Second of Two Parts
One student will play football in the Ivy League; another will pursue medicine at the University of Notre Dame. A third will study finance at Georgetown University; and a standout violin virtuoso looks forward to performing at Vanderbilt University.
Outstanding 2016 graduates from Orange County’s six Catholic high schools are diverse, impressive and compelling. OC Catholic was fortunate to speak with several of them prior to the commencement exercises that symbolically launch them into the world.
A passion for music
Juliet Kim, president of the Honor Society at Cornelia Connelly High School and editor of the school’s literary journal, The Eucalyptic, will leave La Palma for Nashville this fall. Kim has studied the violin for 14 years and is thrilled to be entering Vanderbilt University.
Excited by the opportunity to study with Professor Stephen Miahky, recently appointed the Joseph Joachim Professor of Violin, Kim was recognized as one of the Orange County Register’s Top 10 Varsity Artists of 2016.
“Vanderbilt is diverse and has a great core for academics,” Kim says. “I’ll be surrounded by peers who have similar high-achieving goals, who are motivated by their passions and want to achieve.”
Kim overcame a neurological speech/motor disorder with more than 9,100 hours of intensive therapy. She said she will miss Connelly’s tight-knit student body. Still, she is excited to begin her college adventure.
“I really love performing and want to pursue music,” she says. “I might also want to become a professor of music someday.”
In service to others
Haley Kempf has visited poor villages in Peru every summer for several years and hopes to go back after she enters the University of Notre Dame this fall.
“JSerra sponsors these trips to build houses, work with children with disabilities, distribute food and clothes,” Kempf explains. “It’s extremely rewarding to help sick people with simple tasks – it’s been a life-changing experience.”
She even was able to treat a wound that a small boy suffered thanks to the training of JSerra’ Medical Magnet program, which identifies students who will study advanced science to prepare them for medical school or scientific research. Her goal is to become a pediatrician.
She looks forward to Notre Dame because of its friendly atmosphere and spiritual emphasis, and wants to continue giving back to others. “I realize that medicine is the one field where you get paid to help people all day long and be God’s hands and feet to those in need.”
On the Ivy League gridiron
Conor O’Brien, a defensive back on the Lions varsity football team, bids goodbye to JSerra to study and play football for the University of Pennsylvania.
With a career goal in finance, O’Brien says he wanted to go to a university nationally recognized for both academic rigor and its football program. He looked at Princeton and Amherst, but felt most at home on the Philadelphia campus.
“I’ll miss the family at JSerra, where the faith community is strong and has kept me on the right track,” O’Brien says. His fondest memories are of the snow days JSerra hosts each Christmas, where hundreds of gallons of snow cover the entire quad.
O’Brien’s favorite class was marine biology, but he intends to pursue a career in asset management, hedge funds or a position elsewhere in the financial industry. “College is a big, different world,” he says, but one that he is anxious to face in the fall.
In the heart of the city
Choe Wallace has traveled the world with her family as a dual citizen (U.S. and Scotland), and she recently trekked to Europe as a delegate to the global leadership summit in Switzerland for high school government officers.
“We learned about global education and our place in the world as leaders,” Wallace recalls.
That spirit of world service is something Wallace says she’s honed in her four years at Mater Dei High School, where she’s been an ASB officer, member of the golf team and leader of the campus ministry. She speaks annually at Mater Dei’s Learning to Lead program for middle school students.
“Mater Dei has given me so much,” Wallace says. “It’s been a special privilege to attend this school.” Still, her acceptance to Georgetown means that she is one of 800 admitted to study out of more than 7,000 applicants. She says she looks forward to exploring the many cultural, government and arts landmarks in the Washington, D.C. area.
Big school, big baseball program
Alex Greene has played varsity baseball for the Servite Friars for four years, so it was natural for him to want to play college ball at a university known for its sports prowess.
Greene will study business on an academic merit scholarship at The Ohio State University. “I really liked the city of Columbus – it’s a nice city with lots of opportunities to find jobs while I’m in school,” he says. “They have a good business program so I know my degree will have some weight behind it.”
Greene says he will miss closeness of the Servite community. “I made some really good friends that will last a lifetime,” he says. “I couldn’t ask for a better set of friends.”
He most enjoyed his calculus class because math comes easily, but says he also enjoyed studying world religions. Following his undergraduate degree, he is considering earning an MBA.
Also graduating from Servite this spring are Brandon Martinez, who will do an internship this summer with the California legislature and then head to Harvard; Connor Clancy and Tim Lloyd, who will study at the Air Force Academy; and Zane Rojas, a soccer player who will be attending the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
In service to others
Nicolette Aguilar earned more than 1,000 service hours during her time at Cornelia Connelly High School – more than anyone can remember. Hearing about her many volunteer commitments, it’s hard to understand how she had time to study.
“Nicolette has the one of the biggest hearts that I know,” one of her teachers says. “She volunteers teaching at Our Lady of Perpetual Help School, helping children with disabilities learn their Catholic faith. Her supervisor said that Nicolette’s rapport with these students results in these special needs kids realizing gifts they never knew they had!”
Aguilar also is an active member and chair of the Assisteens League of Downey (a subgroup of Assistance League for teenagers), helping with programs such as Glamour Gowns and Operation School Bell. She is working on her Gold Award from the Girl Scouts and will be making and maintaining a vegetable garden at a Catholic elementary school in Los Angeles. Aguilar also played varsity volleyball and won “Most Inspirational Player” this year.
She plans to pursue nursing at San Francisco State University this fall and wants to become a nurse practitioner.
“I know I’ll miss my family and friends,” she admits, “but in order to go on in life we must move forward into a new chapter.”