May 18, 2016 // Local

Graduations! Vals and Sals of area high schools listed

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Lillie Castleman earns valedictorian honor

MONROEVILLE — During her four years at Heritage High School, Lillian Jane Castleman, of rural Monroeville, has earned the title of Valedictorian for the Heritage High School Class of 2016.

While at Heritage, Castleman  accumulated an 11.90/12.0 grade point average and was involved in Student Council, the year book staff, National Honor Society and Tech Fest. The senior was also a member of the varsity volleyball team where she earned Scholar Athlete of the Week honors and was an Academic All-State selection. Playing volleyball continues to be one of Castleman’s favorite things to do along with spending time with her family and friends.

A life-long member of St. Louis Besancon parish, Castleman is a member of the high school youth group and attended St. Louis Academy. She feels receiving a Catholic education from pre-school through eighth grade has helped her become the person she is today. It has opened her eyes to see the good in all people as she entered high school where a whole new crowd provided endless opportunities to put her faith in action and spread the word of God.

Besides babysitting and tutoring, Castleman’s first job during high school was at Mike’s Car Wash. She is currently employed by LEARN Resource Center.

“Balancing school and a job has taught me how to manage my time more effectively and how to set priorities,” she explains.

Castleman plans to attend Ball State University this fall where she will major in elementary/special education. Her favorite memories from high school include all the happy times with her closest friends.

Grace Everett earns valedictorian slot for Bishop Luers High School

FORT WAYNE — Grace Elizabeth Everett of Fort Wayne has earned the rank of valedictorian for the Bishop Luers class of 2016.

Everett felt that having the opportunity to pray every day, go to reconciliation weekly and attend the all-school Mass monthly allowed her to develop a close relationship with the Lord.

“I am also very grateful for my theology teachers, who have imparted their knowledge of the Catholic Church to me so that I may properly defend my Catholic faith and continue to live a faith-filled life in the future,” she said.

She appreciated that her teachers not only taught the course curriculums, but were models of service and compassion to her and her fellow students.

She expressed gratitude for the sacrifices of her parents, which enabled her to attend a Catholic school: that education armed her with the knowledge of the teachings of the Catholic Church so that she can properly defend the Faith.

During the summer of her sophomore year, Everett traveled to France with a group of Bishop Luers students. The students found themselves in Paris on Bastille Day, which they celebrated under the Eiffel Tower with locals. During her senior basketball season, Bishop Luers beat Concordia for the first time in six years, and beat Bishop Dwenger by one point. While on a mission trip to Haiti, also during her high school career, she was able to go to a market, purchase goats and deliver them to a family in the village where the students were working.

Everett was a captain of the varsity basketball team and a member of the varsity golf team at Bishop Luers. Her other memberships include National Honor Society, World Culture Club, Peer Ministry, Academic Super Bowl, Key Club, Knights for Life, Student Ambassadors and Peer Tutoring. She is an assistant basketball coach for the sixth-grade Bishop Luers junior basketball team, and volunteers with Seton Miracle Miles and the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton parish festival.

She works as a server with Orchid Events and Catering, and also as a part-time nanny-time during the summer.

“Working and being involved in so many extracurricular activities has taught me to budget my time, but more importantly, I find that exposure to the different activities has allowed me to grow culturally and spiritually, and gain a deeper understanding of my fellow students and those around me,” she said.

In her free time Everett enjoys boating and being on the water. She is very active and loves to watch and play sports. She also enjoys reading a good book, and watching movies.

Her immediate plans are to attend The Ohio State University business school after graduation and major in accounting, with a possible minor in finance. She is considering a postgraduate law degree.

North Side High School names valedictorian Cassidy Merkle

FORT WAYNE — North Side High School valedictorian Cassidy Merkle has held several leadership positions, including president of the National Honor Society and vice-president of Student Council, stage manager of the dance show and captain of the academic team. She has also been active with Canstruction, Kids Surviving Cancer, St. Mary’s Church canned food drive, a community Halloween party, PTSA and the prom committee. Those experiences will likely stand her in good stead as she pursues an anthropology major at IPFW in Fort Wayne.

