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Schools develop six-point plan to secure future

Diocesan science fair Feb. 25

Bringing of the green to FACE fundraiser

Young artists display Feb. 26

At midyear, ACE teachers are settled in, looking ahead

Nine teens who excel

St. Patrick’s opens infant care center in West Contra Costa

Urban school students get lesson in digital filmmaking

Holy Names High School principal reflects on nine years at helm

Moreau Catholic dedicates grotto

School affordability: Progress made but still a long way to go

BYO computer program to begin this fall at SJND

Photos and notes from around the schools

Philly school mergers, closures signal new model of education

Court avoiding cases on firing

Archbishop Chaput encourages Catholic colleges to lead revival

placeholder January 23, 2012   •   VOL. 50, NO. 2   •   Oakland, CA
Nine teens who excel

Our nine Oakland diocese Catholic high schools are filled with students who excel in the classroom and at a variety of activities, including sports, music, volunteerism — you name it.

Voice staffer Michele Jurich compiled this look at nine of them, one from each high school, who embody not only a passion for academic excellence, but for some extraordinary pursuits at school — and beyond.

St. Joseph
Notre Dame
High School,

A 1⁄4 inch made all the difference in the world for St. Joseph Notre Dame High School senior Sammie Witherspoon this summer. She was just 1⁄4 inch shy of the top height (5-101⁄2) allowed for dancers with the famous Rockettes of New York City. Sammie became the center of the well-known kick line for the Rockettes’ dance program this past summer when she traveled to the Big Apple to be part of the Radio City Musical Hall program. Rockettes must stand 5-7 to 5-101⁄2.

Sammie auditioned in San Francisco a year ago for the Rockette Summer Intensive Dance Program and was accepted to the very competitive course. She traveled with her family to New York City for six days of dance classes with the Rockettes, dancing from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day with 50 other girls from all over the country.

Sammie plans to major in dance in college and hopes one day to audition to become a Rockette. She has been dancing since she was 4. Her recent dance roles include a tap dancing Christmas tree and Alice in “Alice in Wonderland.”

Julia Gullikson,
Holy Names High
School, Oakland

See Julia run. After a very successful cross-country season in which she placed eighth among the Division 5 runners in the state meet, she is preparing for a track season in which she will go the distance — 32,200 meters, 1,600 meters and 800 meters.

“I am so impressed with Julia’s work ethic,” said her coach, James McKinnon. “She had a goal, made plans, worked hard and is now enjoying the fruits of her labor. I’m sure Julia will continue to improve her times in college, and beyond. Her improvement from freshman to senior has been amazing, but not surprising knowing Julia. She has improved her three-mile time by five minutes.”

Rosa Magana (Holy Names, Class of 2006) met Julia at the finish line at the state meet to offer her congratulations. Rosa was the first Holy Names student to make it to the state cross country championship and Julia is the second. After graduating from Holy Names, Rosa went on to run for UCLA.

Julia is an excellent student and participates in many school activities. As part of her service-learning requirement, she works at OBUGS (Oakland Based Urban Gardens) and at St. Martin de Porres School, where she helps in their community garden. She is also active in the orchestra and has volunteered to play the violin at numerous school events.

Marco Del Rio, Junior
Moreau Catholic High School, Hayward

Marco Del Rio, a junior at Moreau Catholic High School, is a very talented vocalist and guitarist. As a tenor, he can sing many genres of music but he has a passion for Mariachi music. He was the youngest contestant on a Spanish talent show “Tengo Talento, Mucho Talento,” (“I have talent, great talent”) which aired on Estrella TV and is a very popular talent show in the Latino community. The Moreau Catholic community is proud of Marco as he made it all the way to the semi-final competition.

Marco has been singing since he was 5-years-old and has been a part of the Mariachi Juvenil de Hayward. He has also participated in the San Jose Mariachi Festival. He was graduated from St. Edward School in Newark.

At Moreau Catholic, Marco has participated in the Honors Choir and is enrolled in the Vocal Jazz class under the direction of Scott Barton. In October, he was accepted to the American Choral Director Association Coastal Region Honors Choir.

Angelica Pardo, Senior
St. Elizabeth High School, Oakland

Angelica plans to enroll in a four-year Catholic university after her graduation from St. Elizabeth, where she has made her mark not only as a stellar student but as a four-year member of the student council, as well as an active participant in campus ministry, the Latino Club and Youth Empowerment.

If you have taken a tour at St. Elizabeth, you may recognize her as one of the student ambassadors, eager to share her school with others. “I love the environment,” she said. “It’s hands-on in every subject.” She said being in a small school provides the opportunity to get to know students in every class. “It’s home,” she said. So much so, she might return one day — as a teacher.

