On Thursday, March 7, Bay View Academy students in pre-kindergarten through grade 12 gathered in the auditorium for what they thought was to be a Skype conversation with reigning Miss Universe and Bay View Academy alumna Olivia Culpo. The event was scheduled to take place in observance of International Women’s Day and as such, 12 students were dressed in the costume of their native countries, including India, China, Russia and Nigeria.
Lower and Middle School Principal Cynthia Lorincz opened the festivities with a brief history about International Women’s Day, which takes place on March 8. The day has been celebrated since 1909 and is now an official holiday in 28 countries worldwide.
“We gather to celebrate our oneness, our uniqueness and our achievements as women,” she said.
Upper School Principal Colleen Gribbin then took the podium to welcome Olivia, who appeared on a large projector screen that was set up on stage for the Skype conversation.
Without warning, the connection with Olivia was suddenly cut and she disappeared from view. Gribbin assured the disappointed crowd that despite the technical difficulties, they would have the connection back up quickly with Olivia. To pass the time, Bay View music teacher Diane Gualtieri struck up a familiar tune on the piano and all spontaneously sang along.
Suddenly, Miss Universe, Olivia Culpo, walked out on stage waving and saying, “Surprise!”
The students, faculty and staff jumped to their feet and cheered. Culpo thanked her younger sister, Sophie, who is a sophomore at Bay View, for keeping the secret and not telling anyone that she would be there in person.
Gribbin welcomed back another Bay View alumna, Joan Moran-Izzo, a public relations and communications professional as well as a former Channel 12 Fox News reporter, to serve as a moderator for a question and answer session between Culpo and the Bay View students. Moran-Izzo opened with an introduction of the girls in international dress, explained their outfits and gave them each the opportunity to greet Culpo in their native language. She then opened the floor to questions, starting with one of her own: How did Bay View prepare Culpo for her present role as Miss Universe?
“Bay View taught me the importance of giving and taking from my environment,” Culpo said, going on to explain that at all levels of the pageant, every contestant was there to do their absolute best, but instead of being intimidated by it, she embraced it. She explained that she knew from her Bay View experience that she could draw on and learn from all of the women and use it “as an opportunity to become better.”
Senior Hannah Lee asked Culpo what, through her global travels, she sees as a major challenge facing women worldwide.
Culpo responded that it’s the “lack of equal opportunity in education” that she has seen in various places. She stressed to the students how lucky they are to be at Bay View and that they should take full advantage of the opportunities that they have daily at the Academy.
Culpo entertained the crowd with her talk about traveling and the different cultures, cuisines and customs she has experienced. In response to a question about food from Courtney Ponte, a senior from Coventry, Culpo said one of the oddest things she was served (but wouldn’t try) was a whole goat’s mouth, complete with teeth, tongue and gums.
Colleen Gribbin wrapped up the question and answer session by asking Olivia what Bay View means to her.
“Bay View means so much to me,” Culpo said. “I couldn’t have become Miss Universe if not for this school.”
In closing, she reminded the students to lead by their own example and “don’t forget where you come from.”