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Pandas’ leadership team all good sports

Jillian DiMario (from left), Mary Mulderig, Maddy McKenna and Katie Solitario are not only the Nazareth “Leadership” team next year, they’re athletes at the school. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

They certainly have a lot in common.

The rising senior leadership team at Nazareth Academy High School consists of four girls – Mary Mulderig, Katie Solitario, Jill DiMario and Maddy McKenna – who all have a similar outlook when it comes to being leaders.

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All four girls have been going to the school for their entire high school careers and love everything about the school, which is why they wanted to join the leadership team.

They also are all best friends who want what’s best for the school not just for themselves, but for all the students in the school, freshmen through seniors.

Oh, and another thing they have in common is all four girls play critical roles in the Nazareth athletic program.

Mulderig, who lives in Academy Gardens, plays soccer and lacrosse. Solitario, a Lexington Park native, is a lacrosse player and plans on being a manager for the soccer team, where she played goalie her first three years. DiMario, who lives in Yardley, is a softball player. And McKenna, who resides in Fairless Hills, is a soccer player and also a manager for the basketball team.

All four girls are athletes. They’re all ambitious. They all are great leaders.

And the other thing they have in common is they all love Nazareth Academy and want to be the best leadership committee they can be.

“I’m honored to have the role, it shows that we can do as much as anyone and helps with our independence,” said Mulderig, next year’s class president who is also a leader for Morgan’s Light Alliance, on the Morale Committee for Naz-a-thon, and like the other three girls, is a leader of the school’s senior retreat. “Nazareth is great at letting you lead in different ways. Just through all the opportunities they give us the chance to thrive on our own and find out what we want to do. The influence of other people loving what they do, they would say the clubs were fun and I joined to meet new people. But it’s helped me in so many other ways, too.”

Nazareth has enjoyed a lot of success in athletics over the past few years, including last year, the first in the Catholic League. The Pandas went to the Catholic League championship in girls soccer and advanced to the semifinals of the always-competitive Catholic League basketball playoffs.

It helps that the school has great athletes, but every girl who plays for Nazareth is passionate and wants to see the school succeed.

“Playing, you’re around girls and coaches who have your best interests in mind and that makes it so much more fun,” said vice president Solitario, who is also an executive on Naz-a-thon and a member of the school’s National Honor Society. “It’s different, I think, from a lot of other schools because everyone loves it here so much. Everyone at Nazareth is close. 

“The sisterhood is a real thing. It’s a real bond. We practice what we preach. It’s not a cliche, we emulate it. We’re uplifting each other. It’s very important to all of us.”

It also helps that athletes are competitive.

Every girl on the leadership team, also known as the “L” team at the school, is competitive. They want to win, they want to be the best. And their mission is to make Nazareth the best school it can be.

“Nazareth is where I became a better leader,” said DiMario, who is also junior executive of Morale for Naz-a-thon, a presidential ambassador and a member of Morgan’s Light Alliance. “I think before Naz, I was a leader, but I wasn’t that comfortable with it. Coming into Naz, I was scared to put myself out there, but with the help of parents and seeing the upperclassmen how they led in their every day, it helped me become a better leader. 

“I think it makes it so fun because you’re getting things done and also having those fun moments and bonding moments. Senior year, these are the memories you want to remember. It’s something that’s so fun because you’re doing it at a place you love.”

All of the girls love being at the school. It’s why they ran for the prestigious roles.

And being in position to make it that much better for everyone at the school makes senior year even more exciting.

“It’s one of the biggest honors to lead so many amazing girls,” said McKenna, the treasurer, who hopes to go to Syracuse after graduation and major in sports management. “I have met lifelong friends at Nazareth and to be in a position of leadership, it’s so important to me and I’m so excited to see what happens during our senior year.”

All four girls are excited, but they’re also grateful.

They all credit their parents with helping them become the individuals they are, but also said the school is a huge reason for that.

They also are happy they have a great blueprint to work with.

“For leadership, the leadership team that we watched our freshman, sophomore and junior year class leadership teams and Mrs. (Kerstin) Greenewald and Mrs. (Natalie) Graveley, because they oversee the student council and the leadership team,” DiMario said. “I think how they planned everything, it inspires you to be the next person to build upon that. Definitely the leadership teams have taught us a lot.”

It’s not only good for the girls, it’s great for the school. And the school couldn’t be happier to have a great leadership team in place for next year

“Girls who play sports become women who lead,” said athletic director Brigid Sullivan Kelley. “Our new leadership team proves this quote to be true as all of them are student-athletes. I have gotten to know these four young women this year through Nazareth athletics and I feel confident heading into the 2024-25 school year with them leading our student body. I felt so proud when the leadership team was announced and they were all athletes. I imagine their parents feel the same knowing they are raising such confident young women who are blossoming at Nazareth. 

“On the field, I have watched them play and assume different roles on their teams but they understand the importance of teamwork to accomplish the goals they have set for next year. They are doers and always looking for ways to help at Nazareth. They look to lead both in our school and on our teams. We are blessed to call them Nazareth girls.”

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