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Elizabeth Alatishe—Sacred Heart School Class of 2017 Valedictorian

When Valedictorian Elizabeth Alatishe talks about the highlights of her nine years at Sacred Heart School (SHS), she begins at the end and then looks back fondly. With a warm smile she recalls her 8th grade Prom and how she danced with her friends and fellow classmates, Latin and techno music blasting from the speakers, the rocking of the cruise ship causing many of the girls to kick off their heels and boogie in their flats. A magical night to remember.

Elizabeth’s celebration was well-deserved. Her career at SHS had been both challenging and rewarding, with her final year in 8th grade seeming the longest. Elizabeth had worked tirelessly hoping to achieve the much sought-after position of first in her class. With parents who emigrated from Nigeria and emphasized education, and two older sisters who were both academic stars at SHS, Elizabeth was driven to be her best at Sacred Heart.

“Education was really important,” Elizabeth says when talking about her time at Sacred Heart since she first entered its doors for Kindergarten. “[My parents] wanted me to get a good education, and good grades.”

Elizabeth didn’t study hard just for a high GPA; she developed a sincere and abiding love of learning, inspired by her SHS teachers. As Elizabeth recounts, her 4th grade teacher Ms. Murray created Fun Fridays where the students would learn about fractions with pieces of Hershey bars. Then, most remarkably, in the 7th grade her teacher Mr. Oloriz’s love of science inspired Elizabeth to pursue her own research after school. Now Elizabeth wants to be a neurologist when she grows up.

In addition to taking advantage of her teachers and subjects the school offered her academically, Elizabeth’s passions expanded outside the classroom and included Black Girl Magic, a club she joined with fellow black girls at Sacred Heart. She began learning how to code through a teacher’s implementation of the website Hour of Code, and volunteered at a daycare. Spending time with her friends was also an essential part of Elizabeth’s time at Sacred Heart. A school tradition finds students enjoying their free time with friends at the local pizza place. For Elizabeth this was an interesting contrast to the traditional Nigerian cooking she enjoyed at home, where she was more likely to have homemade Jollof rice, rather than cheese pizza or Hot Cheetos. These differences were also part of Elizabeth’s education – one she appreciated even if her parents didn’t always share her enthusiasm.

“The cultures that [my parents] grew up with, and the ones that are here, they’re different,” Elizabeth said. “So some of the things that I want, and I want to do, they don’t understand.”

This process of sharing and understanding is a continuous one for Elizabeth and her parents. But one similarity Elizabeth and her parents share is an appreciation of a good education. Watching their daughter give the class valedictorian speech and receive ten awards, the most out of any other student in her class, was the ultimate proof for Mr. and Mrs. Alatishe that they shared the most important values.

“It felt like a special day,” Elizabeth said. “I took pictures with people. We were all hugging and saying bye to each other.”

Elizabeth will be joining her two older sisters at St. Jean Baptiste High School, an all-female, private Catholic school, in the fall. As for the students she’s leaving behind at Sacred Heart, Elizabeth’s advice is simple.

“Never give up hope…Always work hard, and no matter what anyone says, just keep going.”