Two dozen students from Catholic high schools and elementary schools in the Diocese of Cleveland received scholarships from the Bishop’s Scholarship for Excellence program, which is marking its 20th year. It was established by the Catholic Education Endowment Trust to encourage the pursuit of excellence in Catholic education.
Students were asked to write an essay on the following prompt: “There is so much negativity in today’s world, even in our own communities here in Northeast Ohio. Describe three examples of this unfairness and/or negativity and explain how you have helped to bring about positive change or how you would, if given the opportunity.”
Bishop Nelson Perez, who had input on the essay question, presented the scholarships at a luncheon July 27 at St. Michael’s Woodside Event Center in Broadview Heights. Frank O’Linn, interim secretary for catechetical formation and education/superintendent, introduced Tracey Arnone and Sue Biggs, assistant superintendents, and Rich Osborne, former president of Villa Angela St. Joseph High School, who is assisting in the office. Arnone and Biggs announced elementary school winners’ names and Osborne introduced the high school awardees.
The eight high school winners, who are sophomores and juniors, each received $3,000 and the 16 elementary school winners, who are in sixth and seventh grades, each received $1,000.
Father Thomas Haren, pastor of St. Monica Parish in Garfield Heights and chairman of the CEET Advisory Board, welcomed the winners, their parents, principals and pastors. He also offered the opening prayer and Gospel reading before introducing Bishop Perez, who shared some remarks on excellence.
He said during his visits to schools around the diocese, he has seen excitement among the students, which he attributes to “wonderful families, wonderful schools and wonderful teachers.” He said students poured out their hearts in these essays. To be able to do that took years of work, he said, crediting the teachers who helped the students learn “so they could articulate, express and write. It’s a wonderful example of excellence in our midst,” the bishop said.
“Excellence is not just a matter of capacity. Everyone is not an Einstein,” Bishop Perez said, adding that when a person walks into a room and throws something on a table, it takes the same amount of effort to carefully place it on the table.
“The difference is excellence. It exudes from those who strive for excellence. Some of those people are at your tables. They didn’t just throw out ideas, they wrote an essay with excellence. Excellence is a virtue that comes from deep inside,” he said.
The bishop referenced the story from Scriptures of the master who was going on a trip and gave three of his servants some talents. One received 10; one got five and one received two – as many as he felt they could manage. When he returned, the man who received 10 talents doubled the amount, as did the one who received five. The master commended them. The third man told his master he knew he was a demanding person and rather than risk losing what he’d been given, he buried the two talents and returned what the master had given him – at no loss.
“That is not excellence,” the bishop said. “These young men and women are an example of what excellence looks like. They are showing us how to live in the word and be points of light — or salt — as Jesus said.”
Quotes from some of the students’ essays were reproduced and placed on the tables for attendees to read. Below are some sections gleaned from this year’s essays.
“We have to view every human as a child of God, because in reality we are all brothers and sisters.”
“All lives matter, even those who are not able to have a voice yet to speak for themselves.”
“Attending an all-girls school has definitely deepened my interest in developing a world where women receive all of the same opportunities as men. Attending an all-girls Catholic school instilled in me the commitment to help everyone receive fair treatment.”
“One night while serving dinner at a homeless shelter, a man approached to tell me how extremely grateful he is for what I do, as I smiled politely, he made solid eye contact with me and said, ‘No, truly, I am so grateful. I pray for people like you to make a difference in the world and here you are.’ Ever since then, that man has been at the root of my motivation to serve the homeless.”
“It is up to all of us to do what we think is right and be the face of Jesus to everyone.”
“Life is full of chain reactions; it takes one person to smile or say hello to set it off. I believe that by leading by example, I can bring about more positivity and happiness to my neighborhood.”
This year’s high school winners are Holly Adam, St. Vincent-St. Mary High School; Cameron Engrish, Elyria Catholic High School; Audrey Harrington, Holy Name High School; Callie King, Magnificat High School; Monica Kronstain, St. Joseph Academy; Halle Leigey, Lake Catholic High School; Molly Rogers, St. Joseph Academy, and Sierra Spoerndle, St. Vincent-St. Mary.
Elementary school winners are Annabel Bertoni, Holy Family School; Lauren DiMenna, Gesu School; Caitlyn Gleeson, St. Anselm School; Christina Gordan, Mater Dei Academy; Liam Hatgas, St. Charles Borromeo School; Connor Majernik, St. Paschal Baylon School; Jack Murray, St. Helen School; Anna Powers, Holy Trinity School; Daniel Reymann, Immaculate Heart of Mary School; Katie Reynolds, St. Anselm School; Hannah Schmidt, St. Mark School; Nathan Tohati, St. Charles Borromeo School; Joseph Valencik, St. Thomas More School; Karissa Williams-Kuzmickas, St. Charles Borromeo School; Mackenzie Wood, St. Francis de Sales School and Marina Zieglar, St. Hilary School.
CEET board members who reviewed and judged the essays are Sister Allison Marie Gusdanovic, SND, Tammy Serringer, Lisa Logan, Scott Jeckering, John Biernacki and John Fitzgerald.