The Top of the Hill Herald

The "Top of the Hill Herald," launched by the Office of Advancement and Alumni Relations, will present an edition each month focused on the Power of Philanthropy at Hill. Different facets of the St. Joseph Hill Academy Experience will be highlighted - stories of inspiring benefactors, student success, alumni testimonials, exciting new programs, news-making events, and much more. We hope you enjoy these stories and we encourage you to share your unique SJHA perspective with us.
January 2024 Edition - Rita Polidori O'Brien '86 Generously Gives Her Time and Talent Back to Hill!
 

As we enter the New Year at St. Joseph Hill Academy, we are excited about the opportunities that 2024 holds! With the same commitment and unwavering dedication to our Hill community, we enthusiastically start the year with renewed goals and creative ideas to further our mission. 

At SJHA we are dedicated to empowering all students to realize their dreams, discover their strengths, and soar to new heights. When we speak to our alumni, they inevitably echo the impact a Hill education made on them, resonating long after graduation. 

To continue the Hilltopper Legacy, we rely on our community of donors, alumni, parents, grandparents, corporate partners, and more to offer their time, talent, and treasure to sustain the legacy of the Hill experience. 

One such contributor is Rita Polidori O'Brien HS'86, PE'15, PE'16, PH'20, an alumna, parent, and donor. Rita expresses her commitment through a personal gift of her time, talent, and treasure. A professional Scribe, Rita cultivated the talent and self-confidence that would later lead her to become the Founder of her own calligraphy company, Scribe New York. Taking her talent to the next step, Rita chose to “give back” to her alma mater and support Hill by designing and drawing each welcome gift for new members of our 1919 Society.

Rita shares, “A few years ago, I had a very meaningful opportunity to contribute calligraphic artwork to St. Joseph Hill. In 2020, Dr. Basile was working hard to firmly establish the 1919 Society and asked for ideas that could be gifted to members upon joining. We liked the idea of a hand-calligraphed certificate that could be stamped with a wax seal and framed. The process of drafting the artwork and having a custom brass stamp made with SJHA's logo was an engaging artistic endeavor but even more, it was a gratifying way to contribute to my alma mater. Four years later, I still enjoy creating new certificates when members join The 1919 Society and as I ink them, I feel connected anew to the school I love.

Giving back can take many forms: people can share their time, talent, expertise, and voices (via advocacy). Financial support is always needed and appreciated, but charitable initiatives like volunteerism or in-kind gifts matter too! Seeing the 1919 Society grow and flourish under Dr. Basile's leadership has been a great pleasure and I'm thrilled I have the chance to contribute.”

These 1919 Society certificates are a constant reminder of our donors' commitment to St. Joseph Hill Academy. Rita’s artwork is well-received by the newly inducted members. Fellow Hilltopper, Veronika Kuria Crane HS '60, shared a note of gratitude when opening her 1919 certificate, “I feel delighted and honored to be a member of this elite group. I will do my best to make contributions for the students' benefit, as my means will allow. Thank you, also, for the beautiful 1919 Society membership gift that you sent me. It is indeed a work of art and I will treasure it. St. Joseph Hill Academy has always been very close to my heart, mainly because the sisters raised me and gave me an excellent education there."

We encourage you to join Rita and Veronika and actively participate in the current calendar year by contributing your time, talent, and treasure to this great institution. Your support remains fundamental to the continued growth of our students.

If you wish to support the great work at SJHA, please consider making a tax-deductible donation. If you have any questions, please contact Dr. Elizabeth Basile, Director of Advancement and Alumni Relations, at [email protected] or (718) 447-1374 ext. 9163.

More on Rita Polidori O'Brien '86

After graduating from SJHA in 1986, I attended Fordham University and got my degree in Communications. For 7 years following graduation, I worked in the magazine publishing business, climbing the corporate ladder from an entry level position as a marketing assistant up to a managerial level. But by 1997, I was yearning for a career that made more of a difference in people's lives, so from '97 until my son Michael was born in 2001, I taught history and English literature at St. Jean Baptiste High School in NYC. Then Stella was born one year later and I stayed at home full-time until they were in elementary school at Hill.

I returned to the magazine business in 2009 and served as publisher of Earnshaw's magazine and by 2011, moved over to the other side of the business and took a position with United Legwear & Apparel Co. (ULAC), as Vice President of Marketing & Licensing. In May of this year, I'll celebrate my 13th anniversary at ULAC and have been very fulfilled by my corporate work, which includes a wide variety of projects ranging from producing photo shoots for PUMA, Hurley and other global apparel brands to directing the charitable initiatives to which ULAC contributes.

