Tribute to the Class of 2015
Here are some of this year's outstanding graduates of the Catholic high schools in the Oakland Diocese. The Catholic Voice salutes them and all graduates of the Class of 2015.
Bishop O'Dowd High School, Oakland
College attending: Kenyon College
To study: Undecided
What book changed your thinking? Susan Cain's "Quiet" most influenced the way I thought about the way we, as humans, interact with one another. It validated my quiet tendencies, taught me the vocabulary to advocate for myself and other quiet people, and empowered me to overcome my own shyness while embracing my introversion.
One accomplishment? I am most proud of cultivating an active and diverse Bishop O'Dowd Feminist Club. As co-president, I organized gender- and equality-themed prayers for Women's History Month in the hopes of creating a lasting tradition.
What can the church do to keep youth engaged? The church has done well adapting ancient, sacred teachings to a rapidly changing modern world in recent years. Continuing to adjust its message to make all people, particularly women, feel equal, respected and welcome would keep a lot of young people of all genders interested in the Catholic Church.
College attending: UC Berkeley or UCLA
To study: Mechanical Engineering
What book changed your thinking? "Calvin and Hobbes!" I read these comics because they reminded me to never approach life too seriously and remember to laugh.
One accomplishment? I attended the Young Scholars Research Program at UC Davis to study the creation of methane biofuels from sanitated food processor waste.
What can the church do to keep youth engaged? Preach, teach and act in ways of tolerance and inclusion.
Carondelet High School, Concord
College attending: Vanderbilt University
To study: Psychology
What book changed your thinking? During my junior year, we read a book called "The Things They Carried," by Tim O'Brien, a collection of short stories about the Vietnam War. It taught me about perspective both in writing in life, and how the truth you remember and the truth that happened can be different things.
One accomplishment? During my time at Carondelet I've gotten very involved with our Campus Ministry, leading worship at our liturgies. I am proud of the leadership skills I've developed, and the work that I am trying to let God do through me.
What can the church do to keep youth engaged?I believe that young adults have the power to make real change within the Church now. The Catholic Church will engage more youth if they focus on the youth now, instead of setting us aside for the future. Kids in the church should be encouraged to get involved and speak up, and the Church should listen to what we have to say.
College attending: Boston College
To study: Mathematics
What book changed your thinking? I read the book "Left to Tell," written by a woman who survived the Rwandan Holocaust. The trials she endured and her ability to keep her faith in the midst of such destruction changed the way I viewed the blessings in my own life.
One accomplishment? I am proud of being a Shalom junior retreat leader and Kairos senior retreat leader in high school. I not only formed lasting friendships with the retreatants and fellow leaders, but I also helped challenge the way others perceive their faith, themselves, and those around them.
What can the church do to keep youth engaged? I think personal involvement is key to keeping young adults engaged in the Church. I was active in liturgies as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion and through Spiritual Life Council, where we planned and prepared the school's liturgies. My participation during Mass inspires me to stay involved and active in the Church.
De La Salle High School, Concord
College attending: Harvard University
Matthew M. Schumann
To study: Economics
What book changed your thinking? The book I read that most changed the way I thinks is, "The Way of Kings," by Brandon Sanderson. It changed my perspective on what leadership is and what it means to be a good leader.
One accomplishment? I am proud of being chosen as valedictorian of my graduating class.
What can the church do to keep youth engaged? To make Church life more engaging, the Church should make Masses more interesting. Some more upbeat songs and less rigid responses would be a step in the right direction.
College attending: University of Portland (Honors Program)
To study: English with Pre-Med
What book changed your thinking? Homer's "Odyssey" most changed the way I thought by prompting me to consider the legacy I would want to leave on the earth through my familial and societal contributions.
One accomplishment? I am proud of the appreciation I have acquired for literature in high school because I know it is a skill I can carry with me throughout my life.
What can the church do to keep youth engaged? The Catholic Church can heed Pope Francis' recent example and adopt modern modes of communication to reach out to society's youth and engage them in the life of the Church.
Holy Names High School, Oakland
College attending: Macalester College
To study: Undecided (Interested in Journalism and Pre-Law)
What book changed your thinking? Orwell's "1984" portrays social extremes and dystopian society that is clearly fictitious, yet the themes of governmental oppression and manipulation are relatable to today's world in some aspects. "1984" opened my eyes to flaws in our society and taught me to ask questions as opposed to believing everything I'm told.
