BLOOMFIELD – Fifty-three Catholic high school seniors recognized for outstanding academic achievement shared honors with the teachers who inspired them most during the archdiocesan Summa Scholar Award ceremony and reception on April 24 at the Archdiocesan Center at St. Thomas Seminary.
Each year, the award is presented to high school seniors from eight Catholic high schools within the Archdiocese of Hartford. Summa scholars placed in the top 5 percent of their graduating class, based on cumulative grade point average. Each school’s president or principal identifies the scholars.
During the awards ceremony, teachers, school administrators and parents filled the auditorium to recognize the students’ superior academic performance and to witness their expressions of gratitude toward their teachers.
“It’s really wonderful to have this opportunity to recognize the extraordinary academic achievements of a group of young people who have devoted themselves to such exceptional pursuit of knowledge,” said Dr. Michael S. Griffin, superintendent of Catholic schools. “It’s also wonderful to recognize some very special teachers — people who by your words and example have led and inspired and guided each of our young awardees along the way.”
Superintendent Griffin presented the awards, placing a bronze medallion on a red and gold ribbon around the neck of each summa scholar. Then each scholar spoke briefly about the teacher who inspired him or her the most, while that teacher also shared the stage and the accolades.
Additionally, each honored teacher was presented with a certificate of appreciation.
The reasons for selecting a teacher as “most inspiring” varied. Some students said the teachers helped them to tackle and master subjects they found particularly challenging, such as writing, science or math. Some credited teachers with persuading them to join extracurricular activities, such as choir or the yearbook, where they discovered their special talents. Several others said the teachers “drew them out of their shell” or encouraged them to persevere through personal trials.
According to the scholars, the most inspiring Catholic school teachers also impressed the students with their passion for teaching, with their availability before and after class to answer questions and with their willingness to share their faith.
David Mantese, of East Catholic High School in Manchester, thanked Curtiss Stella for teaching him about the Catholic faith, even though he never sat in on one of Mr. Stella’s religious education classes.
According to Mantese, every morning at 7:10 a.m. he met with several students in the school chapel, where Stella led a recitation of the rosary.
“Through his reflections, through the prayers that we say together and the conversations that we have afterward, Mr. Stella has taught me more about life, my faith and just who I am as a person than anything else,” Mantese told the audience.
“And even though the other classes I’ve had — science, math, whatever — are very important to me and I value them, the things that Mr. Stella has taught me are infinitely more important. And so I thank him for his hard work, for his faith and for his love.”
Sarah Martin, of Sacred Heart Academy in Hamden, publicly thanked Richard Marino, a social studies teacher, for his guidance and honesty in all matters.
“I would like to thank him for his constant support and willingness to help me with any aspect of my life,” Martin said. “One of the most admirable things about him is that he tells it like it is. He won’t necessarily tell you what you want to hear, but rather what you need to hear.
“If it wasn’t for his advice about college, friendships, academics, I wouldn’t be the person that I am today. Mr. Marino encompasses not only what it means to be a great teacher but also a great friend,” she added. “So once again, thank you for your countless words of wisdom and for inspiring me to be the best version of myself.”
Patrick McMahon, of Holy Cross High School in Waterbury, thanked Patricia Barnes, who teaches French, for igniting his love of foreign languages and travel.
“I never took a foreign language in school prior to freshman year, so I was kind of overwhelmed,” McMahon admitted. But over time, McMahon said, he progressed in French and even traveled to Paris, Montreal and Quebec.
“Without Mrs. Barnes ... I would be without one of my most fervent passions, not just studying French but also other languages on my own,” he said. “Without Mrs. Barnes, I would not be able to escape to another world, one where my English would, as the saying goes, lose something in translation. Thank you for showing me a new world.”
The summa scholars, grouped by school, are as follows:
East Catholic High School, Manchester: Peter Crowley, Madison DiBella, Jillian Ferrigno, Shannon Leary, Stephanie Lewis, David Mantese, Amelia Ockert, Longxu Pan, Audrey Pion, Anthony Raggazzi.
Holy Cross High School, Waterbury: Antonio D’Amelio, Katherine Flaherty, Patrick McMahon, Tess Oatley, Andrea Pettinico, Gillian Russo.
Lauralton Hall, Milford: Sara Abbazia, Rachelle Ambroise, Gabriela Baghdady, Kathryn Blanco, Katherine Canavan, Olivia Rubin.
Northwest Catholic High School, West Hartford: John Allen, Rachel Conover, Brendan Gill, Katharine Jessen, Sarah Jessen, Taylor Pane, Natalie Smith, Allyson Voelker.
Notre Dame High School, West Haven: Zachary Bilcheck, Andrew Biondi, Miguel Corzo, Paul DeBassio, Samarth Kasbawala, Gino Pagliaro, Gillian Russo.
Sacred Heart Academy, Hamden: Caroline Berberian, Abigail Kelly, Elizabeth Lamont, Sara Martin, Alysse Mastriano, Catherine Valloso.
Sacred Heart High School, Waterbury: Brianna Cyr, Alfred Deleon, Emily Galvao, Benjamin Gomes, Rachel Guay.
St. Paul Catholic High School, Bristol: Jaymie Bianca, Benjamin Czuprinski, Nicholas Palumbo, Jordan Silva.