We are pleased and excited to welcome Dr. Jacqueline Coccia as the new Principal of Waldron Mercy Academy! To celebrate Dr. Coccia's first day, we'd like to share a brief interview and some "fast facts" to help our community get to know our new leader.
Q: What attracted you to Waldron Mercy Academy?
A: I was very enthused when I learned about this opportunity because I have a deep admiration and respect for the pioneering work and legacy of Catherine McAuley and the many who have followed in her footsteps. One of my favorite quotes attributed to Catherine McAuley is, “Sisters of Mercy should be particularly kind — the kindest people on earth, with the tenderest pity and compassion for the poor.” That quote really resonates with me, and I am committed to embodying these words and Catherine McAuley’s selfless example by striving to make a positive impact within my community by extending kindness and compassion to others.
My childhood home was in Radnor, and I have spent most of my adult life in this area. I was always very familiar with the fine reputation of Waldron Mercy Academy, but I did not have the opportunity to experience the unique charism of a Mercy school until 2005 when I joined the administrative team as principal at St. Denis School in Havertown. Some of the most rewarding years of my career were spent there, where I developed lasting relationships with families and colleagues, including many Mercy Associates, and witnessed firsthand the powerful example of Mercy hospitality beginning with a small prayer service where I received a beautiful “shawl of Mercy” as I was welcomed into the community. Over the next several years I gained an even deeper appreciation for the Mercy charism and the Core Values and Hallmarks of a Mercy Education.
Q: What are your top 3 goals for your first year at WMA?
A: A successful transition in leadership as the school approaches its centennial celebration will require trusting relationships, transparent communication, and the active engagement and collaboration of all stakeholder groups. My top three goals for my first year at Waldron Mercy Academy center around building relationships with all members of the WMA community. These goals include:
Learn more about the culture and rich tradition of Waldron Mercy Academy by building relationships with faculty, staff, parents, students, and alumni and listening to their stories. Through these exchanges I also hope to learn more about the shared goals and concerns of the community during this time of transition.
Immerse myself in the Mercy charism through participation in Mercy Education orientation programs and leadership retreats, and visit local Mercy ministries, including Mercy Neighborhood Ministries of Philadelphia, to learn more about concrete ways the Waldron Mercy Academy community lives their faith and works to address the Critical Concerns through local partnerships.
Develop a strong relationship and work collaboratively with the Board of Trustees to ensure that the school is best able to meet its goals and provide the best possible education for our students.
Q: In your opinion, what are some of the challenges Catholic schools face?
A: Catholic schools face a wide range of challenges, including declining enrollment, shifting demographics, escalating expenses, and competition from public and private schools. Parents often make significant sacrifices to provide a quality education for their children, and they want to be confident that there will be a positive return on investment. I believe that these concerns can be mitigated most effectively when all members of the community have a shared mission and vision that is not only boldly communicated, but also lived and modeled each day. This is the foundation for achieving goals, building trust, and fostering a culture of collaboration. Throughout my career, I have witnessed the transformational power of schools that maintained an unwavering commitment to their mission and Catholic identity, and I carry that lesson with me. Every decision we make and every program or policy we create should be evaluated through the lens of our mission and charism.
Q: Why are faith and Mercy important to you?
A: My faith has always played a significant role in my life. My parents were, and still are, wonderful role models for my sisters and me. They not only instructed us in our faith, they boldly witnessed and lived their faith through the Corporal Works of Mercy and service to others. Whenever I hear the hymn “Whatsoever You Do,” I think of the many times my parents opened our home to those in need and modeled mercy and compassion.
I think one of the reasons I felt immediately welcomed and at home in a Mercy school community is because of the example set by my parents of selfless commitment to those in need. One of my dear friends who is a Mercy Associate spoke to me about her connection to the word Miseracordia. She explained that it is derived from the Latin words that mean “to feel compassion” and “heart,” and that through acts of mercy we join our hearts with others, and I cannot think of a more beautiful way to describe Mercy.
Q: If you could tell the WMA community one thing about yourself as a Principal that would help them get to know you, what would it be?
A: I believe that one of my greatest strengths is the ability to listen and empathize. I am a firm believer in the importance of evaluating a situation from multiple perspectives to gain perspective before acting. I bring my experiences as a student, mother, teacher, and administrator to my work, and I am always mindful of how my decisions and actions will impact others.
Favorite color: Green!
Favorite ice cream flavor: Ben and Jerry’s non-dairy “Americone Dream” with almond milk, waffle cone pieces, and caramel.
Favorite thing to do in the summer and why: I am a bit of a homebody, and during the summer I look forward to taking advantage of the easier pace to spend more time with family and friends, taking short excursions to the beach, and enjoy reading a few good books!
Favorite place you’ve ever traveled and why: My parents lived in London for several years when my daughter was a little girl. When she was three we visited them for Easter, and that trip is one of my favorite memories. It was an opportunity to spend time as a family and to introduce my daughter to many historic sights and traditions like the ravens at the Tower of London and the changing of the guard. Without telling me, she snuck a small pebble from a path at Buckingham Palace into her pocket and was so excited to share a piece of “the Queen’s driveway” at show and tell when we returned home! My favorite memory of that trip was our day at Covent Garden where we saw street performers and beautiful artwork and crafts.
Favorite animal and why: When I was a little girl I always loved llamas, but I recently gained a very deep appreciation for elephants after my book club read The Elephant Whisperer a few years ago. I learned so much about their commitment to family and community, and the strong bond of motherhood.