One accomplishment? Graduating from high school with honors signifies all the hard work I have put into my education. I am overjoyed to walk across the stage at graduation as a first-generation student who overcame obstacles in order to make my family proud and to go on to bigger, better things.
What can the church do to keep youth engaged? I believe one thing that keeps young adults engaged is seeing the church evolve with our ever-changing society. In order to maintain participation and interest, it is vital for the Catholic Church to continue to fight for things such as human rights and world peace.
College attending: Cornell University
To study: Industrial and Labor Relations
What book changed your thinking? For AP English summer reading, we read "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," by Ken Kesey. The fact that the narrator is an institutionalized schizophrenic made it fascinating because I'm interested in psychology. It also opened my eyes to the very different ways people perceive the world around them.
One accomplishment? I had one of the main roles in this year's musical. I was proud of myself for stepping out of my comfort zone by playing an evil character and for getting on stage in front of so many people — something I was far too shy to do freshman year.
What can the church do to keep youth engaged? Holy Names takes us on a lot of service learning trips that help me better understand the importance of my faith by putting it into action. I think if more parishes implemented similar programs for teens, we would take more active roles in our church communities.
Moreau Catholic High School, Hayward
College attending: University of California, Berkeley
To study: Computer Science
What book changed your thinking? Ray Bradbury is a magician and "The Golden Apples of the Sun" does not disappoint. His talent in illustrating beautiful stories each with very simple, yet wise messages definitely makes me search for lessons or understandings in even the smallest events that happen around me.
One accomplishment? Time management has really allowed me to stay on top of my game not only in the classroom, but also in the pool, on the stage, and everywhere in between. Putting work before play has been the driving force behind my efforts.
What can the church do to keep youth engaged? As a student that has attended a Christian school since kindergarten, I can only say that the Church should give each student an opportunity to actively be a key member of traditional Catholic rituals such as Mass and/or daily prayer.
College attending: University of California, Los Angeles
To study: Pre-International Development Studies
What book changed your thinking? "Jazz," by Toni Morrison completely shifted my perspective toward the nature of life itself as well as humans' ability to seek redemption.
One accomplishment? I'm the Digital Media Coordinator for Interact District's 5170. It's a club in partnership with Rotary dedicated to providing community service. One of my proudest moments in high school was probably seeing the videos that I filmed and edited showcasing our international and community projects shown to over 4,000 people during our Fall Leadership Conference.
What can the church do to keep youth engaged? I think the Catholic Church can keep young adults engaged in the life of the church simply by keeping up with the changing culture in society. I think if the Catholic Church is seen as a relatable institution rather than an unchanging one, young adults would be more drawn to remain engaged.
Saint Elizabeth High School, Oakland
Joelyn Joy 'JJ' Badilla
College attending: San Francisco State University
To study: Pre-Nursing
What book changed your thinking? "Peace is Every Step" changed the way I think because it helped me view others and myself in a more positive and understanding way.
One accomplishment? One thing that I am proud of accomplishing in high school is getting out of my comfort zone. With new challenges every day it gets overwhelming, but overcoming these obstacles with the support and encouragement of my St. Elizabeth family, helped me develop into who I am now.
What can the church do to keep youth engaged? To keep young adults engaged in the life of the church, the Catholic Church can continue talking about real life issues that young adults face. In addition, perhaps actions can take place to support their views on these issues, following the old adage, "actions speak louder than words."
College attending: University of California, Merced
To study: Computer Science
What book changed your thinking? "The Alchemist" made an impact on me because it teaches students about overcoming obstacles in life and how overcoming those obstacles shapes your destiny. This changed the way I perceived my future. Now, I know I can make it my own.
One accomplishment? I am proud of how far I have come in my education and as a young adult. When I first started at St. Elizabeth, I was overwhelmed and nervous. Today, I am comfortable with my new family, prepared for college and ready to move forward with confidence.
What can the church do to keep youth engaged? Everyone needs to be treated like they are welcome. I think that the Catholic Church needs to continue communicating with everyone to build a stronger foundation of faith.
