OMAHA – A Duchesne Academy student is returning to school with a new title: National Champion. Caleigh Copenhaver, A’22, competed in six riding disciplines at the 2021 Arabian Youth Nationals in Oklahoma City – the top competition for youth in the sport. She won sidesaddle and western pleasure had six top-ten finishes in other events and qualified in another. This was the second year in a row she has won a national title in a horse-riding event.
Copenhaver’s road to Oklahoma City started in December. She spent hours in the saddle working with her horses and then more time caring for the animals all while balancing her schoolwork.
“The feeling of your number getting called for a championship is a unique feeling and there isn’t anything else I can compare it to,” Copenhaver said.
“It takes good mental stability and confidence to be able to show at a national level. It takes a lot of work to learn some of these horses and how to ride them,” Caleigh’s mother, Jenn Copenhaver said.
Her riding career began when she was 10 years old when she started competing in local competitions. When Copenhaver was 12 she added regional competitions to her schedule, and two years later was traveling the nation to compete. Copenhaver displayed her skills, experience, and endurance during this summer’s 15-day national competition in July.
“Show days are long and lots of hard work. Practice rides, show rides, getting the horses ready, doing stalls, keeping the horses healthy and sound, it takes a lot of time and effort,” her mother said.
To look her best, Copenhaver created competition outfits that included ornate tops and riding pants she wore a pristine white hat and her Sacred Heart ring.
“I wear my ring everywhere and never take it off. I am also grateful that Duchesne allows me to go to practice and compete as long as I keep up with my schoolwork. Duchesne has been supportive of this sport and I very much appreciate it,” Copenhaver said.
This was the end of Caleigh’s riding season but not the end of her career. She plans to continue competing as a youth until she turns 19 when she will transition to adult competitions.
OMAHA, Neb — Duchesne Academy’s 2021 commencement ceremony will be the first full-capacity event at Saint Cecilia Cathedral since March 2020, the school announced Tuesday. Graduation will take place on the evening of May 27.
Administrators encourage students and their guests to wear a mask to help protect vulnerable people who may attend, but will not enforce mask-wearing.
“Many of our guests will be grandparents who, even if fully vaccinated, remain our most vulnerable population and break-through infections are still possible after vaccination,” said Principal Laura Hickman, Ed.D.
St. Cecilia Pastor Father Michael Grewe made the decision to open the event to full capacity after administrators made the request to do so on behalf of seniors and their parents. Graduates will be allowed up to nine guests and will sit with their families during the ceremony.
“These students have worked hard to maintain their grades and a strong sense of community during multiple closures. We are happy that they will be able to graduate in front of their families,” said Hickman.
Duchesne’s graduation ceremony will be live-streamed on the school’s Facebook page.
Ana Zulkoski says she knew Duchesne was different the moment she walked into the building as an eighth-grade student.
“Everyone was so welcoming and I could see myself walking through the halls. I liked how the teachers taught and that they were open and honest with all the students,” Zulkoski said.
Four years later, she says her classmates and teachers have helped her learn about the world and herself in a supportive environment. Given the difficulties presented by Covid, school administrators challenged Zulkoski and her classmates in A’21 with guiding younger students and ensuring they continue to build a supportive community.
“Duchesne is a place where there is a lot of love and a lot of community and connections,” Zulkoski said.
Their efforts have paid off. Younger students say they feel empowered to be themselves when they come to school.
“I love Duchesne because the community is really close-knit and everyone is always looking out for one another,” said Ina Satpathy, A’23.
The strong sense of community bonds students to each other and to Duchesne’s alumnae.
“If you haven’t been back to Duchesne in a while, I think returning would feel the same as it did when you walked through those doors as a student,” said Sophia Harding, A’23.
“Even though students are making new memories today the Sacred Heart foundation and family that you know and love is still here,” she said.
As they build community, students share their joy, creating an environment where every student can learn and grow into the woman she is called to be.
Seniors Sabrina Sulaymonova and Jackie Barnes each say they had to get creative when they were planning service projects at the start of the school year because many places stopped allowing outside visitors. The two and their classmates decided they would find ways to serve others wherever and however they could.
