NDP senior, Sydney Tommins is delightfully and blissfully ordinary, which is meant to be taken as the highest of praise. In an era where teenagers are depicted – at least by the mass media – as overly experienced and world weary, jaded and full of sullen ennui, it is heartwarming to meet someone like Sydney who has so much enthusiasm for life as it presents itself to her. Sitting across from her in an interview is like watching one of your children enjoy her first roller coaster ride. You can’t help but experience the same thrill she experiences. Throughout the interview, Sydney maintains a happy, wide-eyed, ain’t- life-grand expression on her face. As she talks about her past 7 years at NDP (she came in 6th grade), her glee is contagious. Sydney is someone who was open to every opportunity Notre Dame offered and excited by every teenage ritual and rite of passage. Senior prom “totally lived up to expectation”; she and her best friend, Angela, are “inseparable”; she is bewildered but admittedly flattered that she and her friends have a freshman fan club (“they really look up to us, you know?”) and Christmas Tree Trim is her favorite NDP tradition (“the free cookies don’t hurt”). Sydney is definitely someone who participated in the life of the school in big and small ways.
During her tenure at NDP, she played varsity basketball and volleyball and was captain of both teams. She served as a counselor at Camp Umoja during the summer and volunteered to go to El Salvador this past spring, an experience she said was life changing.
“Everything in my life is so good. I never have to face bad stuff. In many ways I live a sheltered life. I thought it was really important to see how other people live with less and to find ways to give back. That’s something Notre Dame really helped me with. They really helped me discover my love for service.”
“Because it promotes integrity, something we should all be working towards. I think it’s great that Notre Dame has something like it that helps you in your personal growth and character development. Besides, there’s zero tolerance for any cheating or plagiarism in college, so it’s really a great service we’re providing in high school.”
In addition to those extracurricular activities, Sydney maintains straight A’s in every course, including several AP courses… all of which will give her a great advantage when she attends the University of Maryland next year. She has come a long way since she entered NDP as a 6th grader.
“I was really self-conscious and shy back then. I didn’t know if I’d fit in. But Notre Dame really helped me overcome all that. I love the sense of community we have here. The all girl environment really helps build strong relationships and strong friendships. And it really helps you develop leadership skills, too. The end game is self-confidence.”
I asked her if she had any advice for those she leaves behind.
“Get involved. Get involved in the little things. Leadership doesn’t mean you have to be in a leadership position. You don’t have to be elected to it. You just demonstrate it. There are so many opportunities. Just dip your toes. That’s what I did. Right up to the end. And senior year was the best year yet!”
And it is almost over. She is “excited as can be” to go off to college, but at the same time she “doesn’t want to leave.”
“I have so many friends at Notre Dame and so many great memories. It’s going to be hard to say goodbye!” Still, I can’t help but notice that she is saying this not with tears in her eyes, but with the same perpetual smile and look of happiness she has maintained throughout the session. The fact is, Sydney embodies enthusiasm. She is full of wonder, eager to try new things, and chooses joy. I have no doubt that it will take her no time at all to go from “dipping her toes” to diving head first into the full college experience.
‘Til then, there are a few things left to do at Notre Dame. There are AP exams, the last day of classes, and the senior retreat. There is also the awards ceremony during which Notre Dame’s highest honor, the coveted White Blazer, is presented to that senior who best displayed leadership and a positive influence throughout her NDP career. And on Wednesday, May 22nd, at just about the same time as this post goes to press…Sydney Tommins will be called on stage to accept it.