A parishioner of St. John the Baptist, New Haven, she values her religious education, saying, “I found it very enlightening and a way to make sure that I not only grew academically, but also … in my faith.” Even at a public high school, organizations like FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) and teacher-led open prayer groups allowed students to practice their faith, she notes.

In her free time, Cassidy enjoys reading, painting and drawing.  A treasured memory of her high school experience was the opportunity to visit Washington D.C. for a We the People national competition.  And she will recall fondly the life-long friends she has made over shared student lunches.

Justin Dippold earns salutatorian rank

FORT WAYNE — Justin Michael Dippold has earned the rank of salutatorian for Bishop Luers High School class of 2016.

Dippold is a parishioner of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and attended St. Elizabeth Ann Seton School from pre-k through eighth grade.

“I will always be grateful for my parents’ sacrifice and desire for me and my siblings to attend a Catholic school. I will always appreciate the endless opportunities Bishop Luers High School and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton School have provided me,” said Dippold.

“When I reminisce, I understand how God works through people in these special Catholic school walls of brick and mortar,” he explains.

Dippold will graduate with a GPA of 4.463 and credits Bishop Luers for his success. “I am very grateful to attend Bishop Luers and the teachers I had there. Mrs. Brodmerkel and Ms. Karst are two of the most caring teachers, and I will never forget what they taught me in and out of their respective classrooms.”

Dippold not only takes his academic challenges seriously, but also excelled in his extracurricular activities as well. He served as Math Academic Super Bowl captain, Sodalitas leader, member of the Future Business Leaders of America, and Franciscan Brother’s Discernment Group and a volunteer at St. Mary’s Soup Kitchen.

In addition, he played basketball and football. “I will always remember playing football with my brother, Luke, who is a year older than me and what fun it was to compete together on the gridiron,” Dippold said.

In addition to his busy school schedule and outside activities, Dippold also had a part-time job that served his community.

“I worked as a Don Ayers Little League umpire. Working as an umpire helped me learn how to manage time. I would work from 5-10:30 p.m. and if I did not use my time wisely I would have to stay up until 1 or 2 a.m. My homework was never done poorly due to lack of time. I would stay up if I had to because every piece of work I turned in I wanted to be my best.”

An avid sports lover, Dippold also recalls many Sunday afternoons watching his beloved football, usually while studying. He also enjoys watching the World Series of Poker and claims “he can beat almost anyone in Madden.”

Dippold will major in Finance and Sports Management at Hillsdale College in the fall where he will also play football.

Geimer named salutatorian for Bluffton high

BLUFFTON — Kathryn Geimer has been named salutatorian of the class of 2016 at Bluffton High School.

A resident of Bluffton and parishioner at St. Joseph Catholic Church, Geimer was involved in many extracurricular and service activities over the last four years.

“My high school experience involved participation in volunteering from the beginning,” she says. Geimer served as president of Student Council, National Honor Society, and the Students Making a Difference Club, and her other extracurriculars included marching band, basketball and ballet.

Her favorite high school memories are of Bluffton’s annual fundraisers for Riley Hospital for Children. She co-chaired the fundraiser during her sophomore and junior years and was the head chair her senior year.

“Through these positions, I was able to experience the value of giving of oneself for others. I met many of the children to whom the funds we raised were given. I saw Jesus in the compassionate work and selfless charity of my classmates and community and in the joy on the faces of the children our work helped to save. It just doesn’t get any better than that,” Geimer said.

Though Geimer did not attend a Catholic high school she values the formation she received through her CCD classes, which she feels gave her the solid foundation of a Catholic worldview. She is thankful for the friendships she developed with her CCD classmates and the camaraderie of fellow Catholics.

In addition to her academic and extracurricular pursuits, Geimer worked as a “sandwich artist” at Subway.

“Balancing work, extra-curricular activities, and classes has taught me better time management and the value of hard work,” Geimer says.  “It has required me to push my limits and become a better, more engaged student.”

Geimer’s hobbies include dancing ballet and playing percussion. She enjoys staying active by running and riding her bike. Reading is also one of her passions, “especially classic novels.”

Geimer will be attending Indiana University where her intended major is neuroscience.

Margaret O’Brien named valedictorian for Saint Joseph 

GRANGER — Margaret Sarah O’Brien, valedictorian of Saint Joseph High School, will be attending the University of Notre Dame this fall. Margaret looks forward to studying Aerospace Engineering.

