This article originally appeared in Greenwich Time
By Annelise Hanshaw
Thumbnail photo by Christian Abraham / Hearst Connecticut Media
June 3, 2022
GREENWICH — Emily Leitner, a director of football documentaries, returned to her alma mater Sacred Heart Greenwich to talk about something so universal she joked it would sound cliche: finding your voice.
“Finding your song is different for so many people; it's a different process for everyone. And that's what makes everyone's voice so unique is that you arrive at it in different ways,” Leitner, the school’s 2022 commencement speaker, said.
Leitner recalled her 2008 senior ring ceremony when she belted out Rod Stewart’s “Forever Young” to be told by her choir director to dial it back because she was out of tune. It wasn’t her song to sing, she said.
Being in the bell choir better aligned with her talents and desires, she said. She pulled off a superb performance of “The Prayer” by Arnold Sherman: That was her song to ring.
She told the graduates they didn’t have to plan their futures yet. She entered the University of Pennsylvania without a career path in mind and proudly answered “undeclared” when people asked her major, she said.
Now, her work directing special features and television series such as “All or Nothing: Carolina Panthers” and “Hard Knocks In Season: The Indianapolis Colts” has been aired on numerous platforms including HBO, Showtime, ESPN+, Amazon and the NFL Network.
Her confidence in her unique “voice” led to some of her more eye-catching segments, like a “Hard Knocks” workout montage showing 300-pound Houston Texans players pounding iron set to “Brutal” by Olivia Rodrigo — an idea that raised eyebrows when she first pitched it, she said.
In addition to recognizing one’s own talents and passions, she emphasized hearing the melodies of others.
“Listening to others’ voices is just as important as finding your own,” she said to the 75 graduates.
Leitner said the graduates should be prepared to “sing out” after their time at Sacred Heart; graduating high school is a strong first step.
“Wherever you guys go next, they're going to need to hear your unique voice. They're going to need you to listen to others. And they're going to need you to speak up, just like you've done here at Sacred Heart in all of your own ways,” she said.
Head of School Margaret Frazier voiced similar confidence in the graduates, describing the Class of 2022 as “battle-tested” for their accomplishments during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Valedictorian Megan Maloney spoke about living in trying times, saying that “Sacred Heart has been the only constant the past four years.”
She spoke excitedly about the school, proclaiming herself “obsessed” with Sacred Heart.
“One thing I love about Sacred Heart is we do not say ‘welcome back;’ we say ‘welcome home,’” she said.
She admitted that she has found reasons to return to campus most days even though the last day of school was two weeks ago.
"It is not the building that makes the home; it is the people within it,” Maloney said to her classmates.
Salutatorian Angélique Wheeler said she felt similar camaraderie when she joined the school her freshman year. She didn’t want to leave the classmates she grew up with but felt obligated to carry on her mother’s tradition of attending a Catholic girls’ school for high school, she said.
Wheeler closed herself away by keeping her face in a book at first but soon found the best group of friends she has known, she said.
She gave her graduating class some advice she pulled from a letter she wrote her freshman year at Sacred Heart: believe in yourself, surround yourself with good people, try new things, take healthy risks and keep an open mind — much of which sounds like “find your voice,” she said.