Additionally, I launched my own calligraphy business -- Scribe New York -- in 2017.  At the age of 9, I received a calligraphy set as a gift and was immediately enthralled by the artform. Throughout my life, I've practiced, studied, improved, and learned many different kinds of calligraphy, from delicate and ornate "wedding-style" script to very precise, classic lettering such as Roman italic and Gothic blackletter. 

In the last decade, I took on more and more private commissions on nights and weekends, when I wasn't working at my corporate job and in 2015, I opened an Etsy shop to sell my work. Once I began doing work for retailers and fashion brands, I learned to build a website, I incorporated my business, began importing stationery from Italy and Belgium, and finally launched Scribe New York in 2019. It's a full-service calligraphy studio offering different kinds of lettering using media such as ink and pen, brush and paint, gold leaf, and even etching tools to engrave letters into glass. I've had the pleasure of working with clients like Chanel, Bloomingdales, Harry Winston, Keds, Google, Dior and more and can often be found onsite at fashion retailers doing in-person calligraphy events. At the same time, I continue my education in the art of calligraphy with night classes at Cooper Union and weekend sessions at The Society of Scribes. I believe when you stop learning, you stop living! 

The ability to successfully maintain a full-time corporate job and run my own creative business is of significant credit to the ethics I developed at Hill: hard work, ambition, reliability, taking full personal responsibility for one's behavior, successes, and failures, pride in one's work, the ability to problem-solve, punctuality... these are some (but not all!) of the things that have helped me succeed in my corporate and creative lives.

As we enter the holiday season and approach the conclusion of the year, we are filled with an overwhelming sense of gratitude. We take great pride in the achievements of our Hilltoppers, the advancements in our academic programs, and the enhancements to our campus. Above all, we are proud of the ongoing commitment of the entire Hill community to embody the spirit of Making God's Love Visible to All through the many acts of service we perform daily and the demonstration of our Faith in our community.
 
 
During the season of Advent, our campus is adorned with enchanting, festive Christmas Intention Wreaths. Each wreath carries a heartfelt prayer intention for cherished individuals who are dear to our donors. Whether you are a parent/grandparent of a Hilltopper, an alum, a staff member, or a member of the community, we share a bond through God's love. 
 
"It is always my pleasure to support SJHA and the Sisters. My family has been part of the Hill family for over 5 decades and we are honored to have the relationship with the Daughters of Divine Charity that we have. The sisters are all part of our family.
 
In regards to the Advent Wreath Campaign, it is a great way to memorialize someone or thank someone special as we prepare for Christmas. In my opinion, the whole Advent Season is the perfect time to come together with friends and family to celebrate our faith...what better group of people than our Hill family to start off the season!
 
This year I lost my mom, and one of my wreaths was in memory of her. So this year's wreath has a super special meaning to me and my family." - Peter Montanti '86, P ES '22, HS '26
 
Each constituent of the Hill community plays a vital role in the success of the institution. The wreath campaign serves as a symbol of collaboration and shared commitment to the values that define the Hill community.
 
"As a Hill-lifer and Parent, the Annual Intention Wreath Campaign during Christmas time means so much to me. I love seeing the wreaths with their beautiful messages up as you enter campus grounds. This serves as a daily reminder of the special people in our lives who have passed away or maybe need some extra prayers during this holiday season. Those quick glances at drop-off and pick-up take us away from our growing holiday to-do lists and back to the spirit of the season, full of faith, gratitude, and service. As my children get older, I hope they will glance at the wreathes like I do — being thankful for those who are no longer here to celebrate with us and also thankful for our own good health and resources. Wishing our Hill Family a joyful and blessed Christmas." Arielle Lenza Di Ciollo ES '98, HS '02
 
Throughout the academic year, we instill in our Hilltoppers the significance of contributing to their community. This may involve volunteering with Project Hospitality, dedicating an early Saturday morning to hang wreaths, assisting a fellow Hilltopper facing challenges and so much more. By fostering a culture of philanthropy, we ensure that our students play a pivotal role in sustaining the prosperity of their beloved school.
 
