How one woman made sure her daughter was educated in the Catholic school system

By Hank Evers     1/30/2018

It is amazing to consider the distance some folks drive to have their children attend their school of choice.  

Note the operative words used here are “distance” and “drive.” In this case I am referring to a paraplegic single mom, suffering from cerebral palsy, in near constant pain, who begins her journey each day in a wheel chair and travels from her home in Riverside to Christ Cathedral Academy in Garden Grove. With her first-grade daughter, Grace, she begins each day at 6:00 a.m., riding to the train station with her daughter on her lap. When they arrive in Anaheim, they transfer to a bus that drops them off near Christ Cathedral. In the rain, Grace walks alongside holding the umbrella to keep them both dry. They have been making this trek for three years, since Grace started pre-school at age three. According to Debbie Vallas, the school’s principal, they are exemplary on all levels including attendance…and the fact that Grace has never been late for school.  

Grace’s mom is Sharon Nguyen. She is one of the happiest people I have ever met and it’s no wonder; her daughter Grace is a remarkably sweet, beautiful, and well-behaved child. Sharon quipped that Grace once said she didn’t want to get up at 5:30 a.m. Sharon said, “Fine. You can go to the public school down the street.” Quickly, Grace shot out of bed and said, “No problem. I’ll be ready soon.” For both of them, Christ Cathedral means easy accessibility for Sharon’s wheelchair and safety for Grace. For Grace, being able to pray and celebrate Catholic holy days while growing closer to Jesus is very important. Sharon views Christ Cathedral Academy students and staff as her family. She knows that she and her daughter are not only respected, but truly loved there. In many ways it is another home for them both.  

Other children have asked Grace about her mom and what it’s like to have a mother with disabilities. Sweetly, and with a smile, Grace replies, “That’s how God made my momma.”  

Given her challenges, Sharon is a determined woman. She continued her own education and received a Master’s Degree in Counseling from Argosy University. It may be obvious that Sharon is dedicated to her daughter. But she is also dedicated to her Catholic faith and to living as Jesus taught: to love and to serve others. Several days each week after Sharon drops Grace off at school she takes a bus to Lincoln Elementary School in Anaheim where she volunteers to help special education students read. Whenever the opportunity arrives, Sharon is among the first to volunteer.  

Sharon expressed her heartfelt gratitude to the Orange Catholic Foundation and its donors who helped her by providing tuition assistance so Grace could attend Christ Cathedral Academy. “Learning about families like Sharon Nguyen and her daughter Grace are a constant sense of motivation for our staff at the Orange Catholic Foundation,” said Cindy Bobruk, president and executive director of the foundation.  


List of Open Houses: 


Blessed Sacrament 

Jan. 2810:30 am – 1:00 pm 


Christ Cathedral Academy 

Jan. 2810:30 am – 1:30 pm 


Holy Family 

Jan. 2810:30 am – 12:00 pm 


La Purisma 

Jan. 2811:00 am – 1:00 pm 


Mission Basilica 

Jan. 2810:00 am – 1:00 pm 


Our Lady of Fatima Academy 

Jan. 289:00 am – 1:00 pm 


Our Lady of Guadalupe 

Jan. 289:00 am – 1:00 pm 


Our Lady Queen of Angels 

Jan. 289:30 am – 1:30 pm 


School of Our Lady 

Mar. 119:00 am – 1:00 pm 


St. Angela Marici 

Jan. 289:00 am – 1:00 pm 


St. Anne Parish School 

Feb. 49:45 am – 12:45 pm 


St. Barbara 

Jan. 2810:30 am – 12:30 pm 


St. Bonaventure 

Jan. 2810:00 am – 1:00 pm 


St. Catherine of Siena 

Feb. 15:00 pm – 8:00 pm 


St. Catherine’s Academy 

Feb. 15:30 pm – 7:00 pm 


St. Cecilia 

Jan. 2810:00 am – 12:00 pm 


St. Columban 

Jan. 2810:30 am – 2:00 pm 


St. Francis of Asisi 

Jan. 289:30 am – 1:30 pm 


St. Hedwig 

Jan. 2811:00 am – 1:00 pm 


St. Irenaeus 

Jan. 281:00 pm – 3:00 pm 


St. Jeanne De Lestonnac 

Feb. 28:00 am – 12:00 pm 


St. Joachim 

Jan. 2811:15 am – 2:00 pm 


St. John the Baptist 

Jan. 282:00 pm – 4:00 pm 


St. Joseph (Placentia) 

Jan. 289:00 am – 1:00 pm 


St. Joseph (Santa Ana) 

Feb. 259:00 am – 1:00 pm 


St. Juliana Falconieri 

Jan. 2810:00 am – 1:00 pm 


St. Justin Martyr 

Jan. 289:00 am – 12:00 pm 


St. Junipero Serra 

Jan. 2810:00 am – 12:00 pm 


St. Norbert 

Jan. 2810:00 am – 12:00 pm 


St. Pius V 

Jan. 2810:15 am – 2:00 pm 


St. Polycarp 

Jan. 288:30 am – 11:00 am 


Sts. Simon and Jude 

Jan. 289:45 am – 1:00 pm 


*** This is a partial list. Schools not included are St. Anne School (open house held Jan. 11) and The Parish School (Jan. 21). ***