the first time in history, Saint Mary’s has five valedictorians. Molecular biology major Darya Bondarenko is one of the five students honored with the valedictorian title this year — an honor which represents the mind of Saint Mary’s, according to the commencement website.Bondarenko found out she was named valedictorian in an email from senior academic advisor Tracy White, who asked that she come meet the other valedictorians and discuss the commencement speech. Bondarenko said she was pleasantly surprised by the number of valedictorians. “I think I was the second person [at the meeting], and as more people started filing in, it was surprising,” she said. “It‘s also kind of exciting. It‘s really fun that we have so many students who have accomplished such a high honor.”Each of the valedictorians will deliver a speech about one of the core values at Saint Mary’s. Bondarenko will speak about justice, which she said is a challenging topic to discuss in a both candid and positive manner.“I want the speech to be a positive experience, but with the topic that I have, that’s sometimes difficult, especially with the current climate,” she said. “So many people have so many diverse opinions of what justice is. It’s a personal experience, and I think that’s also really difficult. You have to on some level open up on what’s happened to you and how you reacted to it. Sometimes that’s difficult.”Despite these challenges, Bondarenko said she enjoyed the speech writing process.“When I started writing the speech, it started becoming more personal and more of a statement,” she said.Although she does not enjoy speaking in front of large crowds, Bondarenko said her initial nervousness about the speech changed into excitement as she prepared.“I was more nervous than excited initially, I’m a little more excited now,” she said. “I hope people enjoy it,” Bondarenko said her family moved from Ukraine to the United States in 2003, and has lived in Mississippi and North Carolina.Immediately after she found out about the honor, Bondarenko told her family but she waited to tell her friends until it was publicly announced.“It’s an exciting thing. My family was excited,” Bondarenko said. “[When my friends found out], I got a lot of congratulations. I think they were maybe even a little more excited than I was.”Bondarenko said is currently assessing post-graduation plans.“Right now, I’m waiting to hear back from some medical schools,” she said. “Eventually I want to go to medical school, but I’m also looking for backup job. It’s mostly research jobs that I would want to work at for a year or so.”Bondarenko said she was only slightly surprised to receive the valedictorian honor, but still felt proud nonetheless. “I had a 4.0 [G.P.A.], so I kind of expected I would be somewhere high up,” she said “I knew I’d graduate with some kind of honors, but I did not know if that’d be valedictorian or not because I don’t know how they categorize that or if anything else contributes to it. I wasn’t necessarily that surprised, but it was a very pleasant experience.”Bondarenko said that though she has a high G.P.A., grades are not everything to her and the grades came naturally for her because of the passion she had for her courses.“I don’t think grades were the most difficult part of college for me,” she said. “It was about finding what I’m passionate about, and once you find that, the grades kind of go away and you stop thinking about that. [Grades were] never my goal. It was not something I was actively working towards.”She said her experience at Saint Mary’s helped her find that passion, and she appreciates the personal relationship she has with the school.“The reason I picked [Saint Mary’s] was because it has a personal relationship to its students … That’s something that really did meet my expectations, having that personal relationship with my professors and peers,” she said. “It’s kind of great. I know almost all the students and I know almost all my professors and their story a little bit. I don’t have a lecture hall between me and my professors.”Tags: Commencement 2018, Darya Bondarenko, saint mary’s valedictorians 2018, SMC valedictorians, valedictorian