The top of the graduating class of 2018 is a credit to the tradition of Catholic education

By Meg Waters     6/20/2018

Orange County’s Catholic High School graduates continue to shine academically and personally. Rosary Academy in Fullerton, Mater Dei in Santa Ana and Cornelia Connelly in Anaheim have recently yielded a bumper crop of high achievers who, stepping out from their great foundation, are destined to soar in whichever direction they choose to fly. 

Rosary Academy offers young women a “climate in which female students can express themselves freely and frequently and develop higher-order thinking skills.” Rosary “Royals” are three times more likely to excel at STEM and go on to pursue degrees in engineering than their co-ed peers. They emerge engaged, self-confident, and as women with strong leadership skills prepared for the real world.  

Rosary’s valedictorian, Leena Carvalho, is an excellent example of a “Royal Woman.” With the recommendation of U.S. Representative Ed Royce, Leena will be attending the United States Naval Academy this fall, with a full scholarship. While at Rosary she was a member of the varsity soccer team, the Royal ambassador program, a cabinet member of the California Scholarship Federation and Associated Student Body cabinet member. She was a faith leader in Campus Ministry and a member of the Peer Assistance Leadership program to provide peer-to-peer mediation for her classmates. Outside school she also served as a volunteer confirmation teacher at St. Angela Merici’s youth ministry, and volunteered at Higher Ground youth and family services in Anaheim. All this and great grades, too. 

Another Royal destined for greatness is Salma Rocha, who will be attending UC Berkeley in the fall with an academic scholarship in hand. While at Rosary she participated in varsity tennis and held leadership positions in Campus Ministry, was Junior Class Treasurer and was a member of the Royal Ambassador program. She took the lead in coordinating the first Women in STEM event at Rosary, which included a variety of guest speakers. In her junior year she served as vice president of the Model United Nations (MUN) club, which won Club of the Year and a Research Award, and was a commendation delegate. She was president of MUN in her senior year where she helped fundraise for the club and UNICEF, and attended two conferences representing the school. She was also a cabinet member for the National Honors Society and California Scholarship Federation.  

The Monarchs of Mater Dei are one of Orange County’s powerhouse sports high schools, but the school can be equally proud of the scholars who hail from the Diocese’ oldest Catholic high school. Valedictorian Jane Huynh is both an artist and scholar. She earned a 4.61 GPA, including AP Studio Art, in her senior year. She will attend Swarthmore College, which is frequently ranked best Liberal Arts college in the U.S. and has one of the highest rates of undergrads who eventually earn a PhD. Jane volunteered more than 300 service hours at Mater Dei and has been active in many campus clubs including ASB, as a Scarlett Ambassador, in Key Club, CSF, NHS, Campus Ministry, NAHS and she co-founded the Mater Dei book club. She received the Jack Kent Cook Foundation Collage scholarship of up to $160,000 over 4 years. 

Baccalaureate Speaker Natalie Smale earned a 4.65 GPA and will be attending UCLA where she plans to study engineering. It is interesting to note the number of Catholic high school women graduates like Natalie who are excelling in STEM and going on to study engineering or related fields. She has more than 250 service hours and was president of CSF in her senior year. She received scholarships from several distinguished universities.  

Another outstanding Monarch scholar is Lucy O’Hara, who earned a 4.37 GPA. She will be going to Scotland in the fall to attend the University of St. Andrews and will then transfer to the College of William and Mary, completing two bachelor’s degrees in just four years. She completed more than 150 service hours and was also involved in the performing arts and her parish youth group.  

Cornelia Connelly in Anaheim was the Alma Mater of Harvard University’s first female Valedictorian, Susan Doherty ’83, so it’s no surprise that the outstanding women graduates continue the tradition of academic excellence, especially in STEM coursework. Colleen Wolfe was awarded the $40,00 STEM scholarship from Southern California Edison. While in high school, Colleen was sponsored by Toyota to build a hydrogen car. She was also senior class president. She plans on attending UC San Diego, majoring in Science and Engineering. 

Amy Borbridge, Senior class VP, earned a 4.52 GPA and earned an academic scholarship. She was a National Merit Finalist and was also awarded a scholarship from the Allergan Foundation. She volunteered and held leadership positions in many extracurricular activities and was also an athlete, excelling in soccer. She will be heading to the Pacific Northwest, to Gonzaga University in the fall.  

As the class of ’18 progress to the class of ’22 and beyond, they will bring to their careers and personal life an education founded on a love of learning and a strong Catholic foundation. Siempre Adelante!