Online Learning from a Student’s Perspective

We asked current Holy Family junior, Graham, to document his online school experience with a camera and a day-in-the-life journal entry. Graham is making the most of this atypical situation and discovering the benefits of routine, discipline, and looking forward to the fall. Here’s his story.

Online School Journal

Online school is very different compared to being in the classroom, though some things are similar. My morning routine has stayed almost the same: I wake up, eat breakfast, and get ready for the day.

Graham says hello to his teacher and classmates during a Zoom meeting.

A typical day of school for me is the same, schedule-wise. My week varies in terms of Zoom/office 365 meetings, and classwork time. All meetings occur during the duration of the regularly scheduled class time. If we are not meeting, teachers may provide videos, notes, worksheets, or other activities for us to do for class. I prefer to do the class homework during the scheduled class time to keep my day on track.

Finding the best place to study at home helps Graham stay on track with his homework.

I typically do my work in one of two places: the kitchen table or the desk in my room. I find that moving around throughout the day helps to keep my brain fresh. Any homework that I do not finish during class time, I will do around four o’clock, after a healthy break from screens. Following a schedule every day has been a critical part of my successful online learning experience.

Band and Jazz band are the classes that have changed the most. Playing together and communicating musically is something that cannot be recreated in an online setting, though we are still able to make music together. For jazz band we recorded several instrumental parts in Soundtrap, and stitched them together to create a song that will be in the virtual spring coffee house. We also recorded different pieces for band to make a mini concert created by Mrs. Boillat and Mr. Heller. 

Even concert and jazz band continue to rehearse.

Having a goal to work toward keeps me from setting my instrument aside and getting a little rusty. I’m excited our music will be part of virtual performances, but it doesn’t beat being in a band room making music with 32 other musicians.

Graham works on his lacrosse skills in rain, snow, sleet, and sunshine as he prepares to return to the field.

Online school also disrupted my spring sports season, along with every student-athlete nationwide. However, this disruption is not a time to forget about sports; it is time to train and become better for next season. Lacrosse is a team-based sport, but there is plenty of room for individual practice. Since online learning started in March and practices were cancelled, I continue to practice daily despite the weather. I go to Holy Family almost every day to practice in the fields. My practice routine consists of a 1-mile warm-up run, wall ball (throwing the ball against a wall to replicate passing), dodging drills, and shooting drills. It is every athlete’s responsibility to put in the individual work for the benefit of the team’s success.

Besides lacrosse, it has become clear that I miss Holy Family itself. From watching sports to seeing friends, to Mr. Murray’s fist bumps on the way into math class, Holy Family created an environment where students can grow educationally, socially, and spiritually.

Although we are ending the school year online school, Holy Family is finding ways to continue our education as best as possible. Teachers are more than willing to help students whenever they can. I am excited to go back to Holy Family next year and take advantage of the opportunities it offers.

Sokolis and O’Connor Receive Mary and Joseph Medals

The Mary and Joseph Medals are awarded to a senior girl and boy who exemplify the identity and values of Holy Family Catholic High School. These individuals demonstrate a strong, mature faith in Christ while actively participating in the life of the Church. They are knowledgeable of the teachings and traditions of the Catholic Church, desire to live like Jesus in their love and service to others, and strive to grow spiritually and intellectually.

The Class of 2019 Mary and Joseph Medal recipients are Emily Sokolis and Brendan O’Connor. Following the commencement, Emily and Brendan shared their thoughts on their faith journey throughout high school.

Emily Sokolis, 2019 Mary Medal Recipient

Emily Sokolis, 2019 Mary Medal Recipient

Family: Rich, Shauna, and Nick ’16
Extracurricular activities/clubs: Hearts on Fire, Pro-life Club, Fencing for seven years, Latin Club
Parish: St. Joseph Catholic Community, Waconia
Middle School: St. Joseph C-STEM School, Waconia
College: St. Norbert College
Major: Environmental Science and Theology

Talk about your involvement in the church (volunteer work, lector/cantor/Eucharistic minister, etc): I volunteer in my church by being a cantor once a month, sometimes more and by being a Confirmation Catechist to the ninth-grade girls who are preparing for their second year of confirmation courses through the parish.

How has your faith developed during your years at HFCHS?
During my freshman and sophomore years, my faith life was almost nonexistent. Like many teenagers, I was not into my faith or the church at all until I attended a mission trip to Haiti through HF that turned my whole life around. By my senior year, I was fully committed to my faith journey and growing outside of my comfort zone to build a relationship with the Lord.

Who has influenced you and your faith?  How?
The person who has had the biggest impact and influence on my faith is Holy Family theology teacher Mr. Bosch.  He helped me turn a passion for service for others into a servitude for God.  Mr. Bosch was always there to answer all the questions I had along the way and gave me amazing advice or prayers to foster growth.

