CALDWELL – Seventy-one members of the Class of 2019 received diplomas at the 124th annual Commencement Sunday of Mount St. Dominic Academy.

The ceremony was Sunday morning, June 2 in the Athletic Center of the private all-girls Catholic high school in Caldwell.

Jessica Garcia, Class of 2008, delivered the Commencement Address, urging the graduates to not be afraid to “fail fast and fail often.”

“Fail fast because there is no better time than the present to try something new, and it’s rare to ever feel fully prepared for something,” she said. “Fail often because every time that you fail that means you’re pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and getting closer to your goal.”

Garcia described how her coaches at the Mount set up a walk-on tryout for the softball team for her at Lehigh University, where she later earned a bachelor’s degree in global studies and entrepreneurship and a master’s in engineering and capital entrepreneurship.

Because of self-doubt about whether she could play at the Division 1 level, she didn’t show up for the tryout.

“You will all fail repeatedly in different aspects of your life, and you’ll be a little disappointed for some time after,” she told the Class of 2019. “However, the feeling of regret for not trying will linger much longer.”

Garcia said she later took up rugby because she missed playing a team sport, then suffered a concussion without anyone, including herself, knowing that.

That experience led to her founding Tozuda, a Philadelphia-based manufacturing startup that makes sensors for helmets and other headgear to alert users about the possibility that they have sustained a concussion.

She pointed out that her company has created hundreds of prototypes, or “mini-failures,” in its attempt to solve the problem of undiagnosed concussions in athletes.

A year and a half ago, a prototype that worked great in the lab was ready to go to market but it failed in field tests, Garcia said.

“I had the opportunity to quit all of these times. Instead, I asked for help and integrated feedback and built an amazing team,” which includes a 2014 Mount graduate, who is the company’s new bioengineer.

“We can’t control every circumstance we face, but we can control how we react to them.”

Valedictorian Alissa Sebastian of Parsippany also spoke at the ceremony, recalling highlights of the past four years. “We have learned so much in our time” at the Mount, which instilled a passion for learning, she said.

“We have everything that we need to achieve our dreams, no matter how big they be,” she concluded.

Members of the Class of 2019 were accepted to a total of 129 colleges and received a total of more than $9.8 million in college scholarships and grants.*

Among the colleges they will attend this fall are Princeton, George Washington, Tufts, Howard, Michigan, Penn State, Syracuse, Fordham, Notre Dame and the Fashion Institute of Technology as well as Rutgers, Drew, William Paterson and Montclair State.

Contact Kathy Shwiff at

*Update: 140 colleges and $11.1 million