 
Hilltopper Daniela Luci ES '22, HS '26 dedicates her time beyond the classroom to giving back to those in need. A member of our SJHA Project Hospitality Club, Daniela felt disheartened upon noticing that the coolers used for donating sandwiches were not in optimal condition. During the summer of 2023, she worked and fundraised to secure enough funds for the purchase of two new coolers, improving the capacity to accommodate donated sandwiches.
 
"Service has always been important to me and brought me closer to God. During these hard times in the world, it was important to me to make sure that the hungry were fed, and I could do my part in making sandwiches to feed them. When I saw a need for help in getting improved coolers for our Sandwich Angels project, I knew that I had to help out and do whatever I could." We are proud of Daniela, and her fellow Hilltoppers who positively impact our community each day!
 

St. Joseph Hill Academy joyfully marks another successful year, expressing our gratitude for the dedicated efforts of the Hill Community. Wishing you a Christmas season filled with blessings and a New Year that is happy and healthy!

If you wish to support the great work at SJHA, please consider making a tax-deductible donation before year-end. If you have any questions, please contact Dr. Elizabeth Basile, Director of Advancement and Alumni Relations, at [email protected] or (718) 447-1374 ext. 9163.

St. Joseph Hill Academy is excited to announce a new academic initiative! Complementing our already robust and rigorous academic programs, we are introducing our newly designed Legal Education and Advocacy Institute. 
 

During this school year, participants in our Legal Education and Advocacy Institute will include students who participate in the Mock Trial program and seniors enrolled in our College Law class. There will also be opportunities for the larger student body to participate in a variety of interactive experiences, including a Speaker Series, professional presentations, and lectures in the field of Law, Justice, and Advocacy, as well as visits to federal, state, and local courthouses. Prominent Hill alumnae who are professionals in the legal field will provide their time, talent, and financial support to help launch, enrich, and sustain the Institute. 

“I have seen firsthand the positive impact that Hill's Senior Law class and Mock Trial participation has had on our high school students. With the creation of the Legal Education and Advocacy Institute, the opportunity to explore law and social justice topics and deepen civic engagement will be available to all interested Hill students", states Kathryn Krause Rooney, Esq. '64,'68, supporter, financial benefactor, and long-time coach of the Mock Trial team here at St. Joseph Hill Academy. 

legal education

On November 6th, a distinguished group of alumnae who are professionals in the legal field met with Sister Mary Coffelt, F.D.C., Mrs. Kerry Sullivan, Esq. '81, and Dr. Elizabeth Basile to discuss the development of the Institute. The goal of this Meet and Greet was to garner ideas and feedback from our alumnae about how best to shape this new venture. 

Kristin Corapi, Esq. ’91,’95, supporter and financial benefactor of the Legal Education and Advocacy Program shares, “I’m excited to support the Legal Education and Advocacy Institute. Hilltoppers are trained to be critical thinkers and fearless advocates, but above all, they are highly compassionate. The wide scope of offerings by the Institute is set to shine a light on the myriad ways Hilltoppers can put those characteristics to use in the legal profession. Whether it be by sitting in on hearings, attending legal outreach programs, or interning at a Big Law firm, I expect the Institute to put many Hilltoppers on the fast track to a successful and rewarding career in law.” 

This initiative is yet another way the St. Joseph Hill Academy Faculty and Staff continue to uphold our promise to provide an excellent Catholic Education, unlike any other school. With new offerings, Hill will continue to thrive always benefitting our number one priority, our students. 

We continue to seek alumnae who have experience in the Legal profession and the financial resources to help build the Institute along with us. If you are interested in joining our efforts please contact Dr. Elizabeth Basile, at [email protected] or (718) 447-1374 ext. 9163.

At St. Joseph Hill Academy, we cultivate a culture of philanthropy in varied ways, emphasizing the significance of initiating community-focused giving among our constituents. Thanks to the generosity of our benefactors, we are able to sustain our growth and advance our mission. Within our Advancement and Alumni Relations Office, we frequently refer to the principles of "time, talent, and treasure". Each principle holds importance in our overall mission of providing an excellent Catholic education to the Hilltoppers of today and tomorrow. 

During our 2023 SJHA Giving Day, we were truly struck by the unwavering dedication of our donors to the Academy's success. This led us to acknowledge a particular group of supporters who consistently contribute to our annual fund: our recurring, monthly donors. We affectionately refer to them as our "Hill GEMs" – those who Give.Every.Month! 