What role does your faith play in your life?
Everything. I believe having faith at the center of your life is a truly authentic way of living. I try to center every choice I make around my faith, and through that, God has opened and closed many doors, all to help me have a better life.

What do you find most rewarding about your faith?
The sense of overall peace and love in my life. No matter how bad I screw up or how stressed I get, I always have an understanding of the love and peace that the Lord showers upon me and each person every day. Also, knowing that earth is not our home and that an even more beautiful place is waiting for all of us in paradise is amazing.

How did you make the most of your years at HFCHS?
I made the most of my four years by being involved in all the opportunities that HFCHS had provided me.  Opportunities such as clubs that foster spiritual and service growth, international history and exchange trips, and mission trips.  Also, by being apart of campus ministry and taking as many classes that can fit into one day (maybe some independent classes on the side)  I was able to take full advantage of my academic career.


Brendan O’Connor, 2019 Joseph Medal Recipient

Joseph Medal 2019 Brendan O' Connor
Brendan O’Connor, 2019 Joseph Medal Recipient

Family: Kathy, and Dan, Molly ’22, and Quinn (Freshman at UST
Extracurricular activities/clubs: Football, Basketball, Environment Club, Honor Society
Parish: St. Hubert Catholic Community, Chanhassen
Middle School: St. Hubert Catholic School, Chanhassen
College: University of Iowa
Major: Online Marketing/Communications/Journalism

What does it mean to you to lead in a Christian way?
To me, this means leading in a respectable way. A Christian leader does not act for the benefit of themselves but, rather, for the benefit of others. You must understand that the decisions you make while leading in a Christian way might not be the most popular or well-liked, but they are the ones that you must stand firm in.

How has your faith developed/changed in your years at HFCHS?
My faith has absolutely strengthened in my years at Holy Family. First, Holy Family has educated me on many aspects of the Church that I did not understand prior to taking the class. My knowledge on the background and foundation of the Church is so much stronger now, which in turn has strengthened my own individual faith. My faith as a community has grown as well. I have become more aware of the idea that faith is not solely individualistic, but rather personal and communal. I learned that faith has a lot to do with the community as well when I realized that my faith was growing stronger because of those around me. The individuals around me that helped strengthen this faith were teammates on sports teams, and peers in class.

Who has influenced you and your faith? How?
My grandparents have influenced me and my faith by being strong role models. They not only attended mass regularly, but they also participated in mass through their singing and responses. They were also great examples in how to respect the sacraments and to always participate in them when possible. However, their greatest influence on my faith came not when they were full of life, but rather near death.

In my Grandpa’s last moments of life he wanted to be doing one thing, praying surrounded by family. He showed me that even in a time where he was in great discomfort, and I’m sure very scared, he could turn to his faith to comfort him because he had such a strong foundation. This exposed me to the power that one’s faith can have. After my Grandparents passed, I learned about how active they were in the church. At the funerals of my grandparents people would come up to me and tell me the impact my Grandparents had on him or her because of their volunteer work in the Church. I realized how many lives they touched because of their strong faith. This is what motivated me to strive for a faith like theirs: one in which I can lean on, and one in which I can affect others.

What do you find most rewarding about your faith?
My faith has rewarded me with the two “C’s”: calm and comfort. No matter the situation, I find these because of the strong foundation of faith I have to lean on.  Even if I am outside my comfort zone, scared or nervous, I find comfort in my faith. I never feel entirely alone.

How did you make the most of your years at HFCHS?
I listened and observed those around me. We can learn so much from simply being in the presence of some individuals at Holy Family. So, how did I make the most of my four years? I just used my resources well. As a student, I kept my eyes and ears open as I acted like a sponge, always ready to soak in new information. I then developed relationships with these people, so that I was more comfortable with them, and I could learn even more. Thank you to all those around me that made it easy to make the most of my four years at Holy Family.

Any other thoughts you’d like to share in regard to the medal or your years at Holy Family?
I don’t know who to thank for this award, but thank you to everyone who made high school four years to remember, and helped me become the individual I am proud to be today (with the understanding that I can always grow and improve)! The faculty and staff at Holy Family are unparalleled and will always hold a special place in my heart.

Alumni Spotlight: Ella Dahlin, 2014

Ella Dahlin: Using her gifts and sense of justice, this 2014 Holy Family Catholic High School graduate brings opportunities to others. She credits Holy Family for positively influencing and nurturing her in and out of the classroom.

