Excellence is a hard word to define. As one of the seven Core Values at Saint Joseph’s College, this value has a different interpretation for everyone. I spoke with Class of 2019 Valedictorian Sarah Curtin, a well-known member of the Saint Joseph’s College community who has been involved in a multitude of activities, from Student Government to Track and Field. When asked about her definition of the Core Value of Excellence, Sarah’s answer was concise. “It’s about doing your best in situations by using and working with what you have available.”
In her years as a student, Sarah took advantage of many opportunities on campus. She has been a captain on the Cross Country and Track and Field teams since her sophomore year and served on the Student-Athletic Advisory Committee. As an athletic leader, Sarah sought to inspire others by example during practices and meets by working hard and doing her best. “We work together as a team to build off of one another and continue to push our limits,” Sarah explained. “As captain, I help lead warm-ups and workouts while making sure everyone feels included and a part of the team.” In cases where a problem needed to be addressed, she operated as a liaison between the coach and team to resolve the issue to the best of her ability. One of the accomplishments she is most proud of was being on the team when they were runners-up in the College’s first-ever GNAC championship for outdoor Track and Field. Sarah also holds several school records and she is most proud of the relay races she ran with the team.
Another one of her notable experiences was as a Resident Advisor in Carmel Hall, Saint Joseph’s Hall, and Feeny Hall. “It’s a very visible position; people recognize you as a RA,” Sarah said, alluding to the responsibility associated with that position. Resident Advisors are an important aspect of college life, especially for freshman students in their first months on campus. “You get to connect and learn from new people you might otherwise not know,” she added. The position requires good communication skills and trust formed with the residents. Two other qualities Sarah highlighted were being able to swiftly resolve any issues and maintaining professionalism. One of Sarah’s residents, Leah Pluto ’19, said, “Sarah is the best RA I’ve ever had. She’s attentive, caring, and hardworking. Even though she’s one of the busiest people I know, she makes time to stop by our suite to see how we’re doing.”
Outside of the residence halls, Sarah studied biology with plenty of research conducted in and out of the labs on campus and as a member of the Pre-Professional Science Club. This club provides science students opportunities to collaborate on various activities and challenges necessary to their professional pursuits. In the summer of 2018, Sarah worked with SJC Professor Dr. Lucas Bernacki on a grant to study milfoil growth in lakes by collecting samples from Little Sebago and Panther Run. By examining the genomes of different milfoil plants, they were able to determine whether or not they were the same species. Sarah’s work was presented by Dr. Bernacki at this year’s Sebago Lake Symposium and she was involved with the Examining Sebago program as her senior project.
Sarah also interned at the Maine State Crime Lab during the 2018 summer. She applied for the position after hearing about it on campus and was fortunate enough to get an offer shortly after applying. The internship entailed entering DNA information of criminals into the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) used by the FBI to match with crime scene evidence. The Maine State Crime Lab acclimated Sarah to the daily procedures in the various labs, ranging from the Forensic DNA Lab to Evidence Receiving. Sarah learned about the use of DNA evidence in criminal cases and in court. The internship culminated in a trip to court to observe the analysts testify, and a trip to the Medical Examiner’s office to watch an autopsy.
Sarah was also involved at the Mercy Center here on campus, such as the Women’s Prayer Group and seasonal events like the Advent readings. “The Mercy Center is a great way to get involved on campus and meet new people who love others and want to make a positive impact on the community,” Sarah explained. This year, she traveled to Alabama with Habitat for Humanity as part of Spring Break Workfest 2019. It was her first time participating with Spring Break Workfest, but something she had always wanted to try. Reflecting on her experience, Sarah said, “Spring Break Workfest was a great opportunity to give back to the community and get away from the bustle of everyday life. We are fortunate enough to be in a position in which we are able to help others experiencing hardship and make a difference in their lives. It was a great time to reflect and think about the little things we take for granted every day and what really matters most in life.”
Sarah was also a member of Delta Epsilon Sigma, a national scholastic honor society for Catholic colleges that recognizes student achievement and community service. As far as future goals and aspirations, Sarah is keeping her options open. Her prior experience in laboratory research has her looking for similar opportunities. She is also exploring physician assistant programs and is looking for one that suits her interests for her career path. Sarah cultivated and demonstrated excellence here at Saint Joseph’s College, and she plans on bringing that into her future career. Regardless of where she ends up, we know that Sarah will continue to exemplify the Core Value of Excellence every day.