Tribute to the Class of 2016
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 2016.
Bishop O'Dowd High School, Oakland
College attending: Stanford
To study: Computer Science
What book changed your thinking? After reading Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World," I realized that social order and freedom are often opposites — anarchy and authoritarianism being the extremes — that must be balanced.
One accomplishment? I'm proud of overcoming my fear of public speaking through debate; now I speak much more fluently in front of crowds, whether impromptu or prepared.
What can the church do to keep youth engaged? Continue the Pope's movement toward greater tolerance on modern social issues..
College attending: Harvard University
To study: Molecular and Cellular Biology and English
What book changed your thinking? The book that most changed the way I think was "The Sun Also Rises," by Ernest Hemingway. I found the existential struggle of Jake, the protagonist, to be particularly intriguing and it made me really consider how I find and implement meaning in my own life.
One accomplishment? One thing that I am proud of accomplishing in high school is receiving the National Council of Teachers of English Achievement Award in writing for my essay on anti-transcendentalism in Herman Melville's "Bartleby, the Scrivener" and Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter."
What can the church do to keep youth engaged? I think that faith-based institutions in general can keep young adults engaged in their communities by addressing issues that young adults are concerned with and interested in, such as certain social justice movements..
Carondelet High School, Concord
College attending: University of California, Berkeley
What book changed your thinking? "Paradise Beneath Her Feet: How Women Are Transforming the Middle East," by Isobel Coleman. I was inspired by the courageous women who embrace both Islam and feminism. Their unrelenting dedication to equality and prosperity has influenced my perception of global issues.
One accomplishment? I am proud to have pursued my academic and athletic passions at the highest levels. Outside of the classroom, I am honored to be a student, teacher, fighter, and world class competitor through East West Kung Fu. I will continue studying martial arts for the rest of my life.
What can the church do to keep youth engaged? We, the youth, are passionate about improving the lives of the neglected, impoverished, discriminated, and imprisoned. We support the Church and her work, however, we struggle with her social teachings that seem to be inconsistent with the greater mission of Catholicism in our modern world.
College attending: University of Southern California
What book changed your thinking? In the beginning of my junior year I read "The Messenger," by Markus Zusak. This was one of my favorite books because of its emphasis on how important it is to care about each other. This book is proof that we can live beyond what we think we are capable of.
One accomplishment? Soccer has always been one of the most constant and important things in my life. It has challenged me mentally and physically, and truly shaped who I am today. Though we finished second in NCS, it was such an incredible experience as I watched my teammates grow individually and as a whole. I have never been so emotionally invested in a team, nor have I ever been so proud to be a part of one.
What can the church do to keep youth engaged? It is extremely important we keep church vibrant. There is so much about our religion that revolves around joy and happiness, and I think that we could collectively do a better job at exemplifying this through our attitude at Mass and in prayer. Teenagers want a place where they are able to feel carefree, welcomed and happy, and not enough recognize that this can be found through God.
De La Salle High School, Concord
College attending: Harvard University
To study: Applied Mathematics and Economics
What book changed your thinking? Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" has made me think about U.S. foreign policy, especially during this election. The novel criticizes England's rationale that benevolence justified their Imperialism. Sometimes, as Catholics and Americans, we justify unwanted intervention in similar ways. It's important to be considerate of other perspectives to avoid overreaching.
One accomplishment? I'm proud of becoming an Eagle Scout. For my service project, I installed backpack hooks at St. Isidore School in Danville with the help of friends and volunteers. We had to fundraise and plan everything well in advance. Scouting enabled me to become a better leader and serve others.
What can the church do to keep youth engaged? Develop stronger youth groups that include "hands on" involvement in our communities. Teens like to work together socially for a cause.
College attending: Reed College in Portland, Oregon
To study: English
What book changed your thinking? "Moby Dick," by Herman Melville made me realize that I love reading, and convinced me to care about English class (and now I'm pursuing a degree in English). Ishmael, Ahab, and that inscrutable leviathan taught me that I will enjoy the world only if I am accepting of the unknown.
One accomplishment? Our school did not have an improv team until I started one with my best friend this year. We gathered a ragtag group of novices and veterans, rehearsed, and organized a show, all on our own. Nerves for the show were high, but so was our energy, and we performed well and had an exhilarating time.
