BLOOMFIELD – Joshua Norton, a senior at Notre Dame High School in West Haven, clutched a red heart-shaped pillow from Boston Children’s Hospital as he thanked the educator who inspired him the most.
According to Norton, Deacon Dominic Corraro, Notre Dame’s campus minister and foreign language chair, supported him throughout his recent recovery from heart surgery.
“He knelt beside me in the chapel, he blessed my rosary beads, he also listened to me and to my story, which meant the world to me,” Norton said.
After hearing Norton’s expression of gratitude, Maria Maynard, deputy superintendent of Catholic schools, who stood nearby on stage, dabbed her eyes with a tissue. “I’m a sucker for a story like that,” she told members of the audience, as they laughed along with her at her reaction.
Norton was one of 50 scholars who were honored for their outstanding academic achievement as part of the annual archdiocesan Summa Scholar Award ceremony on April 23 at the Archdiocesan Center at St. Thomas Seminary.
Every year the award is presented to Catholic high school seniors who place in the top 5 percent of their graduating class, based on cumulative grade point average, at the eight Catholic high schools within the Archdiocese of Hartford. Each school’s president or principal identifies the scholars.
In addition, the scholars choose the educator who inspired them the most and, together, they share the accolades.
“How wonderful it is to have this opportunity,” Superintendent Michael S. Griffin told the scholars, teachers and parents in attendance, “to recognize the extraordinary achievements of young people in all of our Catholic high schools who have devoted themselves in such exceptional ways to the pursuit of scholarship and as leaders.
“It’s also wonderful to recognize some very special teachers, guidance counselors and others,” he added, “who, by example, have led, inspired and guided each of our awardees.”
During the award ceremony, Griffin placed the bronze medallions affixed to red and gold ribbons around the necks of the scholars. He also presented certificates to the teachers.
The students then told their stories of how the educators they chose to honor made a lasting impact on their lives.
Dylan Rispoli, who attends Northwest Catholic High School in West Hartford, thanked English teacher Joan Keating-McKeon for helping him to find his direction.
“She taught me the meaning of being a vigorous advocate for others,” Rispoli said. “She inspired and encouraged me to find my own voice. She helped me to discover a passion for the law that I never knew I had.”
Liam Horan-Portelance, a student at East Catholic High School in Manchester, cited music teacher David Brudz for encouraging him to pick up the trombone in his sophomore year.
“Thank you for exposing me to the world of jazz,” Horan-Portelance said. “It holds infinite possibilities for creative expression. … This love of music will sustain me.”
Caitlin Dreher, a senior at Holy Cross High School in Waterbury, named her guidance counselor, Catherine Xeller, for supporting her during her recovery from anorexia nervosa. Xeller visited Dreher at home, helped her to organize her studies and catch up on school work, assisted in calming her fears and suggested she take up an outdoor sport to get some exercise and fresh air.
“I am forever grateful,” Dreher said. “If it were not for her, I would not be able to attend university in the fall.”
This year’s archdiocesan summa scholars, grouped by school, include the following students:
St. Paul Catholic High School, Bristol: Fulvio Aliberti, Minji Choi, Alena Hauer, Katie Pauloz, Nicole Wroblewski.
Sacred Heart High School, Waterbury: Michael Austin, Thomas Greene, Erin Keeley, Jenna Madigan.
Sacred Heart Academy, Hamden: Maia Jakubowski, Arushi Khanna, Eunji Lee, Meredith McConnell, Laura Mocciola, Audrey Seyfried, Amy Ziobron.
Northwest Catholic High School, West Hartford: Molly Conway, Alex Kanya, Calla Kremidas, Kayla Randolph, Dylan Rispoli, James Rybczyk.
East Catholic High School, Manchester: Xinyue Cai, Gabrielle Caron, Liam Horan-Portelance, Evan Kennedy, Anna Morson, Clara Mund, Benjamin Ockert, Matthew Veretto.
Holy Cross High School, Waterbury: Solomina Darko, Caitlin Dreher, Caitlin Kinsella, Jillian Noack, Madison Smith, Wen Ting Zheng.
Notre Dame High School, West Haven: Matthew Murillo, Joshua Norton, Liam Nuttall, Reuben Reyes, Ryan Scagliarini, Christopher Seeland, Stephen Stanio, Anish Thite.
Lauralton Hall, Milford: Caroline Favano, Juliana Gonzalez-Rey, Caitlin Lynch, Grace Murray, Julia Elizabeth Petalcorin, Lily Wald.