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Alumna Olivia Cimo Details Journey to Dream School Notre Dame

Sometimes when I'm on the Notre Dame campus, perhaps when I haven't had a particularly good day or I am feeling a little homesick, I feel very average. After I catch myself, I realize that I am collaborating with and often competing against the best of the best here, and I am one of THEM. For that, in large part, I have my experience at JSerra Catholic High School to thank.

JSerra challenged me to be my best, not to accept defeat and when I do come up short, to accept it gracefully. As a varsity player and senior captain of JSerra Girls Water Polo, I led a small, tight-knit group of girls into every game with the promise that if they gave 100% effort, we could never truly lose. Although we never won a Trinity League title in my four years, we left a legacy revolving around the idea that every win was an opportunity for humility, and every loss was an opportunity for growth. This lesson has proved invaluable as I go through many "wins" and "losses" here at Notre Dame, whether on an exam or in a water polo game, and I am always looking for ways to improve myself.

JSerra taught me to work hard. Over the course of my four years there, I took 9 AP classes and 13 honors classes. Countless hours of studying, review sessions, and time in the classroom often seemed to have no payoff, yet I pushed forward and gave my all in every class. It was not until my last two years at JSerra did I realize what I was working for: the chance to go to my dream university. Without the rigorous coursework, and the helping hand of so many of my teachers, I would not be where I am today.

JSerra allowed me to celebrate my faith openly and that to trust in God is essential to a satisfying life. Born and raised Catholic, faith has always been, and will always be, incredibly important to me. My senior year at JSerra, I was selected to be a member of Caritas Christi, the well-dressed, service-oriented "face of JSerra." This experience allowed me to become a lector at Mass, participate in service projects for the local community, and, most importantly, lead others toward Christ. I have carried these habits into my daily life at Notre Dame and I rely on my faith in God more than ever — something I would not have been able to do without my Catholic identity that is central to JSerra.

JSerra challenged me to be my best, not to accept defeat and when I do come up short, to accept it gracefully.

JSerra showed me how important friends, family, and community are. The summer before my junior year, I was lucky enough to participate in a Summer Abroad program in Ireland. For two weeks, three teachers, fourteen students, and I traveled through every county in Ireland learning about their culture and history. Since this was my first trip to Europe and the longest I had ever been away from my parents, this JSerra community became my family. In fact, I am still in close contact with almost all of them. JSerra demonstrated that the best experiences in life exist outside of your comfort zone, and in those times your friends become your family.

That trip inspired me to step outside of my comfort zone once again and spend 7 weeks studying abroad with Notre Dame in London this past summer. The 50 other students I barely knew at the beginning of the trip have become my lifelong friends and an integral part of my Notre Dame community.

I know that remembering these core values JSerra has taught me will allow me to live as a person of character, integrity, and honor, at Notre Dame and beyond. No matter where I am in life, I will always be accepted by the friends and family I made here. Once a lion, always a lion.