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Strong Support and Inner Strength Shaped This Saint

Jim Norman

There was some irony to Francesca Mangravite ’22 making a speech to her peers about her challenges in life—since the very first of those challenges was not being able to talk!

“When I was younger, I had a speech problem. I couldn’t speak until I was four even though the average speaking age is two,” Fran shared during her recent Saints on the Hill presentation. “My parents wondered, ‘Why? What is wrong with Fran?’ because everyone else could speak.”

It turns out that speech therapy—and a generous dose of support from Mom and Dad—were just what Fran needed to get talking. “My parents have been my biggest supporters. They helped me throughout the years with speech and everything else,” she said. “My mom was always there for me. Whenever I would come home from school and stress, she would say, ‘Fran, it’s going to be okay.’”

As she moved through her school years growing up in the “tropical paradise that is Miami,” Fran found strength from an entirely different source: crew. “Rowing has been huge in shaping who I am. You need to be both physically and mentally strong for crew because it is a hard sport,” she explained. “I used to row in the Miami Rowing Club, and I have implemented a lot of the lessons that I learned in crew to my life. You cannot stop in the middle of a race; you need to keep going no matter how painful it is. And that’s always been me. Maybe I’m stubborn—or not—but I just don’t quit no matter how hard the skill is.”

And, Fran said, her support system has remained strong at Canterbury, especially among her rowing teammates. “The crew team here has the kindest people I have ever met,” she said with a smile. “They make me feel like I have a place on this campus. They are my best friends!” 

Well-said, Fran!