“Service this year has been a lot of seeing what we can do in our immediate community and really getting our school community involved,” Barnes said.
Barnes partnered with other students to form a UNICEF club. The group offered opportunities for other students to raise awareness about important issues and raise money locally to support UNICEF causes.
“In a lot of my classes we talk so much about the experiences of others and how our actions impact other people. I think that is it special that we are so focused on others while simultaneously discovering ourselves,” Barnes said.
Sulaymonova agrees that identifying their passions enables students to tap into a deeper source of motivation.
“Duchesne taught me to find my passion and ultimately put that toward my service. I learned that service is important because there are so many people in this world who are in need and it is our job as women of the Sacred Heart to assist those people when they are in need,” Sulaymonova said.
Sulaymonova worked with other students to send letters to Religious of the Sacred Heart sisters who were isolated in their homes during severe Covid waves in California.
“My theology classes especially have taught me that God’s love is very impactful and if we can show that to other people we can make a significant impact on people’s lives,” she said.
(OMAHA, Nebraska) — Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart is a thought leader when it comes to implementing a thriving sustainability program in a high school.
Since the school’s Sustainability Program began in 2016, Duchesne has
been named a 2020 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School (the only one in Omaha and one of just three in Nebraska that year),
received an Energy Star rating of 92 three years in a row
installed a solar panel array to power a STEM lab
started a composting program to achieve the school’s Zero Waste by 2030 goal
Sustainability is part of Duchesne students’ daily life rather than a stand-alone topic. Teachers plan lessons in ways to reduce or eliminate paper usage, the lunch program uses ingredients grown on campus, and the Sustainability club recruits volunteers to help during Earth Day Omaha events.
“I’m proud of the ways our students and staff have embraced being sustainable and because of that buy-in we are closer than ever to realizing our Zero Waste by 2030 goal,” said Assistant Principal and Sustainability Coordinator Eric Krakowski.
Students have led the effort to reduce waste bound for landfills by ensuring they separate their trash into recyclables, compostable, and waste containers which are in classrooms and hallways.
“I believe people want to do what they can to live more sustainably. We’ve seen students fully embrace this program because we’ve taken steps to make it as easy as possible for them to make sustainable choices,” Krakowski said.
OMAHA – There are many barriers female athletes face when it comes to competing on an even playing field, but one that many people overlook is access to basic sporting apparel. That is why Duchesne Academy soccer players worked together to collect new sports bras for The Sports Bra Project.
The Sports Bra Project provides new sports bras to girls & women in areas where the lack of access to this basic piece of equipment can prevent participation in sports. The SBP works with a number of different local groups to distribute the bras to girls who need them. The varsity and junior varsity teams collected and donated 54 sports bras to Football for the World Foundation, a local nonprofit that donates soccer equipment to children locally and globally.
“I think a lot of people overlook the fact that undergarments, such as sports bras, really do play a vital role in our daily lives and we can take them for granted. It was really cool to see our teams come together to provide for others who share our same passion for sports,” said Cora Zeger, A’22.
Junior Varsity Head Coach Emily Michaels brought the idea to Duchesne and led the effort.
“I thought it was a unique opportunity for us as an all-girls school to lead a drive for the SBP. As females, we do face more barriers and challenges when it comes to equal opportunities. Having a group of powerful, strong female athletes rally behind this cause is great,” Michaels said.
Varsity Head Coach Lauren Mueller said a major part of Duchesne’s program is service and building community. She and Michaels said they are proud of their players for embracing this project.
“They absolutely see the value in community service and involvement. It is also humbling for us to realize and reflect on the fact that that we do not have the barriers to playing the sport that we love that many other girls and women do,” Mueller said.
The results of this drive have inspired the teams to find more ways to help fellow athletes.
“Although we will never know the exact people that our donations will reach, it is really encouraging to know that other female athletes will get to experience the joy that being a part of a team brings all of us and empowers me to do more,” said Madison Smith, A’21.