Margaret’s activities in high school have been vast and varied. From quiz bowl and mathletes, playing clarinet at Mass and participating in La Sociedad Honoraria Hispánica, an underlying aspect of all Margaret’s activities has been her faith.

Margaret shares that her Catholic education has invited her to explore her faith in ways that otherwise would not be accessible. She has drawn closer to God, which, in turn, invites her to foster a more selfless relationship with others.

Margaret shares that “My high school experience has enabled me to put my faith in action and has made me more selfless by asking me to do service.”

In her free time, Margaret enjoys puzzles, cooking and baking with friends and going on bike rides.

Clare Firth named Saint Joseph salutatorian

MISHAWAKA — Clare Evelyn Firth, whose hometown is Mishawaka, is Saint Joseph High School’s Class of 2016 salutatorian. With a grade point average of 4.64, the senior plans to attend the University of Notre Dame to study Math, Philosophy or Economics.

Along with maintaining her second in class ranking, Firth also worked at the Lab for Economic Opportunity (LEO) at Notre Dame—a job that she stated “sparked my interest in economics and economic research.”

This well-rounded student is also a fitness instructor at a local Barre studio.

She participated in a number of academic competitions with team members including: Euro Challenge, where students learn about the European Union and the Euro; Econ challenge, where teams demonstrate their knowledge on a variety of economic topics and the Fed Challenge, where teams research and make a presentation on economic & financial conditions and are quizzed by a panel of people from the Federal Reserve.

Clare also participated in Quiz Bowl and was a member of the National Honor Society.

When not busy with school and work activities, Firth enjoys reading, traveling and spending time with her family. One of the highlights of her time at Saint Joseph High School was going to New York for the Euro Challenge, but she stated that “the things I will remember the most are the everyday moments with friends and teachers.”

Clare stated that the education she received in Catholic schools promoted life values she considers important. “At its best, a Catholic education promotes compassion, commitment to justice and the pursuit of truth.”

Marian salutatorian Katherine Rice

BRISTOL — Katherine Audrey Rice, Marian High School salutatorian, believes that having thirteen years of a Catholic education has formed her into the person she is today allowing her to “integrate” her faith into all subjects areas at school.

“I have formed amazing friendships and had the opportunity to practice and grow in my faith alongside my peers. Through a Catholic education, I feel incredibly prepared to go into college and the real world, not only academically, but also spiritually.”

During the past four years Katherine has been constantly busy not only with her academics, but several extra-curricular activities as well.

“I was in the spring musical all four years of high school and in the fall play for two. I was also part of the Liturgical Choir and was a part of the handbell choir at my parish, St. Thomas the Apostle, in addition to singing at Sunday evening Mass there,” she said noting that she always enjoyed being involved in the theatre, especially the musicals at school. She says she also “thoroughly enjoyed drawing and photography classes.”

Katherine also was part of the golf team her junior and senior years and was a member of the Campus Ministry, Right to Life club, Young Vincentians and Latin Club. The Right To Life club experience gave her much insight.

“One of the most impacting experiences for me has been being a part of the Right to Life club at school and having the opportunity to attend the March for Life in Washington, D.C. It affirmed and strengthened my pro-life values and inspired me to speak out for what I believe in,” said Katherine.

As a part of her advanced research class Katherine also completed microbiology research at the University of Notre Dame her junior and senior year.

The Marian High School Salutatorian will study biology/pre-med at the University of Michigan this fall.

Salutatorian of Bishop Dwenger is Daniel Ostrowski

FORT WAYNE — As he looks forward to attending Purdue University to study computer science, Daniel Ostrowski is grateful for his high school, Bishop Dwenger. Originally from Auburn, Ostrowski is this year’s salutatorian. He has found that “a Catholic education provides students with a reference point that they can use to critically evaluate the world around them.”

Also “encouraged to do more service to others” at Bishop Dwenger, Ostrowski was involved with Speech team, Apologetics club, and Latin club at school. In the community, he was also involved with DeKalb County’s Special Olympics bowling practices, the Sibshops program at Lutheran Children’s hospital (workshops for children who have a special-needs sibling), and his parish’s annual Vacation Bible School program.