What can the church do to keep youth engaged? Remind students that the message of Christ was a very radical one. I converted to Catholicism after visiting the border, where I learned that Jesus' unconditional love excludes no one.
Holy Names High School, Oakland
College attending: Carleton College, Minnesota
To study: Undecided
What book changed your thinking? "A Raisin in the Sun" is the book that influenced me the most this year. It touched me on a personal level in that it reflects my own cultural background and experience as an African-American woman. It reinforced the value of consideration for others and unity, even through hardship.
One accomplishment? I am proud of my personal development and the fact that I've realized life is about more than my own personal achievements. I am proud of my values and my commitment to serving others.
What can the church do to keep youth engaged? The Catholic Church can reach the youth by incorporating alternative forms of praise. Gospel music is one such avenue through which younger people can express their faith in an upbeat and lively way.
College attending: Yale
To study: Undecided/History
What book changed your thinking? I enjoyed reading the book "1984" because it explored the importance of history, freedom, human relationships and more. I was inspired to study history because it showed me the role history plays in shaping our present and future. This book made me see the world I live in through new eyes and inspired me to work towards ensuring that no one ever feels like they are limited or stripped of what makes them human.
One accomplishment? I am most proud of my summer research internship pushed me out of my comfort zone as I researched a lipoprotein, HDL, in a laboratory. It was intimidating to be in a lab with four people with PhD's and I feared failing. In the end, I was able to make my ideas heard. I learned so much and my results were even published by the lab.
What can the church do to keep youth engaged? The Catholic Church can put more emphasis on the importance of community service. I believe that we should all follow the approach of Catholicism that Pope Francis sets in being an advocate for the environment, the poor, and all those who are voiceless. The youth should be inspired to lead a life similar to Christ's.
Moreau Catholic High School, Hayward
College attending: Cornell University
Shunyao "Harry" Zhang
To study: Political Science
What book changed your thinking? "Jazz," by Toni Morrison changed my life by teaching me that life is what I make of it and everyone has the power to find hope and joy.
One accomplishment? I am proud of organizing and leading Father Moreau Day, a day dedicated to service and social justice, in honor of Blessed Basil Moreau, founder of Holy Cross.
What can the church do to keep youth engaged? The Catholic Church can organize retreats, encourage community service and emphasize the relevance of faith in our busy lives.
College attending: New York University
To study: Film and Television Production
What book changed your thinking? "The Hours," by Michael Cunningham. Having watched the movie adaption eight times, I was even more captivated by this delicate story when I read the book. An eulogy about death, "The Hours" has taught me to cherish my everyday life and live with compassion and aspiration.
One accomplishment? My ability to allow myself to be inspired by people around me.
What can the church do to keep youth engaged? At Moreau, we are asked to produce media projects in classes like Catholic Social Teaching and Moral Theology. I find the process of exploring the religion through using technology enriching and informative. The Catholic Church can engage media and technology in teaching the younger generation about the life of the Church.
Saint Elizabeth High School, Oakland
College attending: California State University, East Bay
To study: Business Management
What book changed your thinking? The book I read that changed my way of thinking was "Fahrenheit 451" because it showed me that I shouldn't be a follower but a leader to make change for the better.
One accomplishment? Something I'm proud of accomplishing is being vice president, salutatorian and being more interactive with my school and my community. I also try to be a role model to my little brother.
What can the church do to keep youth engaged? The Catholic Church can keep youth engaged by having more events that are of interest to young adults like food drives and Church-related events. The Church community should also visit the elementary schools.
College attending: San Francisco State University
To study: Mechanical Engineering
What book changed your thinking? The book that most changed my way of thinking is "A Child Called 'It'", by Dave Pelzer. The book gave me a different perspective on life. It also made me realize that I shouldn't take the things I have for granted.
One accomplishment? One thing that I am proud of accomplishing in high school is being the valedictorian. Becoming the valedictorian helped me understand what my true potential is.
What can the church do to keep youth engaged? What the Church can do to keep young adults engaged in the Church is give teenage examples. People from the Church should relate to them in a way they will understand. They should talk to them directly about real life examples.
