More than 250 people gathered at the Granite Links Golf Club on Sunday evening for Elizabeth Seton Academy’s 2016 annual Going the Distance Spring Gala. Former Boston Mayor and US Ambassador to the Vatican Raymond L. Flynn was the guest of honor.
Mayor Marty Walsh served as the honorary host of the evening, and applauded the school’s achievements since its creation in 2003. Several other dignitaries were also in attendance, including Congressman Stephen Lynch, Senator Linda Dorcena Forry and City Councillor Frank Baker.
Flynn received the school’s “Make a Difference” Award, given each year to an individual who has both contributed to the school and helped it continue to thrive.
“Ray was a founder of Elizabeth Seton Academy, and was instrumental in opening the school, and has made a huge difference in the lives of the girls that have attended Elizabeth Seton Academy, as well as has made a huge difference in many people’s lives in the City of Boston,” said Elizabeth Seton Academy’s Board of Trustees Chair Frances Birmingham.
According to Birmingham, Flynn helped ESA grow from the “ashes of Monsignor Ryan Memorial High School”, the former all girls Catholic high school that two of his daughters attended. Monsignor Ryan Memorial closed its doors in 2002.
Mayor Walsh, another key figure in opening ESA in Lower Mills, noted Flynn has been with the school every step of the way since then.
“We weren’t really exactly sure what was going to happen with the school, but Ambassador Flynn was there,” Walsh said. “He was there from the very beginning.”
With only 29 girls in this year’s graduating class, ESA has never been prominent in size. According to family members, faculty, and students who attended the event, however, the tight knit community is one of a kind.
“No student is lost within our walls. Every student that walks into ESA is known, and nurtured and challenged,” said Michael Bonina, the Head of School.
Bonina told an anecdote about a student at Seton Academy, who is currently a junior of high academic standing. She told him the first thing she’d buy once she earned $1 billion would be an elevator for the school. Asked why, she explained that her sister is in a wheelchair, and therefore is unable to attend ESA.
“That’s hope, that’s the empathy, and that’s the character development that our school is all about; and that’s what it means to transform treasure into hope,” Bonina said, referencing a theme Pope Francis recently spoke about.
Elana Aurise, an alumna of ESA and a member of the class of 2009, introduced Mayor Flynn to the crowd. Aurise, who now works for the Dorchester Reporter, spoke about how ESA helped her overcome her own hardships and financial struggles in college.
“Since 2009 I have been working full time and paying my way through school on my own,” said Aurise. “It hasn’t been easy at all, in fact it’s been grueling, but as a graduate of Elizabeth Seton Academy, I knew I’d never give up on my education. No matter how hard it got for me, giving up was never an option.”
In accepting his award, Flynn asserted the necessity of making the achievements of every ESA girl known to the public.
“Have you heard any of these stories on television about how they’re striving and how they’re succeeding, and the humble background they came from—just like Senator Lynch, just like Ray Flynn, just like Marty Walsh. Where do you think we came from?” Flynn said. “We got it from our faith, we got it from our neighbors, we got it from our community. We cannot let go of the enormous success stories that we have to tell.”
Christie Angrand, a junior at ESA, is one of many students who credits the school with her success.
“I feel like if it weren’t for ESA I wouldn’t be as confident as I am, and I think that’s a really strong trait, especially for girls like myself who plan on going to college and take on a huge responsibility,” Angrand said. “So I love ESA.”
Her favorite thing about the school is the diversity of students.
“There’s just so many people-- Asians, black, white, it doesn’t really matter,” she said. “Our school just doesn’t see color and I think that’s so important, and so important everywhere you go.”
The school raised over $100,000 in donations through Sunday night’s event, according to Director of Advancement Greg O’Neill.