His most treasured memories of high school are the time spent with friends, winter formal, and being on homecoming court.

Bishop Dwenger valedictorian Elizabeth Otto

FORT WAYNE — Bishop Dwenger High School valedictorian Elizabeth Otto believes that the school’s encouragement of service has allowed her to discern a future career in the medical field, which is devoted to serving others.

And she has her educational path well defined. “At the University of Akron I will be part of a six-year BS/MD program that will allow me to earn my bachelor’s degree of science in two years and then proceed on to medical school for four years at the Northeast Ohio Medical University. This program guarantees me a slot in medical school as a high schooler,” she explains.

Elizabeth is accustomed to tough competition, first as a member and captain of the English academic team which won accolades at the state level, then as pianist for the school’s show choirs and for individual vocalists who took competitive honors, and more, as a member of the speech team with her prize-winning prose and original oratory. She was also a member and officer of the National Honors Society. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, hiking, Greek mythology and “everything Star Trek.”

Elizabeth feels the value of a Catholic education lies in the opportunity for deep discussion of morality and the Catholic faith in a setting that teaches students mature listening and speaking skills.

“It’s beautiful that I’ve been able to deepen my relationship with God with my friends at my side, especially in the discussion-based theology classes I’ve had within the last year,” she notes.

She will remember fondly her years at Bishop Dwenger, her friends, her teachers and the experiences that have made all the hard work well worth the effort.

Marian co-valedictorian Erica Gerstbauer

MISHAWAKA — Erica Gerstbauer, co-valedictorian this year at Marian High School, speaks highly of her Catholic education. “To me, the most valuable aspect of a Catholic education is how it is a daily reminder of how God works in our lives,” she says. And she feels Marian High School has provided a good environment for developing her faith through its “ever-present community of believers.”

The service opportunities have been numerous, as well, and Erica has been an active member of Young Vencentians Club and Knights for Life.

Extra-curricular activities have included tennis, quiz bowl, Latin Club, piano lessons, Youth Leadership Program, Antioch youth group, National Honors Society and serving as a Eucharistic minister. Her additional interests include reading and art. And she cherishes the time spent with friends.

Erica also values the presence of the school chapel and the opportunity it affords for daily prayer. “There is nothing better for our spiritual health than to take the time to be with God, and my lifetime of Catholic education has provided me with that opportunity,” she adds.

Erica plans to attend the University of Notre Dame and whatever career path she chooses will be well grounded in the faith she treasures.

Daniel Noble named salutatorian for Clay High School

SOUTH BEND — Daniel Noble, salutatorian, of Clay High School, has been a South Bend native his entire life. Graduating with a GPA of 3.998, he will be attending Earlham College in the fall to study physics and possibly music.

Incredibly active in his school and in his community, his Catholic faith is the heart of his life. He participated in Christ the King’s religious education program, allowing himself to learn and be challenged in his faith. Daniel puts this faith in action through his many service opportunities, including participating in the largest canned food drive the Michiana area has had in the past four years, organized by Clay High School. He also participates in blood drives and both Thanksgiving and Christmas food deliveries.

Daniel enjoys running cross country, participating in Marching and Jazz Bands, participating in theatre, and being a member of the school Quiz Bowl team, which won the state championship. In his free time, he enjoys playing music, relaxing while playing video games, and cheering on the Detroit Tigers.

Daniel shares that “Clay has offered me many opportunities to put my Catholic faith into action by helping others in our school and our community as a whole through the corporal works of mercy.”

Huntington North announces valedictorian Mackenzie Faurote

HUNTINGTON — Ranked first in her class of 380 seniors with a grade point average of 11.58/12.00, Mackenzie A. Faurote has been named the 2016 valedictorian of Huntington North High School. Over her four years there, Mackenzie was a four–year member of Class Council, involved with Freshman Mentoring, Huntington Youth Leadership Academy and was a Hoosier Girls State Delegate.  She also served as a volunteer at the Dan Quayle Vice-Presidential Learning Center and Parkview Huntington Hospital. Mackenzie was named the IndyStar Indiana Female Bowler of the Year after being a four-year member of the varsity bowling team. She placed sixth individually in 2016 when her team won the state championship. The Vikings were also state runner ups in 2014.

