"Because of my experience and the tools I developed at The Madeleine Choir School I am constantly reminded of the impact I can have on the world. As I go down my own path, I know what I do with that tool kit is up to me."
- Cricket Oles (Class of 2006)
Building a civilization of justice, mercy and love is a key aspect of the formation process for students at MCS: noble souls with a passion for service, empathy for others, and the intellectual and leadership skills necessary to advance the common good and promote the dignity of all human life.
In the summer of 2013, USC Senior and Madeleine Choir School alumna, Cricket Oles, found herself in two vastly differing international scenes discussing foreign policy and migration. While these topics often have natural ties to each other, Cricket's meetings took place in lands separated by 5000 miles of ocean and terrain.
Her first international stop was Havana, Cuba during a two-week trip capping off a summer course on U.S. and Cuban relations and the future relationship of the two countries. Due in the end was a final project; a policy report for economic reforms in building future relations with Cuba. The journey began with preparations in Washington D.C with the State Department as well as members of Congress to gain insight on the official views of the United States government.
"This was challenging in the fact that I had to balance between what the U.S should do in terms of national interest, and what I felt was a better solution for the Cuban people," recalls Oles. "This trip challenged me in many different ways and most importantly opened my eyes to how difficult the policy world can be."
Highlighting the trip was the opportunity to examine the issues with students and faculty from Universidad de La Habana. "What I found most interesting was comparing the similarities of our cultures, and the differences in what we value, as a society," observed Oles. "The United States clearly values opportunity, where Cuba leans toward education and health care as their highest priorities."
Oles recognized the importance of actually visiting Cuba and seeing the country first-hand. She witnessed the citizens in their day-to-day lives and recognized the need for her to change her perspective, to look at it from their viewpoint and life experiences.
Next stop for Cricket on her international tour was Geneva, Switzerland. As a part of her internship at the International Committee of the Red Cross, she participated in classes at the Graduate School for International and Development Studies.
Each week the class offered a different theme with various international lecturers, including Nick Drager, the former Secretary General of the WHO, who spoke on global health, and Khalid Koser, Deputy Director and Academic Dean at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP), who addressed migration issues.
"Although I was with a group of nine other USC students, the class was filled with students from all over the world, which made for incredible discussions and a vibrant learning environment," said Oles. "I made at least one friend from every continent through these amazing opportunities, except Antarctica, of course." Cricket proudly exclaimed.
From Beginnings at The Madeleine Choir School
Years before tackling the issues of social justice on an international platform, Cricket Oles, along side her classmates, was setting her life path to find her passion. Realizing the importance of finding her own passion in life came through interaction with The Madeleine Choir School Founder and Pastoral Administrator, Gregory Glenn as he impressed upon his students "that having a passion for what you do in life and caring deeply about what you choose to do means everything."
Looking back now, Oles sees how being able to interact with somebody like Mr. Glenn at that time in their lives was so powerful. "To have someone the students hold as a role model and to see the passion for his ideas and dreams in action truly impacts their future success."
Although, committing to the rigorous schedule required of a chorister, Cricket often wondered what the point of her service to The Cathedral of the Madeleine was. What impact did her dedication to choir rehearsal and their performance in daily mass have on anyone?
Her answers to those same questions today are clear and obvious. The lessons, the values, the moral compass, the unique opportunity, the education, the perspective, are all tools she and her classmates were given to go out and use in the world. Cricket learned, in her years as a Chorister of The Madeleine Choir School, lessons that would carry her further in life and shape who she is today.
Sticking in her mind is a motivational line often used by MCS Founder and Pastoral Administrator, Gregory Glenn. "There's enough ugly in this world, let's create something beautiful," Oles recalls fondly.
While the commitment to coral service at the Cathedral of the Madeleine was, at times, a bit overwhelming, the payoff for that sacrifice came in years following as the skill in effective time management has become old hat for her.
Oles recognizes now that she was learning the value of service even in those moments of doubt even though she may not have been entirely aware of it at the time.
"The values I learned in my Catholic school education, beginning at The Madeleine Choir School, have carried with me and I utilize those skills I have gained to view the world in a different way."
Wrtitten and published October 2013 by Matt Kitterer