“One of the most powerful aspects of Holy Family’s community is the support system that believes in its students. In high school, I felt important and valued by my teachers, staff, coaches and peers. I was taught to own who I was unapologetically. It gave me the confidence to make decisions and believe in them.” Ella Dahlin, 2014 Holy Family graduate

Alumni Profile: Ella Dahlin
Graduated: 2014
Elementary/Middle School: St. Joseph Catholic School, Waconia
University Attended: Loyola University Chicago, graduated in 2017
Degree: Bachelor’s Degree in Human Services
Holy Family Activities:

  • Campus Ministry
  • The Phoenix
  • Yearbook
  • Cross Country
  • Lacrosse
  • Nordic Skiing
  • Volleyball

HF: Catch us up—what are you doing today?

ELLA: I am an elementary site supervisor with the Boys and Girls Club of Garden Grove (BGCGG) in Southern California, where I’m responsible for the implementation of an after-school program for 100 students. BGCGG provides free after-school programs that focus on academic success, provide positive role models and create opportunities for children to realize their worth.

HF: What are you most proud of at this point of your life?

ELLA: I am proud of working hard to graduate a year early from Loyola, taking a risk and moving to California, and for pursuing my true passion by working towards social equity with the Boys and Girls Club. As blessed as I am, I know it is not by some coincidence. I have been able to achieve what I have today because of my amazing family, friends and educational opportunities. I was extremely lucky to attend a high school and university that shaped me into the person I am.

HF:  How did Holy Family influence your extracurricular activities while at Loyola?

ELLA: My favorite club at Loyola was the Women’s Lacrosse team, where I was a captain, treasurer and board member. If it were not for Holy Family, I would have never been introduced to the sport in the first place, so I am very grateful for my high school program.

During my time at Loyola, I was also a resident assistant and worked as a student office assistant with Residence Life. In many ways, these roles were just the continuation of (Holy Family’s) campus ministry, as I was responsible for programming, decorations and welcoming new students on campus.

My activities also included:

  • Social justice internship program
  • Volunteering at Catholic Charities Madonna House
  • Alpha Phi Omega (a service fraternity)
  • Alpha Sigma Nu (a Jesuit honors society)

Loyola is an amazing university with an abundance of opportunities, so I was able to pursue the interests that started with my time at Holy Family. Although I have some innate interests in these activities, it was Holy Family that started the fire that encouraged me to pursue them.

HF:  Did a Holy Family teacher have a particularly positive impact on what you are accomplishing today? 

ELLA: The strongest asset Holy Family has is its amazing, committed teachers. I will always remember the way Mr. (John) Dols encouraged me to take on opportunities and let my light shine. Mr. (Jacob) Dueck provided insight, created community and always acted from a place of care. Mr. (Andrew) Witchger challenged and supported me, and Dr. (Holly) Pottebaum encouraged me to dig deeper into the history of social justice in our country.

The list could continue forever, but the point is—every teacher impacted the way I thought and helped shape me into the critical thinker I am today. I am so appreciative of the holistic, caring education I received that prepared me for college and my life after college.

HF:  Do you have a favorite memory from Holy Family?

ELLA: A collective feeling that is present in all my favorite memories is one of accomplishment—planning a trip to Haiti, scoring a goal in lacrosse or contributing to Christmas convocation. Holy Family does a fantastic job at offering opportunities that actualize students’ efforts and ideas. With a strong support system, I was empowered to be uncomfortable, take risks, and work hard to make my ideas a reality.

HF:  How have you changed since leaving Holy Family?

ELLA: I have grown into a more educated and experienced individual. When I was younger, I was idealistic to a fault and have become more realistic through the years. Although slightly jaded, I am still an optimist who believes in the potential of every person. Through my experiences after high school, I realized the world is much more gray. I am and always have been an opinionated person, but I have learned the importance of listening to those who contradict me. I must understand other people’s life experiences to create a community that can come together.

HF: How did Holy Family help you be successful in pursuing your dreams? 

ELLA: Holy Family taught me that hard work, determination and a passion for what I believe in is powerful. I will never forget the class where Mr. Dols shared a quote that says:

“Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us…Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you.”  — Marianne Williamson, author

The staff and students at Holy Family embody that idea. I was fortunate enough to receive an education that molded my character and empowered me to believe in myself. My education challenged me to apply for challenging jobs, to take on opportunities that make me uncomfortable and to own who I am as a person.

HF: How did Holy Family help build your confidence and skill set in a highly competitive world?

ELLA: One of the most powerful aspects of Holy Family’s community is the support system that believes in its students. In high school, I felt important and valued by my teachers, staff, coaches, and peers. I was taught to own who I was unapologetically. It gave me the confidence to make decisions and believe in them. I was no longer uncertain or half-hearted in my ideas but rather fully committed. This skill set prepared me both for college and now my life after college.

