Marymount of Santa Barbara’s annual Grandparent’s Day celebration gathers current students, parents, grandparents, extended family, and alumni for an event that celebrates the importance of family and gratitude. It also honors an exceptional alumnus/a of the school. Past recipients of the award have included public policy shapers, creative entrepreneurs, and civil rights crusaders. This year, as in the past, several representatives from different religions gave Thanksgiving blessings at the event, and two current student grandparents addressed the crowd, some of the most poignant words of gratitude at this year’s Thanksgiving celebration, however, came from the young alumna selected to receive Marymount’s annual coveted Distinguished Alumni Award, Talia Vestal.
In his opening words, Andrew Wooden, Marymount Head of School, introduced Ms. Vestal, “Thanksgiving is a time when we try to forget about ourselves and give thanks, and Talia Vestal is a model for loving something larger than yourself…. It is not unusual for a Marymount alumna to have a 4.53 GPA, or to be treasurer and vice president of her large high school class…(but) Talia is exceptionally talented and dedicated to excellence. Marymount respects her for that….”
Talia Vestal, currently a senior at Santa Barbara High School, and a 2011 graduate from Marymount, made headlines earlier this year as the 2014 Spirit of Fiesta. In 2009, she won the Junior Spirit of Fiesta title. In the 90-year history of Fiesta in Santa Barbara, only nine other flamenco dancers have won both coveted titles. Wooden continued his introduction of Ms. Vestal by adding,” We are honoring Talia with our top alumni honor not only for her academic and extracurricular stellar achievements, we are honoring this Marymount graduate now, even before she graduates from high school, because of her dedication to service.”
When Ms. Vestal took the microphone, her humble nature was immediately evident. Although exceptionally accomplished, Ms. Vestal was more focused on thanking the people, teachers and school that had helped her along the way than taking credit for her achievements. In her speech, Ms. Vestal credited Marymount for ingraining a drive to push herself, the confidence to lead, and the desire to give back to her community. She went on to explain how, “Flamenco dancing is my way to give back to my community. Some of my favorite performances are for retirement homes,” and, “Being a role model for the younger dancers helps me give back to the next generation.” At the end of her speech, Ms. Vestal encouraged the current students in the crowd, “to take advantage of what is offered at Marymount, learn, appreciate, and give back.”
Talia Vestal’s words were supported by the Grandparent Chairs of the event, Tom and Charmaine Rogers, ”We have already seen the transformative impact that the Marymount experience is having on our grandchildren. This experience goes well beyond academic excellence. There is a focus on developing the whole person, including character, confidence, leadership, social skills, and emotional intelligence….Marymount is more than just a school, it is a community. It is an empowering and nurturing environment where students can learn to explore, to grow, to innovate, and to take positive risks. Students are treated as unique individuals who are encouraged to find and develop their particular strengths and talents, and to pursue their passions.”
As the crowd left Marymount’s Battistone Hall and headed back to their cars for the beginning of the Thanksgiving break, a grandmother remarked to her 4th grade grand-daughter, “Well, that was inspiring, wasn’t it?”
Marymount is an independent coeducational school, junior kindergarten through 8th grade, on a picturesque 10-acre campus nestled on the Santa Barbara Riviera. For more information please contact Molly Seguel at email@example.com.