By MIKE ZINN     12/1/2022

The OC Catholic’s series on Leadership in Orange County Catholic Schools spotlights the outstanding leaders throughout our county schools. This series also spotlights the great work of school administrators, staff, teachers and parents in the development of student leaders.

Depending on the source, there are upwards of 30 key traits of strong leaders.

St. Angela Merici’s eighth grade student Bridget Santana was decisive when asked what she thought was the most important trait of a leader.

“I believe compassion is the most important leadership trait someone can have,” she said. “Caring and wanting others to succeed, is very important.”

St. Angela Merici Principal JoAnn Telles and eighth grade homeroom teacher Jennifer Valencia further extolled the positive leadership traits of Santana. Valencia stated that she felt Santana’s best quality was her resiliency.

“No matter what is thrown her way, she stays on track and completes the task,” she said. Telles pointed to Santana’s winning personality.

“She has a million-dollar smile and a sweet but determined personality.”

Santana has had many years at St. Angela Merici to hone her leadership skills. Starting at the school in the Pre-K program has allowed Santana to experience all the various programs and offerings. An avid basketball player, Santana plays not only for the school team, but also for a local travel team. Basketball participation is on the horizon for her future as well. Santana would like to play the sport at Rosary High School and has the lofty goal of receiving a scholarship at women’s collegiate basketball powerhouse the University of Connecticut.

Balancing various activities at school and in the community is a challenge for all students. Santana has handled her various interests with her ability to see the big picture, set goals and be a strong independent person.

Academics are Santana’s major priority at St. Angela Merici. She is a well-rounded student and lists history as her favorite subject.

“My Grandma was a history teacher and from her, I developed a love of history,” she said.

Santana also likes to write, especially short stories. Valencia calls her a “great writer and is especially strong at forming an idea and taking it to completion.”

School activities are also a big part of Santana’s daily program. She is actively involved as an altar server, works with campus ministry and the new PALS program, (Peer Assistance Leaders at St. Angela Merici).

Both Valencia and Telles pointed out that the most significant activity Santana is involved with is campus ministry. She is the only eighth grader still involved in the ministry at school. She uses this to continue to mentor younger students and her faith is on display every day.

Being active and a leader outside of St. Angela Merici is also important to Santana. At the top of the list of volunteer activities are helping her mom at a Disney charity and working at parish fish frys. At an age where many eighth graders try to distance themselves from younger siblings, Santana helps as a scorekeeper for her brother’s baseball team.

Santana’s leadership style comes from many influences. A strong and supportive family unit has taught Santana to stay true to herself, be a strong independent person and not to be a follower. She lists her dad as a great family role model.

“He has taught me to always be respectful and overcome adversity,” she said.

Santana said Rosa Parks is her historical role model.

“She had great courage to stand-up for what she believed in and I would like to live this sort of life.”

When asked what she was most proud of from her time at St. Angela Merici, Santana gave a humble response.

“Being named Disciple of the Month, for nine consecutive years at St. Angela Merici.”

Bonding with students in all grades, acting as a strong role model in the Big Buddy program and being a patient friend, mentor, classmate and teammate make Bridget Santana a model leader for Orange County Catholic Schools.