Loyola's Sacred Heart 9

High School Senior’s Big Heart Is a Great Inspiration

Jokingly, it’s been said that Montana’s greatest export is her children. If you know Rosie McCormack, you might begin to believe it’s actually true. She graduates from Loyola Sacred Heart High School this year and without having reached her late teens, she will have already left Montana in better shape than she found it.

Rosie’s early accomplishments are as striking as her bubbly, bright personality. In the past few years she has been the Montana state champion at the National Geographic Bee, one of only two Montana delegates chosen to attend last year’s U.S. Senate Youth Program in Washington D.C. and meet President Obama, a member of the yearbook staff and speech and debate team, co-chair of the Providence MT Health Foundation Junior Board, and winner of the Al Neuharth Free Spirit and Journalism Scholarship, to name a few.

She’s also no stranger to the dramatic arts, as told by Father Joseph Carver, S.J., pastor at St. Francis Xavier and mentor to students at Loyola Sacred Heart. “It was William Faulkner meets Tina Fey,” said Father Joseph who was able to witness Rosie’s natural ability to hold the attention of an audience. Having been the lead in various musicals throughout her youth, Rosie has volunteered at MCT and helped organize the Zootown Idol competition to raise money for First Step, a St. Patrick Hospital program that supports survivors of sexual and domestic abuse. As Shakespeare said, “Though she be but little, she is fierce.”

While diminutive in size, and the first to tell you athletics have never been her strong suit, Rosie stepped up when Loyola’s golf and cross country teams needed participants. She competed fiercely, demonstrated team spirit, and found her inner athlete while developing new friendships that strengthened her Loyola family along the way. That spirit and attitude are what’s taking Rosie into the next chapter of her life—college.

“I received full tuition to my top two schools, which are Northeastern in Boston and Fordham in New York City. I’m pretty sure I’ll end up at one of those two schools,” she said. “Right now, I’m looking [to major in] business because I’m interested in politics, writing, and layout design and I think business seems like a good starting point to put all those interests together.”

These successes and others, however, are not what have humbled her into the young woman she has become. By her side since birth—literally—is her twin brother, Colin, who has autism.

“I always wanted to do something with the special needs community,” said Rosie. “Colin is very creative and he’s not able to really express it but he would come home with these arts projects [and I thought] why not create a platform where special needs students could express themselves through art, photography, and writing.”

It wasn’t long before Rosie was talking with several high schools throughout the state, six of which participated, generating 90 original pieces that were included in Rosie’s book, titled Montana Special Education Art Showcase.

“I’ve gotten a lot of external validation for my accomplishments and I think that I’ve been blessed to have that. A lot of people don’t get that pat on the back that I’ve had, so that was kind of the goal of the book, to give the students a voice and through their artwork and creativity feel that it’s valuable,” she said.

Rosie has raised about $1,000 so far and is giving the profits back, proportionally, to the departments that participated so that it can help encourage more creativity. As a bonus, Rosie thinks this book will help educate people in the community by letting everyone see what special needs students are capable of.

“I have gone to Catholic school my whole life and I think a lot of kids given that opportunity tend to take the faith side for granted. …It’s important to me to embrace that side and not necessarily approach it in a strict, doctrinal way. I try to employ Christian values, especially having my brother with his disabilities,” she said. “It’s easy to see how little things make a big impact on other people.”

As Missoula and Loyola Sacred Heart High School bid Rosie farewell this year, it’s her lasting generosity and kindness that will linger in our community as she turns toward the future and does the same for other hearts in other parts.