I’m not afraid to ask questions. I am not afraid to admit my own mistakes. I am not afraid to learn. Since I was believed in, I believe in myself, so I do not fear a competitive world. I will work hard, I will show up, I will follow my passions, and I know that with time, I will succeed.

HF: What advice do you have for current and prospective Holy Family students? 

ELLA: Take on the opportunities that Holy Family offers. Since Holy Family is smaller in size, I was able to participate in sports, clubs, and events that I may not have been able to at other schools. I started Nordic skiing my sophomore year because I wanted something to do. I joined Math League because my friends wanted to try it. I fell in love with writing when I joined The Phoenix. If you want to feel valued, if you want your name remembered, if you want to be able to join any team or club simply because it interests you—then this is the school for you.

If you already attend Holy Family, join those activities! There is nothing to lose and everything to gain.

SHARE YOUR HOLY FAMILY EXPERIENCE. If you have a unique story, experience or twist in life because of the positive impact Holy Family Catholic High School has had on you, share it. E-mail your story to: communications@hfchs.org. We’ll spotlight stories from Holy Family parents, students, and alumni.

Wonder where our graduates go to college? Visit http://www.hfchs.org/follow-graduates/ to see a list of colleges.

Alumni Spotlight: Tom Mahota’s Bright Future

Tom Mahota: Known for putting his best effort into everything he takes on, this 2017 Holy Family Catholic High School graduate explains opportunities and those around him helped shape a path for success.

“My family has always encouraged me to do well in school and work to become a better person, but being around people and friends who strive for the same things makes it much easier and more natural. Holy Family is an easy place to do this because there are so many good people who want success for themselves and others.” —Tom Mahota, 2017 Holy Family Graduate

Graduated: 2017

Elementary/Middle School: Our Lady of the Lake School, Mound

Attending: University of Minnesota–Twin Cities

Major: Engineering Mechanics and Astronautics

Holy Family Activities:

  • Baseball
  • Soccer
  • Nordic Skiing
  • Football
  • Robotics
  • Knowledge Bowl
  • Eco-Freako Club
  • Bowling Club
  • Honor Society
  • Campus Ministry
  • Empty Bowls
  • Art Fairs

HF: What is your definition of “success?”

TOM: I think that someone who is successful in life is someone who has found happiness in themselves and in others. I’ve met a lot of people—good, bad and everything in between. One thing I’ve learned is that people who can recognize that their happiness doesn’t come from just themselves treat others with a particular kind of kindness.

Everyone has ups and downs in life, but the people who are able to find happiness in others are the ones who stand out to me. I would definitely consider this success.

HF: How have your varied experiences connected to the person you are?

TOM: One of the most valuable things that I’ve found in being involved in such a wide scope of things is how to deal with many different types of people.

It is amazing to experience the difference between the atmosphere of a locker room and an art fair. Neither one is better than the other, yet the people, the atmosphere and the temperament are completely different.

There is value in both, and the people I have met in both have definitely shaped me.

Anyone who knows me will tell you I’m a very competitive person. A big reason for this is from the years of sports and having such a large part of my life be competitions with amazing coaches and mentors.

Then there is also the creative side. I’ve been building things for as long as I can remember, and the people I’ve met at places like workshops or art fairs are some of the most interesting and kind people I’ve encountered. I’m hoping that those traits are rubbing off on me as much as the competitiveness.

HF: With so many interests, how do you remain focused on what is important?

TOM: I think the best way is to simply surround yourself with the right people. My family has always been encouraging me to do well in school and work to become a better person, but being around people and friends who strive for the same things makes it much easier and more natural. Holy Family is an easy place to do this because there are so many good people who want success for themselves and for others.

HF: How do your interests transform how you perceive the world?

TOM: My perception of the world is through a lens of all the different things I do and the connections I can make between them. I’ve found my experience with things that seem totally different helps me excel when I bring qualities from each together.

One example is robotics. When designing and developing a machine to shoot balls, I used concepts and ideas from baseball pitching machines. I’d been around them my whole life and was able to draw a similarity from baseball to benefit what we did in robotics.

HF: Now that you have graduated, do you see yourself as a role model for other high school students?

TOM: The way I perceive myself is no differently than the way I see other people. Everyone has his or her own talents, interests and shortcomings, including myself.

I feel like a lot of times people see someone do something amazing and say, “Oh, there’s no way I could do anything like that,” before even trying it.

The only thing I would say that has helped me succeed is this: I never tell myself I can’t do something, or that something isn’t for me before I try it and decide for myself.

SHARE YOUR HOLY FAMILY EXPERIENCE. If you have a unique story, experience or twist in life because of the influence Holy Family Catholic High School has had on you, share it with us. E-mail your story to: communications@hfchs.org. We’ll spotlight stories from Holy Family parents, students and alumni.