Young alumni are sharing how they are succeeding after high school in our #becauseofCJ series. Through your gift to the CJ Annual Fund, you make this happen. As Dani shares her story below, please consider joining others today in supporting the mission of CJ.
To the wonderful CJ community,
I am so excited to have the opportunity to share with the Chaminade Julienne community about my high school experience and beyond! Reflecting on my time at CJ is something I’m used to, as I frequently tell friends and family how much the school means to me. My experience at CJ is one that I will forever be grateful for. As a student, I was involved in sports (volleyball, swimming, lacrosse, cross country), student council, Eagles for Life, student development, FLIGHT, and more, all having helped shape me into the woman I am today. I was so busy that I would get around four hours of sleep a night to fit all I wanted to in my schedule, and I wouldn’t change that for a second. My desire to be involved in as many things as possible allowed me to discover what I was really passionate about.
Throughout my numerous experiences leading and going on retreats and summer mission trips, I found my love for serving my local and global communities, and I have carried that with me into my college experience at the University of Dayton. Most recently, I went on an immersion trip to India with campus ministry at UD, and I wouldn’t have wanted to go on that trip if it weren’t for the opportunities I had in high school. I thank CJ ministry & service, specifically Sr. Nicole and Mrs. Kinnear, for providing ways for me to get involved and for always pushing me to lead with an open heart, something they still help me with today.
My transition into and out of high school were two of the hardest times of my life so far. I remember freshman year around the end of second quarter I got sick, thinking it was just a stomach bug. I couldn’t eat, I was losing weight, and I was going to school feeling really weak. It took a two-week absence from school and a trip to the ER to finally discover that I had an anxiety disorder. Before CJ, I had never learned how to properly express my feelings. Sure, I had my family to talk to, but weren’t they just there for me to complain about normal teenager stuff? As this was news to me, I had to start learning what exactly anxiety was and what it did to my mind and body. I quickly started to become very passionate about mental health and counseling, even though it was something I still didn’t fully understand. I began utilizing my guidance counselors for support (Mrs. Will and Mrs. Grimm), and I took my own experiences and translated them for students on retreats, hoping to allow others to feel heard and supported through whatever struggles they were facing. It was for the first time at CJ that I realized how important my voice was for myself and my peers.
My time at CJ was of course difficult sometimes: dealing with family struggles, juggling honors courses and extracurriculars, and maintaining a social life. But I look back at my high school years with NOTHING but joy. One thing my family and I joke about is how much we learned to “reflect” in high school. My parents attended CJ and Alter, and during their time there, they were not regularly asked to reflect on their lives, experiences, or faith. But one of the reasons I credit CJ for helping me find my voice is the many opportunities CJ gave me to reflect on who I was as a person. I remember writing a Faith Journey paper every year in religion class, something I took very seriously and enjoyed writing so much! Sophomore year, Fr. Matt wrote to me, “I could see you as a sister, Dani!” I STILL find that hysterical, but I appreciate his sentiment. To this day, I continue to regularly pray and intentionally reflect on almost every aspect of my life, as it has helped me grow as an individual, a daughter, and a friend.
I thought I had “overcome” my battle with anxiety after my first year, thinking, “OK, I’ve got this under control! I know how to handle it.” I had found great friends, I was involved, and had been going to counseling regularly. I loved being at CJ and had finally found my groove. But as I approached graduation in 2017, my life kind of flipped from the happiest days to the worst of days. Leaving CJ behind to move on to bigger things was a long transition for me, especially since I was only going to college right down the street. I felt like I found who I was at CJ: a leader, a team player, and a friend. I thought I had “peaked,” so I felt incredibly lost in college, and I spent my first two years severely depressed. Although this was and still is a medical issue, I had to take a long time to build a healthy mindset. I had to learn to look back on my experience at CJ with pride and joy, not with longing or grief. This time was extremely hard, but it also taught me how special CJ was and still is to me. CJ is a family, and I know there are so many faculty, staff, and alum that did and still will help me whenever I need it.
Now, to CJ parents, this is not me saying that your kids are going to be grief stricken after graduating! To CJ students, you will be just fine! I say this to you all today to share how much CJ really is like a family. The way students and staff take care of one another mirrors a very safe and loving household, something I know many students at CJ might have lacked at home. It is so hard to let go of a good thing, but now as I finish up my undergraduate years at UD, I think about how different my experiences were at both schools, but just as equally transformative. I went through high school searching for any opportunity to lead, share my faith, and have fun, and I’ve gone through college losing myself and finding a new me who can battle through the darkest times and come out even better than before. But through all that, I used the skills I acquired at CJ to build myself up and lean on those I trust. So however you are affiliated with CJ, as a parent, current student, or alum, please recognize how much CJ has to offer you. It’s more than an education. It’s an opportunity to find who you are, at least the person you are meant to be in this phase of your life. It’s a place to share your soul with others and leave a lasting impact. It’s a family that will lead you to better days ahead and push you to grow as a person.
I will be graduating in the Spring of 2021 from the University of Dayton with a degree in Adolescent-to-Young Adult Education with a concentration in mathematics. I want to credit my love for math and education to a handful of teachers. Mrs. Dever, Mrs. Stone, Mr. Eiser, Ms. Ruffolo, Mrs. Colbert, and Mrs. Lemon: thank you for investing so much time into your students’ lives and taking every moment you can to teach with patience, love, and intentionality. I look up to you and many others at CJ, and I hope to impact my future students’ lives as much as you impacted mine.
CJ is the reason for where I am today, as cheesy as that sounds. I would not be at UD as a Flyer Promise Scholar if it weren’t for CJ. I would not have been as prepared for college if it weren’t for CJ. I would not grow in faith and spirit if it weren’t for CJ. Thank you to everyone who is a part of this special community, as I received so much assistance in various ways from the school while I was a student. Whether it was financial aid for summer mission trips, or aid from alumni donations for tuition, I was able to have an amazing high school experience awarded to me through the help of the CJ Annual Fund.
Please continue to support students like me and so many others at CJ by pledging it forward every year to the Annual Fund! I mean you too, young alum! The smallest contribution does not go unnoticed, and it keeps CJ moving forward.
If I haven’t said it enough, thank you CJ, for all you’ve done for me.
Dani Ostendorf ‘17
July 2, 2020