Saint Joseph Notre Dame High School, Alameda
College attending: New York University
To study: Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
What book changed your thinking? "The Great Gatsby" changed the way I think because it taught me that we are all vulnerable and have our own insecurities. In the book, Mr. Gatsby was very popular and known as the "man of the town", but on the inside he was a sad man, never satisfied with his life. This showed me that not everyone is who you think they are, and that everyone needs help and a good friend.
One accomplishment? Being the class of 2015's Salutatorian.
What can the church do to keep youth engaged? The Catholic Church can offer study groups or hangout sessions where young adults can study for school and talk to one another. It'll be a great way to prepare for tests and interact with other students.
College attending: University of California, Los Angeles
To study: Undeclared, Social Sciences
What book changed your thinking? "A Raisin in the Sun," by Lorraine Hansberry. There are many things one may wish to do but put off for more "realistic" goals, but doing so can create a terrible habit of avoiding the pursuit of what she really loves. I am reminded to not let the standards of others or outward pressures change my beliefs or dreams.
One accomplishment? Being committed to two sports all four years of high school while maintaining straight A's throughout.
What can the church do to keep youth engaged? The Catholic Church can continue to provide various opportunities for youth to come in and reconnect with God even when our faith may not be the highest priority in our lives. Oftentimes in high school, students become extremely concerned with school work or their social life, causing their faith to be pushed to the back burner.
Saint Mary’s College High School, Berkeley
College attending: UC Berkeley
To study: Geography and City Planning
What book changed your thinking? Ernest J. Gaines' "A Lesson Before Dying" has taught me the inherently genuine human connection between us all. As Grant Wiggins teaches Jefferson, a convicted murderer, how to read before his execution, they both come to understand the value of interpersonal relationships and our interdependence as human beings.
One accomplishment? Becoming the captain of the varsity soccer team. I remember my freshman year I was unsure about even making the JV team, but after three years the coach saw something in me and wanted me to lead this past year's squad.
What can the church do to keep youth engaged? Because young adulthood is a serious transition period and we are easily susceptible to making bad decisions to "fit in," I think that the Church can make stronger efforts to cater to the youth, the future of the practice, to create a welcoming and nurturing environment for young people. I think this can be done through music and through the social media.
College attending: Georgetown University
To study: Undeclared Minor
What book changed your thinking? In my philosophy class, we read, "A Little History of Philosophy," by Nigel Warburton — the teachings of Frederick Nietzsche and contemporary philosophers like Cornel West. It opened my eyes to the power of privilege in our society and pushed me to rethink my daily decisions.
One accomplishment? Our Food Drive was not going as successful as in the past and we were not going to make our goal. I came up with the idea to organize a teacher dance-off as an incentive to get students to make contributions. Students responded immediately to the faculty support and brought in food.
What can the church do to keep youth engaged? Our world is changing and young people are shaking waters that have been still for a long time. If the church can follow the example of Pope Francis, by spreading the message of acceptance of ALL people, young people today would stay engaged in the faith.
Salesian College Preparatory, Richmond
Nikki Liv Basas
College attending: University of California, Irvine
To study: Nursing
What book changed your thinking? "Gilgamesh: A Verse Narrative," by Herbert Mason, graces the themes of existential angst and the inexorability of death. Everyone in this world has or will experience the loss of a loved one, and this classic tale, brimming with lyrical diction and astonishingly familiar sensations, is cathartic in its midst.
One accomplishment? Getting through the SAT, the final round of Rotary's District 5160 4-Way Test Speech Contest, and my junior prom all on the same day!
What can the church do to keep youth engaged? Continue to invite! I am always willing and ready to take part in the celebration of Mass through singing and reading, and I absolutely adore working with children through annual Bible camps at Saint Patrick Parish in Rodeo. Through invitation, church has become a significant part in my life.
College attending: University of California, Davis
To study: Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior
What book changed your thinking? "Ironwood," by William Kennedy. The novel captures the life of an impoverished man who punishes himself for his tainted past decisions. Over the course of events, he learns to forgive himself and reunites with his loving family. This novel opened my mind to the reality of redemption in the midst of mistakes and regrets.
One accomplishment? Being in the drama productions throughout high school has been a joyful and rewarding experience. Surrounded by an encouraging cast and director, I am proud to have portrayed characters that challenged my own abilities and helped me grow in confidence.
What can the church do to keep youth engaged? I think we should continue to involve young adults in religious leadership roles, such as counselors for Catholic youth groups, or liturgy in Mass.
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