BLOOMFIELD – Fifty-four high school seniors and the teachers who inspired them most shared honors on April 27 at the Superintendent’s Summa Scholar Awards ceremony at the Archdiocesan Center at St. Thomas Seminary.
The awards are presented annually to seniors from the eight high schools in the Archdiocese of Hartford
Inaugurated in 2011 by Dale R. Hoyt, superintendent of Catholic schools, the program bestows the highest honor for academic achievement in secondary education within the archdiocese.
Selection as a Summa Scholar requires the student to represent the top 5 percent of his or her graduating class in terms of outstanding academic achievement over the four years, based on the cumulative grade point average. Each school’s chief administrator identifies qualifying Summa Scholars.
The schools are Lauralton Hall in Milford, East Catholic High School in Manchester, Holy Cross High School and Sacred Heart High School in Waterbury, Northwest Catholic High School in West Hartford, St. Paul Catholic High School in Bristol, Notre Dame High School in West Haven and Sacred Heart Academy in Hamden.
The award itself, a bronze medallion on a bright red and gold ribbon, is engraved with the crest of the Archdiocese of Hartford, the words, “Give me truth through faith, wisdom and knowledge,” and the scholar’s name.
Dr. Hoyt thanked the parents and guardians, teachers and administrators for their sacrifices and collective efforts on behalf of Catholic school education in the Archdiocese of Hartford.
“The academic and personal success of these Summa Scholars from the Class of 2015,” he said, “would not have happened without you.”
He said the Summa Scholars are given an opportunity to select and thank publicly one Catholic school teacher, from either elementary or high school years, for having made a lasting impression. That teacher is invited to the ceremony, recognized as an honored teacher, presented a certificate of appreciation and then toasted in a speech by the Summa Scholar.
Dr. Hoyt said these speeches have become his favorite part of each year’s ceremony, always evoking surprise and pleasure. He said he also enjoys the teachers’ comments at the reception afterward.
In remarks that offered spiritual and historical reflection on the important work of Catholic administrators and educators as they infuse principles of Catholic social teaching into the Catholic school curriculum, Dr. Hoyt quoted Pope Francis and two American leaders.
Pope Francis, he said, speaks about the Catholic school curriculum as an educational environment where one grows by learning how to live and how to become mature men and women. He recited, and repeated, the Pope’s words: “This means having a big heart, having a greatness of soul, and being merciful. It means having grand ideals and the desire to achieve great things in response to what God asks of you.”
He quoted the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “to make a career of humanity,” and of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, “to move forward with strong and active faith.”
True to Dr. Hoyt’s observation, when the students took to the microphone to honor their special teachers and offer thanks for the memories, their speeches varied greatly.
The students expressed certain sentiments over and over again, however. They cited inspiration, dedication, guidance, commitment, passion, and very often humor, among the teachers’ attributes.
James Jordano of Northwest Catholic High School, whose honored teacher was Ronald Swanson, told The Transcript that for him the award is the conclusion of four years of dedicated work in a Catholic institution, a “nice culmination.”
Brandon Arnold, from Sacred Heart High School, honored Sandra Nagle, his freshman and senior year English teacher. He said he was honored and that “being able to honor my teacher who helped me get to where I am today is also a great honor.”
Monica Nicholas, whose daughter Kaitlyn is a Summa Scholar from Northwest Catholic, said “it is an honor and a delight to be here.” Kaitlyn honored Sister Angela Marie Castellani, a Franciscan Sister of the Eucharist.
Sister Angela told The Transcript that she was very proud and humbled to be honored. She called Kaitlyn a good role model and said she felt blessed to have had her in her classroom.
“She’s definitely brought a lot of joy and enthusiasm. She’s a wonderful faithful young woman that I’m proud to send out to college, and she’ll probably be a wonderful witness to many of her classmates in college, so I look forward to seeing what she will become.”
Danielle Beam, of Sacred Heart Academy, said that after her teacher, Richard Marino, inspired her to believe in herself, she now hopes to inspire others to work hard, persevere and trust that God has a plan. Danielle’s mother, Rev. Gabrielle Beam, said, “As an Anglican priest with a daughter in Catholic school, I could not have been more blessed and pleased. Everyone there could not have been more caring.”