Angelica says she is inspired by “my mom. She does everything for me. She has been in hard positions for my brother, my sister and me to go to the school.”

In her words: Strive for what you want to do. You can do it. Never give up on a dream of yours.

Haley Harmon,
Carondelet High School,

Haley Harmon serves as president of the Spiritual Life Council at Carondelet High School. The council is the student-led branch of Campus Ministry, working to create and implement prayer opportunities pertinent to the current needs and interests of students.

She is pictured calling to worship at Carondelet’s Mass of the Holy Spirit at the opening of the school year.

Haley would like to attend Santa Clara University for her undergraduate studies, with the future goal of becoming a pediatrician.

What motivates Haley, today and in the future: “My love, especially for children. Knowing that each person is a child of God, I want to do as much as I can.”

An Nguyen, Senior
Salesian High School, Richmond

“Constantly love the needy and the poor,” said St. John Bosco. An Nguyen, a senior at Salesian High School, has spent the past four years both inspired by and challenged by those words. She is a very active member of the thriving Campus Ministry Team, which not only assists in preparing for the Mass, but is involved in various community service projects.

She has volunteered at Camp St. Francis for the past two summers, and has been an active member of the Interact Club, seeking to provide a safer environment for those living in Third World countries by raising money for water filters and donating to the “Little Flock” orphanage in India.

Along with these activities, she has challenged herself academically, and has applied to colleges, including John’s Hopkins, University of San Diego and the University of California, Berkeley.

In her words: “I have learned here at the school of Don Bosco, to be what he claimed was the goal of education, a good and compassionate Christian and an upright and honest citizen. I know these are lessons I am learning for the whole of my life. I thank God every day for the opportunity I have been given here at Salesian High School.”

Alex Levesque, Senior
De La Salle High School, Concord

bob sansoe photo

Alex got involved with De La Salle High School when he was in grammar school, as a team manager for the Spartans baseball team when his older brother, Zakary, Class of 2007, played. “I liked the brotherhood I saw at De La Salle, and I wanted to be part of it,” Alex said. “I knew the academics were very good.” Alex’s favorite subject is math, and favorite recent reading is “The Hunger Games” trilogy. He hopes to attend Saint Mary’s College, and envisions a career in which he can be of service to others. “I would like to do something that really helps others, maybe working with people with disabilities.”

From a very young age, Alex has had severe physical symptoms from a never successfully diagnosed condition. An active student, he commutes to school in his Mini Cooper and gets around campus on a Revo mobility scooter. At the school’s Advent liturgy in 2011, Alex addressed the student body. Inspired by his speech, the football team captains named him an honorary captain and asked him to address the team before the state championship game on Dec. 17.

In the photo above, Alex (foreground) is pictured Dec. 2 with, from left, Jeff Houd, Joe Te’o and Anthony Williams.

Here is Alex’s pre-game address to the team:

“Never let anyone tell you that you can’t do something! My two least favorite words in the dictionary are: you can’t. I hate these words because that was all I heard growing up. Alex, you can’t play with the other kids because you’ll get hurt. Alex, you can’t go to DLS because you won’t be able to keep up. Alex, you can’t be “normal.”

It was these moments that I loved the most because after they told me I can’t, I got to look them in the eye and say, ‘I can and you will watch me as I achieve my goals.’ That is what I want you to do tonight. Every time the other team tells you that you can’t get a first down or stop their offense I want you to look them in the eye and say, ‘I can and you will watch me achieve my goals.’ You can and you will be state champions!”

Jack Soldavini,
Saint Mary’s
College High
School, Berkeley

Jack, who was graduated from Saint Theresa’s School in Oakland, is now a freshman at Saint Mary’s.

He is successfully engaged in academics and co-curricular activities, and is a member of the Panther basketball program. He’s looking forward to participating in the school’s annual Enrichment Week Program in March, and is still deciding which of the many interesting courses offered he will choose.

KC Waters, Junior
Bishop O’Dowd High School, Oakland

gerome wright photo

The Bay Area News Group named KC Waters among the “Players to Watch in 2012.” She might also be included on a list of “Musicians to Listen to in 2012.”

Along with teammates and classmates Oderah Chidom and Breanna Brown, KC is part of one of the most talented front lines in high school women’s basketball.

While she “brings toughness to the Dragons’ talented front line,” according to the basketball poll, she also brings some sweet sounds to the Bishop O’Dowd Advanced Jazz Band.

KC has been a real team player in band, says band director Fred Randolph. “She showed up out of nowhere wanting to audition for jazz band. It was immediately obvious that she had talent not just as an ensemble player but as a soloist. We have often featured her fiery tenor saxophone solos and last spring she won a citation for outstanding musicianship at the prestigious Reno Jazz Festival. We hope that is just the start!”


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