A member of Ss. Peter and Paul Parish, Mackenzie feels her faith has given her the strength and motivation to put her best foot forward each and every day in the pursuit of success. When asked about her best memories over the last four years, Mackenzie detailed, “I will treasure the close relationships I have formed with peers and teachers that have ultimately impacted my life throughout high school.”  Mackenzie will be attending college in Pennsylvania this fall at Gettysburg College. She is undecided on her major.

Christian Dennis co-valedictorian of Marian

MISHAWAKA — Christian Dennis ranks as co-valedictorian of Marian High School’s class of 2016. A resident of Mishawaka, Dennis attends St. Monica Parish where he sings in the choir.

In addition to his academic pursuits at Marian, Dennis was heavily involved in the activities of the Vincentians, a community service organization, and received a number of awards for his involvement. He was a four-year member of the Latin Club, a two-year member of the National Honor Society, and he sang in the Marian Liturgical Choir and the Choral Ensemble.

Dennis’ impressive athletic career included four years of Marian football and three years of track and field. Leading both teams as captain during his senior year, Dennis was also a regional qualifier for shot put and was named to the All Diocese Team in track and field. In football, he won Ironman Awards, Channel 46 Player of the Week, Academic All State, All Diocese Team, and All NIC First Team, and he was honored to be named a Moose Krause Scholar Athlete.

Dennis is employed as a D.J.’s assistant by “In Tune D.J,” a job that he says has required that he manage his time well, juggling his studies with sports, service, and extracurriculars. He also enjoys watching movies, playing chess, biking, fishing, reading, listening to music and singing in his parish choir.

The valedictorian says of the Catholic education he received at Marian, “I firmly believe that faith-centered learning is paramount to success.” That faith was put into action through Dennis’ participation in extracurriculars, particularly those that involved service. “I have enjoyed the many hours I have spent as a volunteer serving God by helping people in a variety of ways,” he says.

In addition to taking the field on Friday nights during football season, Dennis says the memories he’ll treasure most from high school are those of the community that surrounded him during his years at Marian.

Dennis plans to attend the University of Notre Dame this fall, where he will pursue a major in aeronautical engineering.

Co-valedictorian Marian High School: Theresa Elizabeth Rice

SOUTH BEND — With a simple smile and peace filled presence, Theresa Elizabeth Rice is a joy to know.  She is one of three valedictorians at Marian High School this year. A native of South Bend, she is the daughter of Dr. John and Nancy Rice and fifth of six children. She will attend the University of Notre Dame next year, majoring in Liberal Studies, the fifth of her family to attend the school.

Her voice is equally grace-filled as she cantors for St. Matthew Cathedral Parish. Since eighth grade, she has served her parish in this capacity, starting first in the children’s choir in fifth grade. In high school, she has sung in the liturgical choir for the past four years and hopes to continue this ministry at Notre Dame in the Folk Choir next year.

“It has always been a comfortable community for me, especially during Mass,” Rice explained of her time with the liturgical choir.

She hopes to become an English high school teacher, which would combine her beloved hobby of reading with a popular job and pastime of babysitting. “I loved my English classes and was often caught reading during Math,” Rice laughed. Her favorite author is G.K. Chesterton. Her parents give each child a book on St. Nicholas Day and one year she received a set of two of his short stories. Rice wasn’t a fan at first but picked up the stories 6 months later and was hooked. She read any others by Chesterton that she could find. “Orthodoxy” is still her favorite one though.

Rice especially appreciated her Catholic school education. She said, “Apart from the obvious graces of having the Blessed Sacrament present in the school, a Catholic education offers knowledge within a larger context. As Catholics, we are called to see every action in light of our faith, which allows for a much deeper view of most subjects. I know that for me, personally, examining the diverse subjects in light of Catholic doctrine or my own faith has both strengthened that faith and heightened the value of that education.”

She participated in numerous, varied activities at Marian, such as Latin Club, swimming and Campus Ministry. She also worked in the summertime as a lifeguard at Morris Park Country Club. Through all the school and volunteer work though, Rice found that “ultimately, the most common way that I put my faith into action was through daily visits to the chapel, where the presence of Christ in the Eucharist has nourished my faith and my capacity for charity.” Both St. Therese and St. Anthony are her two favorite saints.

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