Scroll through the Tuxedo UFSD social media accounts and you will keep landing on Grace Donnelly’s photo. National Honor Society, Student Council, orchestra, student mentoring: the George F. Baker High School senior is undoubtedly one of the district’s most involved students. When recently asked why she does so much, Donnelly struggled to land upon a definitive answer, but kept repeating one phrase: “to help.”
Student Council’s Snowball dance? “To help people have fun.”
The National Honor Society’s Café for a Day? “To help students have a nice treat.”
Collecting food donations on behalf of the National Honor Society? “To help people in the community.”
Donnelly’s passion to help will travel with her when she begins college in the fall. Though she has not decided which school it will be, she knows what she will be doing when she gets there. Nursing. A career built on helping people.
So where does her second nature of helping come from? Donnelly says her parents instilled it into her at an early age. Specifically, through volunteering and playing an active role in their church community. She says she never questioned it, because “it just felt right.”
“You think about the alternative, and it is much more bland being a person that doesn't add anything to society.”
“Bland” is not the word you would use to describe Donnelly’s academic career. In addition to being Vice President of the National Honor Society and Class President, she was recognized last fall with the College Board’s National Rural and Small-Town Award. Donnelly credits the relationships she has with her teachers as a key to success. “We have been with each other for multiple years. They know what things I am good at or what I struggle with, and they know how to teach me.”
Class size also comes into play as Donnelly is only one of sixteen seniors in the school. She feels it provides an opportunity for more personalized instruction, comradery and friendly competition with her classmates.
"It's a competition that makes me want to be better, but not necessarily a competition that makes me want to be better than the other person. If someone needs help or for example there are problems we don’t understand, we all help one another”
It is noticeable to teacher Jennifer Jones, who has Donnelly and her classmates for several subjects. Jones made a similar assessment when discussing the class of 2023 for her recent Faculty Spotlight.
“They scaffold one another. It's competitive in wanting to not only better myself, but to in turn be competitive for my colleagues, for my fellow student and to push them up where I can.”
One area Donnelly does not any pushing or encouragement is music. In October, she was named to the NYSSMA Area All-State Orchestra for violin two and got to perform with students from across the area at the end of last year. Her love of music, specifically the fiddle, was born out of the Irish music played by her father since for as long as she can remember. “I would be hearing the violin and I always thought it would be cool to play it. And then I started taking lessons and I have been playing ever since. I've always loved doing it.”
When discussing her future, Donnelly wonders aloud if pediatric nursing is the direction life will take her, since she has always had an affinity towards children. It is why she dedicates an hour a week to assisting Ms. Blume’s second-grade class as part of the school’s STEM Capstone Internship program.
“I go in there and see, can I work with kids? Is it just these one-off moments or is it something I'm good at? I do enjoy doing it.”
George F. Baker High School Counselor Christine Oliva feels Donnelly is a perfect role-model for the district’s younger students. “Grace has a kind heart and is very giving, but also very unassuming. She rarely flaunts or celebrates her achievements.”
Unassuming is how you could describe Donnelly’s response when asked what she wanted her lasting impact on the Tuxedo Community to be. And no surprise, there was that H word again.
“Someone that people can rely on, trust and to help them.”