June 6, 2014

Class of 2014 grads reflect on their Catholic education

By Briana Stewart

High school seniors across the archdiocese are taking a monumental life step during this graduation season.

While many are ready to move on, many are just beginning the process of letting go.

Wondering how Catholic education has had an impact on this year’s graduates, The Criterion asked five seniors from different Catholic high schools to reflect on their time as a student and reminisce on the ways that their respective schools have changed their lives.

Here are their stories.

Helping develop a faith in God

Taylor GroteAs she looks back on her four years at Father Michael Shawe Memorial Jr./Sr. High School in Madison, Taylor Grote believes that Catholic high schools impact their students with more than just a substantial education. They also provide a way to connect with God.

“There are definitely a lot of advantages of having a Catholic education,” says Taylor, the daughter of Dominic and Patti Grote. “I have learned a lot of discipline and responsibility here [at Shawe] that I know I would not have learned anywhere else.

“Receiving a Catholic education has also helped me expand my faith in God and truly understand what he wants from me and for me. This will help me with all the tough challenges that lie in my future. And it will help me reach my number one goal in life, which is to become a successful woman engineer and raise a great family.”

Taylor will attend Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., and major in mechanical engineering technology.

‘A solid foundation’

Mitch EtchasonMitch Etchason appreciates how his experience at Bishop Chatard High School in Indianapolis has given him the confidence to live his faith.

“Having a Catholic education has helped me to resist temptations that I encountered in high school because it gave me a solid foundation to resist peer pressure,” says Mitch, the son of Edmond and Lisa Etchason.

Bishop Chatard helped him to continue to follow the right path by providing a variety of clubs and activities for all students.

“I have participated in cross country, Model United Nations, Trobotics, National Honor Society, Summa Cum Laude degree program, Comedy Sportz, and theatre,” Mitch says. “My time on the stage through theater and Comedy Sportz has given me confidence. And all of these activities have made me the man I am today.”

Mitch will continue his education at Indiana University in Bloomington, where he plans to major in international studies.

A favorite memory

Olivia PageOlivia Page doesn’t hesitate when she shares the one thing she will miss most at Father Thomas Scecina Memorial High School in Indianapolis.

“The thing I will miss most about Scecina is the family environment that you receive here,” says Olivia, the daughter of Hal and Sandy Page. “Everyone has your back no matter if they are your friends or they barely know you. I will carry that attitude with me at DePauw University. I will always attempt to be a friend to anyone who needs it.”

Olivia has already experienced this special type of friendship at Scecina during her time as a member of the varsity swimming team, one of her many extra-curricular activities at the school.

“My favorite memory at Scecina is singing in the locker room with the swim team. It felt like we were closer than friends and more like sisters,” says Olivia, who also ran track and cross country while participating in student council, National Honor Society and the Promise to Keep peer mentoring chastity program.

Olivia plans to study English and creative writing at DePauw University in Greencastle.

‘They saved me from my sadness’

Kaylee CoxAs co-valedictorian and a three-sport athlete, Kaylee Cox has made the most of her four years at Seton Catholic High School in Richmond. Yet what stands out the most to her is how the Seton “family” made her understand the importance of God in her life.

“During my freshman and sophomore years, my family fell upon some hard times; I had missed a lot of school due to illness and being in the hospital,” says Kaylee, the daughter of Brian and Suzanne Cox. “I began to question my faith.

“When I got back [to school], I was welcomed with huge cards that my class had made me. Seton and the people there helped me, constantly reminding me of the love God has for all of us, and that he never gives us more than we can handle. They [Seton] picked me up when I was down. They honestly saved me from my sadness during that scary time. I will continue to grow in my faith every day because of Seton.”

Kaylee will attend Indiana University East in Richmond where she plans to study biology.

‘A universal community of faith’

Conner JohnsonWhen Conner Johnson recalls his favorite memory at Our Lady of Providence Jr./Sr. High School in Clarksville, it’s one that is both painful and inspiring.

“One of my favorite memories at Providence followed one of my least,” says Conner, the son of Michael and Lisa Johnson. “A fellow student’s father passed away suddenly one evening. The whole Providence community was struck hard.

“That next morning before school, only about 10 hours after the incident, the chapel was so full of students and faculty members that many people were standing in the hallway. We had gathered together before school to pray for our fellow classmate and his family.”

That moment revealed the power of faith when it is lived and shared, Conner says.

“That is what it means to be Catholic, to be a universal community of faith. I’ve never seen so much love in one room overcome so much sadness and grief. I saw God present that day in the face of every student that came early to show respect and pray for that family.

“I will never forget that love and sense of community. Providence has allowed me to grow as an individual and a child of God, and has given me all the tools to be successful as a vibrant Christian spreading the word of God.”

Conner will continue his education at the University of Louisville where he plans to study biology pre-medicine with an emphasis on genetics.
 

(Briana Stewart, an intern for The Criterion, is a senior at Cardinal Ritter Jr./Sr. High School in Indianapolis. She will attend Indiana University in Bloomington in the fall.)

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