Alumnae Spotlight: Sandra Mandella, '60

Sandra Mandella, '60, Continues to Sing the Praises of St. Joan Antida High School

Mandella was born and raised in Milwaukee and attended St. Rita's grade school. Currently residing in Florida, Mandella is the proud mother of two, has three grandchildren and one great-grandson. Both of her parents were accomplished singers. Her Father was one of the lead opera singers with the Florentine Opera Company, and her mother sang in the Florentine Opera Chorus. Mandella credits her parents with her love of music.

As Mandella was preparing for high school, it didn't take long for all of her grade school friends at St. Rita's to decide that they were going to attend the new St. Joan Antida High School (SJA). Naturally, Mandella wanted the same for herself.

Unfortunately, Mandella's parents could not afford the cost of a private education, so Mandella initially attended East Division High School. The school wasn't a good fit for her, and every night she cried and begged her parents to talk to the Sisters of Charity of St. Joan Antida to figure out if there was any way that she could attend SJA.

One semester into her freshman year, and after a long conversation with the Sisters of Charity, it was decided that Mandella would take on some housekeeper duties after school to help pay for her education. Mandella recalls happily cleaning classrooms knowing that it was making her dream become a reality!

At SJA, Mandella found her family. Many of the Sisters were already friends of Mandella's parents – so they really were like family.

The Sisters of Charity soon discovered Mandella's gift of singing. While at SJA, Mandella participated in musicals, which included "The Gift of Tenyin." Sister Cecilia even had her perform a mini-concert in music class.

Mandella has many fond memories of the Sisters of Charity. In particular, she was very close to Sister Cecilia.

"I'll never forget seeing Sister Cecilia streaming down the hall looking like the flying nun!"

Sister Cecilia encouraged Mandella to develop her God-given talent. "Sister Cecilia inspired me," stated Mandella, "she was more stern then some of the other sisters, but she was just a lovely teacher!"

Sister Maria was Mandella's favorite teacher. "She was such an inspiration to me!" exclaimed Mandella when reminiscing about her high school years.

"Many years after graduation, Sister Maria gave me a Blessed Mother holding Baby Jesus nightlight which I have to this very day!"

Sister Maria's kindness and her beautiful smile are memories that Mandella will never forget. Sister Maria and Mandella shared a special bond.

"We were taught so well," recalls Mandella. "Math was hard, and I had my share of academic challenges, but the sisters never made me feel less valuable."

The Sisters always gave individualized attention to their students. "They took time with me," reminisces Mandella. "I walked away from a high school that cares a lot about you and was a little extra special because it was family."

After graduating from high school, Mandella was ready to get married and become a mother. She carried on the loving and nurturing environment in her personal life with her children.

Mandella's singing career first blossomed in the early 70's. Up until then, Mandella was focused on raising her children and being a wonderful wife and mother.

Mandella's career started in Grand Rapids, MI in the early 70's when she was singing in a club and was discovered and asked to join a group named Lorio. Lorio was the hottest group in the Midwest. They performed some of the greatest arrangements in four-part harmony.

Mandella performed with Lorio for over 30 years, from 1973-2008. Mandella had the thrill of opening for some of the most popular stars of the time, including Bob Newhart (comedian), singers Vic Damone, Jerry Vale, and Al Martino and even comedian Dom Deluise!

Mandella has also performed every year at Fest Italiana from 1994-2012, as well as the Jazz in the Courtyard Series at the Italian Community Center.

One of Mandella's most memorable performances was with the Detroit Symphony. However, she is most grateful for how she celebrated her Father's 80th Birthday. She had the wonderful opportunity to sing a duet with her Dad.

Mandella is very proud to call herself a St. Joan Antida High School Alumna and will always call SJA her home. She plans on singing for as long as she can and hopes to perform once again at the Italian Community Center sometime soon!

Mandella truly lives by Eleanor Roosevelt's famous words, "You must do that thing that you think you cannot do."

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