February 28, 2019
Holy Child Network of School
Spotlight on Jacqueline Quiñones Sienkowski
Dean of Students, AP Language and Composition, Cornelia Connelly School, Anaheim, California; Director of Camp Cornelia in New York City 2019
While I have only been a member of Cornelia Connelly School in Anaheim, California for two years, in my heart, I feel I was born here. Originally from Los Angeles, I have spent the better part of ten-years living on the East Coast and teaching in the public school system. When my husband was transferred to California, and we packed up our twin toddlers, for me, it was coming home—in finding Cornelia Connelly School and the Holy Child Network, “coming home” has taken on a whole new meaning.
When first arriving back in California in July of 2016, I was hired as a long-term substitute for a large public school district. Classes were filled to the brim and students were lacking proper supplies. My desires, as an educator, to serve hungry high school students and to help satisfy their yearning for knowledge felt squelched by the very system designed to provide opportunity. In December of that same year, I prayed…I prayed hard and even started a Novena to the Blessed Mother! In prayer, I asked for guidance and direction. I asked to find my way to a school that would value my skills and training as an educator, would be aligned with my morals, and would be in support of my Catholic faith. On the ninth day of the Novena, as is typical when prayers are answered, I opened my laptop to check job postings and found, to my joy, Cornelia Connelly School. Despite being a solid Catholic and having been educated from 1st to 12th grade in Catholic Schools, I had never heard of Venerable Mother Cornelia Connelly, but doing a quick Google search led me to immediately apply for the open English position. After three very complete interviews, I was hired to teach freshmen and junior English. Little did I know that when I started at Cornelia Connelly School, I would become part of a mission and a philosophy that closely aligns with my own. Little did I know that in meeting Mother Connelly on that day in December that I would meet a woman who has become my other spiritual mother.
Since coming into the Connelly family, I have not only had the opportunity to teach, and learn from, some of the most incredibly bright, sincere, caring young women I could ever hope to meet, but I have also had the privilege of becoming their Dean. Just when I thought my cup had “runneth over,” I was offered the opportunity to work with our sister schools at Camp Cornelia in the City (Camp Cornelia).
When asked to be a Faculty Advisor for Camp Cornelia, I was excited to return to the East Coast, to see old friends, and to meet teachers from our other Network Schools. I knew, of course, that there would be a great deal of hard work involved in spending ten days at Camp Cornelia. I knew that many hours would be spent in preparation for the weeklong day camp taught by Holy Child Network high school girls, and I knew (expected…hoped) that we would have an impact on incoming fourth and fifth graders to the Cornelia Connelly Center in Lower Manhattan. What I did not know, what I did not expect, what I was not prepared for was the impact this incredible experience would have on me, as an educator, as a mother, and as a woman of faith.
When initially arriving at Camp Cornelia, I was overwhelmed by the amount of joy that emanates from everyone that is affiliated with this incredibly important elementary/middle school that is a part of our network. From the person at the front desk to the very impressive young woman assigned to assist us with our experience, right up to the unstoppable and generous-hearted principal of the school, working with and getting to know these women was like re-meeting long lost friends. Working together as a team with other dedicated educators in our Holy Child Network; encouraging our student teachers to take chances in the classroom and develop healthy relationships with their young Connelly sisters; and watching as those sisters laughed and grew, in just one short week, to feel empowered and confident in the classroom was, for lack of a better word, breathtaking. While at Camp Cornelia, I was beyond inspired. As an educator, I was motivated to commit more time, more energy, more of myself, to my lessons and my students. As a mother, I was touched to see the love and patience shown to these girls by our students and faculty advisors: a remembrance that the love and patience shown by Mother Connelly to her students and her children, was a message intended for this mother’s heart.
As a woman of faith, my faith was reignited by the presence of Mother Connelly among us–she who inspires us to live a life of “Actions Not Words.” To say “yes, Lord, yes, always, yes” to those who need our mercy, our compassion, and our tenderness. To look myself in the mirror and know that I am called to serve the young women who belong to Mother Connelly. To know, without doubt, that what I am called to do, I am called to do with all my might because, in finding Mother Connelly, in finding the women who serve as Sisters of the Society of the Holy Child, and in finding Cornelia Connelly School in Anaheim, California, I have truly, joyously found home.