Just before the coronavirus pandemic caused students to have virtual learning from home for the remainder of the school year, Grace Miller, a senior at the Academy of the Holy Cross in Kensington, Maryland, attended Mass with some of her peers. 

And while that will be her last memory in the school building as a student, Miller said the moment was “nice, peaceful and serene,” especially as she looks back and realizes that shortly after attending that Mass at school, public Masses were cancelled in the Archdiocese of Washington for safety precautions. 

Miller, the class of 2020 valedictorian at the Academy of the Holy Cross, led not only in the classroom as a student, but as a dancer, a singer and an artist as well. 

As she heads off to study physics and theater arts at Vassar College in New York in the fall, Miller said one of her favorite things about attending a Catholic school has been the opportunity to add to the well-roundedness of her education. 

“In addition to my academic education, there’s a spiritual education,” she said. “Ethics, morality... I learn about it through my religion classes, but you take a world view and apply it to other things.” 

When she first started attending a Catholic school for middle school, Miller noticed that something was different. 

“There’s something so unique about it,” she said. “It was a transition point for me. I started to love learning… there’s a small community and teachers who love what they’re doing.” 

And beyond religion classes, Miller said she has appreciated the opportunity to “take a ton of different classes in a ton of different areas,” ranging from introduction to engineering and physics, to classes in the humanities and the arts. 

“I really do love all my classes,” she said. 

Miller participated in every honors society and honors program that the school offered, from the Spanish Honor Society and the National Honor Society to the International Thespian Society; and she was also distinguished as a Santa Crux Scholar and a Madeleva Scholar, in which she not only took numerous honors, Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes but maintained a high grade point average and committed to more than 115 hours of service. 

Outside the classroom, Miller took to the stage dancing and singing. She also led the student ambassador program at Holy Cross, helping to introduce prospective and new students to the school’s community. 

One of her favorite school traditions is singing the alma mater with the whole school after Masses and other occasions. 

“Whenever we sing the alma mater, we yell the last line,” Miller said. “It’s just a burst of school spirit.” 

And Miller said she will bring with her to college that school spirit, along with the school’s motto of “courage, compassion and scholarship” – courage to work through the difficulties of adjusting to college, finding compassion for everyone, and learning in a new environment.

“I’m sad to see it go,” Miller said, reflecting on the past four years. “If I could stay here forever I probably could.” 

Despite the fact that the end of her senior year wasn’t in the classroom with her peers as she had envisioned, she said she’s still “happy with the way things have ended up.”

“I’m really grateful I’ve had the opportunity to go to Holy Cross,” Miller said. “I’m really grateful for all the teachers that I’ve had. My teachers love what they do, and they love teaching and helping us discover what we love. That’s been a really important factor in figuring out what I’m interested in… it’s important to have had these really supportive teachers.”