Lauren King, Esq. '98, an esteemed alumna and Partner and Co-Head of the Fund Transactions Practice at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP, is one of our dedicated, long-standing GEMs. She emphasizes the significance of consistently giving back each month by sharing her WHY.

According to Lauren, “I chose five years ago to start donating monthly to Hill for a number of reasons. First, I attribute much of my professional success to my time at Hill. I graduated Hill being as prepared as possible for college (and then law school), having been taught to think critically, write eloquently, and speak confidently and with poise. I was given opportunities for leadership, to get involved with community service, and to partake in many extracurricular activities that I thoroughly enjoyed. This all created an important foundation for my future.”

Having been a scholarship recipient herself, Lauren felt a need to help today’s Hilltoppers, “I also want to give back and make a difference to other Hilltoppers – present and future! Having been the recipient of a scholarship myself, I know first-hand how much of an impact donations can make on a student’s ability to attend high school.”

Lauren is particularly proud of the fine reputation that St. Joseph Hill Academy continues to maintain. She notes, “Finally, I know that my donations will help Hill continue to provide the BEST high school education on Staten Island to young women – instilling in them a love of learning, mutual respect, discipline, teamwork, confidence, kindness, and a great work ethic.”

We encourage you to join our monthly donors and become a Hill GEM today! Your continuous support and dedication are greatly appreciated.

In this premier edition of "The Top of the Hill Herald," we shine a spotlight on the remarkable reunion efforts that define the spirit of our Hilltopper community. This month, we journey back with the class of 1983, a group of individuals who exemplify the power of staying connected and the profound purpose it can serve. For those of you who have embarked on the exciting journey of life as a “Hilltopper”, the bonds forged during your time on campus remain etched in your hearts long after you’ve graduated. At the heart of this enduring connection lies the desire to stay connected, informed, and engaged with the vibrant happenings of the Hill.

Dr. Mary Jo McGuire ’83, an alumna who has dedicated her time and energy to orchestrating the 40th Reunion for the Class of 1983, explains the why:

“Our reunion planning started when Barbara Erickson Breuer ’83 posted a picture on Facebook and the caption said it was 40 years ago that day that she had graduated from high school. A number of us commented on the photo saying how we really should do a reunion. And that’s how the ball got rolling. It had been 30 years since my class celebrated our 10-year anniversary and had not gathered since - needless to say, it was overdue.

We are excited to spend time with our fellow Hilltoppers this October - the women we spent some of the most formative years of our lives with. We are strong, hard-working, and like-minded when it comes to our values and beliefs, and sharing that again after 40 years is truly incredible.”

Fellow reunion planner and classmate, Josephine Paone Geraci ’83, further explains why she wanted to join the planning committee to reconnect with her peers, “The values that were instilled in me from my days at St. Joseph Hill Academy that I’ve lived by and that I instilled in my children and that I repeatedly rely on when making business decisions as a CEO of my own business are reasons why I couldn’t wait to reconnect with like-minded classmates - even if it has been FORTY shhhh years!”

Alumni like Dr. Mary Jo McGuire, Ms. Bonnie Brennan, Ms. Barbara Erickson Breuer, and Mrs. Josephine Paone Geraci, members of the 1983 reunion planning committee, are living testaments to the profound impact our institution has on our students. Their dedication to staying connected, not only with each other but with the essence of their Hilltopper experience, serves as an inspiring example for all.

One simple yet effective way to stay connected is by updating your contact information and becoming a part of our Alumni Directory. By doing so, you ensure that you remain in the loop about upcoming events, reunions, and exciting developments on campus. Please find our SJHA Alumni directories under our Advancement tab on both our SJHA websites.

As Dr. McGuire ’83 can attest, “For me, staying connected and supporting the school means giving young, intelligent women the chance to grow and flourish academically and spiritually in an environment that encourages hard work, integrity, and sisterhood. Raising other women up and celebrating their achievements is so important today. St Joseph Hill Academy fosters that culture and graduates confident young women ready to take on the world.”

We also applaud the Class of 1973 and Class of 1977 for holding their very own alumni gatherings this Fall! A special thank you to Donna Prato ’73 and Carol Zarrilli ’73 for coordinating their 50th Reunion celebration this October. An additional thank you to Mary Ellen Colangelo ’77 and Jennifer Lynch ’77 for gathering their classmates for a 1977 Luncheon as they prepare to celebrate their golden anniversary in just a few years!

If you are interested in starting a reunion of your own and would like assistance, please email: [email protected]