Saint Joseph Notre Dame High School, Alameda
College attending: Seattle University
To study: Undeclared
What book changed your thinking? You can't read a Ray Bradbury book and not put it down unchanged. By taking humanity and placing it in wild mythological science-fiction contexts, he forces you to think about your own humanity with a whole new perspective. "The Illustrated Man" taught me to question everything and push the limits of imagination.
One accomplishment? I am proud of my role in founding and leading the Fandom Club on campus. I am most proud of the way we bring people together and allow them to be unapologetically enthusiastic about Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars or whatever they love.
What can the church do to keep youth engaged? The most valuable thing that keeps me engaged at Church is my small group. Providing a place for Christian community and friendship is really important. This encourages service and dialogue about the issues the Church is facing. We just want to feel loved and included in the conversation.
Aaron Thomas Ramos
College attending: University of California, San Diego
To study: Chemical Engineering
What book changed your thinking? Despite the overall sad tone of the story, J.D. Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye" has helped me to cherish every moment of my life, especially these fleeting moments of youth and adolescence.
One accomplishment? I am proud of being selected as valedictorian after four years of working hard in my academic studies.
What can the church do to keep youth engaged? Many young adults stray away from the Church because sometimes the Church does not emphasize its primary mission to spread love. Therefore, I believe that the Church as a whole should stress the importance of this mission as much as it promotes Scripture and other teachings.
Saint Mary’s College High School, Berkeley
Roberto Saldana Jr
College attending: Saint Mary's College of California
Julia M. Ward
To study: Business and Marketing
What book changed your thinking? "The Bluest Eye," by Toni Morrison. This book made me realize that race has a significant impact on everyone. At a very young age, we begin to see that there are certain races that are different to others which impact the world and our perspective on other races.
One accomplishment? I am proud of the strong connections and relationships that I was able to make with the students, faculty and staff at Saint Mary's. These relationships helped me build my confidence which has helped me become the person I am today.
What can the church do to keep youth engaged? The Catholic Church should apply Jesus' teachings to the lives of today's youth to engage them in the Church.
College attending: University of California, Los Angeles
To study: Undeclared/Social Science Major
What book changed your thinking? In my Epistemology class, we read "You Are Not So Smart," by David McRaney. Each chapter focused on a different bias, effect or fallacy that leads to self-delusion. The book changed the way I think because it explained how our brain tricks us.
One accomplishment? For all four years of high school, I was a member of the SALT Club, the service club at my school. This year, I was elected SALT leader. I was very proud to receive this honor because it meant that I was making a difference in the eyes of my peers.
What can the church do to keep youth engaged? The Catholic Church can offer support and guidance to help young adults navigate a religiously diverse community, which is especially found in college communities.
Salesian College Preparatory, Richmond
Kimberly J. Hoh
College attending: University of California, Los Angeles
To study: Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology
What book changed your thinking? The "Epic of Gilgamesh" most changed the way I think because it made me remember how important friendships are to a person's character development and how difficult it is for anyone to handle grief and loss.
One accomplishment? I am proud of achieving a personal best of 4' 7" in the high jump because even though it is not particularly high in absolute terms, I know I put in hard work to achieve it.
What can the church do to keep youth engaged? I think that the Catholic Church should just keep spreading the message of God's love because any adversity, big or small, can be handled with His help and this is important for anyone in any stage of life.
College attending: University of California, Berkeley
To study: Molecular and Cell Biology: Immunology and Pathogenesis
What book changed your thinking? I used to think grief was something you could just get over, but when my grandmother passed, that changed. I found solace in the "Epic of Gilgamesh," which taught me that grief wasn't a sign of weakness and required the same amount of care as any physical wound.
One accomplishment? I was a camp counselor last summer and managed to get one of the more guarded campers to open up about her problems back at home. Providing a safe place for my kids to express themselves just by being present is something I will always be proud of. "Presence" comes from my Salesian experience which I will always carry with me.
What can the church do to keep youth engaged? The best way to engage/keep the members of a congregation is to adopt doctrine that is more accepting and welcoming. After all, Jesus opened his arms the widest to the outcasts of society.
back to top