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Grads agree: Rosary prepares students for range of futures

Lauren Kieffer junior Rosary talks alumnus Clarisse Mendozafter her presentatiabout her life career Tuesday January 29 2013. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times

Lauren Kieffer, a junior at Rosary, talks to alumnus Clarisse Mendoza after her presentation about her life and career on Tuesday, January 29, 2013. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media

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Anniversary events

Upcoming 50th anniversary events at Rosary High School include:

Golden Jubilee Candlelight Ball, Feb. 23

Mission Family Carnival, March 9

Alumnae Dinner Theatre, March 16

Closing Mass and Family Picnic, May 4

For information on the activities, visit the school’s website at

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Updated: March 5, 2013 6:09AM

AURORA — Nothing has helped Clarisse Mendoza appreciate her years at Rosary High School more than her career as an urban education reformer.

“While I always valued the amazing education I received here, in some ways I took it for granted,” said the 2002 graduate of the Aurora Catholic all-girls high school.

Since that time, she has since taught English in an impoverished Washington, D.C., neighborhood, founded an early childhood education center in the District of Columbia and now manages the UNO Charter Schools Network in Chicago.

“Now I’m more grateful than ever because now I have the perspective of seeing everything I received here that my students haven’t gotten,” she said.

Mendoza was one of 32 Rosary grads who shared their post-high school experiences with current students at the school’s Career Day this week. The event celebrated both Catholic Schools Week and Rosary’s 50th anniversary, said Assistant Principal Michelle Salerno, the school’s director of guidance.

“Career Day was a longstanding tradition until after 2004, when we had to cancel it because it was getting to be too difficult for women to get time off work to participate,” Salerno explained. “The 50th anniversary seemed like a great time to get alumnae back to talk about the paths they took from Rosary.”

The visitors represented a wide range of careers, including doctors and nurses, attorneys, teachers, entrepreneurs and scientists.

Students said they were most interested in hearing how the presenters felt about their career choices.

“They’re sharing the personal side of their lives,” noted senior Hanna Baum. “We’re getting to hear their feelings about their jobs, not just how much money they make or what they do at work.”

Not that they didn’t enjoy hearing some graduates’ war stories – quite literally, in the case of 2000 graduate Capt. Michelle Morse, an Air Force pilot who flew missions in Iraq and the Philippines. Morse told a crowded classroom about the challenges of going from the all-girl high school to military training alongside mostly men, about airlifting soldiers and supplies into remote military camps and about representing the Air Force in Japan and other U.S.-allied countries.

“Cool!” one girl mouthed to a friend in the next row as Morse played video footage of an air drop training mission.

“I was just talking with Michelle’s mother the other day about her coming home to be here for Career Day,” Salerno said. “She told me that she remembers the day Michelle came home from Career Day saying that she’d met a pilot and had decided that’s what she wanted to do. Maybe today Michelle will inspire another girl to become a pilot.”

Students also drank in the graduates’ assurances that their years at Rosary equipped them for life beyond high school.

“They keep telling us how well Rosary prepared them for college and careers. That’s nicer for us seniors to hear,” said senior Taylor Roe.

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