Story by Rose O’Connor | Correspondent
As they begin to settle in as the new leaders in their grammar schools, eighth-grade students are also beginning the next phase of their educational journey as they consider their options for selecting a high school.
Catholic high schools in the Diocese offer students a sound and innovative academic program, rooted in the teachings of Christ. Each year, graduates from these schools receive millions of dollars in scholarship monies to attend some of the most prestigious colleges and universities in the country.
While data supports the success of Catholic high schools, no one can promote the schools as well as those who attend them.
Felix Lopez, an 11th-grade student in Trenton Catholic Academy, Hamilton, describes his time in high school thus far as a unique experience. “We are one big family with how we support one another,” he shared.
Meghan DiMercurio, a junior in Villa Victoria Academy, West Trenton, concurs. “I would say that Villa Victoria Academy is a place where we are all family. Villa is like a second home and everyone, students and teachers, welcome you with open arms. Villa also provides the skills to help young women succeed in their journey of learning and of faith.”
Brendan Fitzgerald, a senior in Christian Brothers Academy, Lincroft, also finds a similar atmosphere in the Monmouth County school, recently named a National Blue Ribbon School in 2017.
“My favorite part about CBA is the unique sense of close-knit community that the school offers. Nothing quite compares to being able to meet and know so many people,” he said.
During a recent high school visitation day for middle school students in Saint Paul School, Princeton, Gabriella Morabito, a sophomore, and junior Matthew Caccavale Jr., both from Notre Dame High School, Lawrenceville, spoke to students about the faith development they receive in their high school.
“We start each day in prayer. That really calms and focuses me,” Morabito said.
Caccavale also spoke to the faith-filled atmosphere in Notre Dame High School.
“We can express our faith. In our classes and retreat experiences, like Kairos, it’s a great way to keep our Catholic faith strong,” Caccavale said.
Jane Pangilinan, a senior in Red Bank Catholic High School, recounted that she definitely feels more connected to her faith at RBC.
“Your faith opens your eyes, and we then see things through the eyes of our faith. My years at RBC and my religion classes here have definitely brought me closer to God,” she shared.
The academic programs in Catholic high schools, cultivated in an atmosphere centered in Gospel values, are further strengthened by the athletic programs and extracurricular activities that allow students to develop their leadership skills and learn to collaborate with different people.
Lopez, who plays on the TCA soccer team and is a member of the school robotics team, encourages students in the eighth grade to participate in extracurriculars in high school.
“Go for it. If you’re interested in something, definitely go for it and give it 100 percent. This helps you grow and move out of your comfort zone,” he said.
DiMercurio also will be busy this year at Villa Victoria Academy.
“I am on the track and cross country teams; the math team; the a cappella singing group here at Villa, the Decibelles; another singing group, the Honeybees, and will be performing in the Villa musicals,” she said. “I spent my sophomore year as the director of debate in the Junior Statesmen of America Club. I have also been on the student council executive board and in Villa’s public relations club.”
Trinity Dalmazio, a junior in St. John Vianney High School, Holmdel, spoke of the opportunities provided to students when participating in extracurricular activities.
“SJV offers many different chances to participate in pretty much anything you’re interested in. I am a part of the Ambassadors Club, Creative Writing Club, choir, band, show choir and the school musicals,” she said. “Participating in all of these clubs and activities at SJV has truly helped me to make lifelong friendships, as well as showing me leadership and the value of commitment.
“I am also a member of the girls’ varsity tennis team. Being a part of a sports team at SJV has taught me the true value of working as a team, encouraging your peers, and being a true team player,” she said.
While each school offers different academic programs and extracurricular activities, all the students agreed on the support they received from the teachers in the high schools.
“There are always people here to support us in our academics and extracurriculars,” Lopez said.
“They say these years go by fast and they are correct! The teachers are amazing and are always there to help,” Pangilinan said of the RBC staff.
Of the teachers in Villa Victoria, DiMercurio offered, “We can always confide in teachers and ask them for religious guidance. This devotion has kept me grounded and calm during a critical time in my emotional journey.”
Dalmazio shared the values that led her and her family to choose a Catholic high school.
“Going to a Catholic high school was very important to me and my family when deciding on a high school to attend,” she said. “Being able to achieve a quality education, at the same time as furthering my relationship with God, has truly been an amazing part of my life.”