Valedictorians Credit Catholic Education for Foundation of Success

| April 16, 2015


It’s no easy feat to finish first in your class, but Michael Powell, Matthew Lambrych, Claire Sheen and Maggie Sehring made the grade—one at each of the Syracuse Diocese’s Catholic High Schools. These 2014 valedictorians are now pursuing their academic dreams in college. While two chose higher education at Catholic institutions and two chose public universities, they all have one thing in common: the strong Catholic educational background that helped to get them there.

Photo of Michael Powell

Michael Powell

Michael Powell
Seton Catholic Central

Powell, 2014 valedictorian of Seton Catholic Central, is thankful for his Catholic education, which began with St. John the Evangelist School in Binghamton, New York. Powell is attending the University of Scranton, a Jesuit University in Pennsylvania, which he said ensures that Catholic values are central in the learning experience and are evident in the atmosphere around campus.

“Now that I am in college, I am very appreciative that my prior education taught me to understand —rather than just memorize—what I was learning, to manage my time and to have a passion for what I do,” he said.

When deciding on a college, Powell, whose faith is very important to him, liked the feeling that he could continue to be close to his faith at the school even though college would be such a new experience for him.

Powell has been accepted into the Special Jesuit Liberal Arts (SJLA) honors program at the university. The program’s courses encourage skills such as rhetoric and critical thinking, and teach Jesuit mentality to create well-rounded individuals.

“I am really enjoying my classes in this program, and I look forward to learning more about these fascinating subjects,” said Powell.

Powell is majoring in biochemistry/cell molecular biology and is hoping to pursue a minor in philosophy. He is not sure what profession he wants to pursue.

“I have an interest in health care and am currently in a health profession track, but research and teaching are also very interesting to me,” he said.

Photo of Matthew Lambrych

Matthew Lambrych

Matthew Lambrych
Bishop Grimes Jr./Sr. High School

Lambrych, 2014 valedictorian of Bishop Grimes Jr./Sr. High School, is attending Binghamton University.

“I chose Binghamton University for many reasons, chief among them that it was the most financially sound option available, and it also has an incredible level of academic excellence. I was also accepted into the Scholars Program, which seemed a fantastic opportunity, and one that I wished to take advantage of,” said Lambrych.

Before enrolling at Bishop Grimes, Lambrych attended St. Matthew’s School in East Syracuse, New York, (and later St. Daniel/St. Matthew Academy when the two schools merged) for his elementary school education.

“Catholic school was an incredible experience,” said Lambrych. “Both of these schools taught me the importance of living as God intends, strengthened and reinforced the importance of a strong work ethic, and demonstrated to me the meaning of living a moral, Christian life.”

Lambrych attributes a large part of his scholastic success to his Catholic schools and teachers. He said he also took advantage of the Honors and Advanced Placement courses offered at Bishop Grimes and took as many classes as he could fit into his schedule.

“All of this helped to strengthen my knowledge in the various subjects and, though the workload was strenuous, it helped me to grow as a person and scholar,” he said.

Lambrych is undecided on his major at this point, but he is interested in medicine and said he will probably focus on biological sciences.

“I am also very passionate about history, which is perhaps my favorite subject, and will pursue a major or minor in that as well,” he added. “I wish to go into medicine and intend to specialize in neurology. I feel that, even in, or maybe especially in, medicine, the strong ethical code inspired within me through my time at Grimes will serve me well in my chosen profession.”

Photo of Claire Sheen

Claire Sheen

Claire Sheen
Bishop Ludden Jr./Sr. High School

Sheen, 2014 valedictorian of Bishop Ludden Junior/Senior High School, is attending the State University of New York at Geneseo where she is double majoring in biology and anthropology. A recipient of many scholarships, Sheen attributes her academic success to her trusting and supportive family and her Catholic education.

“My Catholic education gave me the strength I needed to get to where I am today,” she said. “Because of my Catholic education, and the loving and guiding support the teachers at my Catholic schools provided, I knew where to turn for help. Bishop Ludden is such a close environment that I felt like I constantly had the support of one large family.”

“I hope to continue on to get my master’s degree and Ph.D. in forensic anthropology,” Sheen said. “I hope to work for either the government or for the U.N. Additionally, I also hope to receive grants, so that I have the opportunity to perform research on ancient remains all over the world.”

“I chose SUNY Geneseo for three reasons,” Sheen explained. “First, it is a school with an amazing academic record. The science department here is respectable. Secondly, it is affordable. College these days is getting more and more difficult to pay for and SUNY Geneseo is an incredible college at a practical price. It was one of the few colleges that I could attend without being in debt at the beginning of my higher education. Fnally, the campus is beyond gorgeous. The first time I saw it I knew I would feel at home here.”

Photo of Maggie Sehring

Maggie Sehring

Maggie Sehring
Notre Dame Jr./Sr. High School

Sehring, 2014 valedictorian of Notre Dame Jr./Sr. High School, is attending Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, and majoring in math and physics. Sehring said she felt at home the first time she visited the campus and that several things influenced her decision to enroll. She was attracted to the fact that BC is a university known for its academic excellence and its roots in Jesuit traditions.

“The strong Jesuit traditions had a great influence on my decision to attend Boston College,” she said. “It was important for me to be able to continue the incorporation of religion into my studies, as I had done through elementary and high school. A strong sense of community among the students, faculty, and Jesuit society is created through the religious foundation and rich traditions.”

Sehring attended St. Peter’s School in Utica, New York, before attending Notre Dame and believes the values she learned in school have helped her in college and will later assist her in her career.

“Catholic schools have taught me the principles of self-discipline and responsibility, which have been very important in college and will continue to hold great significance when I begin a career,” Sehring said. “Also, my involvement in sports and clubs has highlighted the value of commitment in order to succeed.”

Sehring said the transition from high school to college has been smooth. “My Catholic education challenged me to be a well-rounded individual dedicated to my studies, while also being involved in the community,” she said. “These aspects have eased my transition into Boston College, as the same principles are encouraged here.”

Claudia Mathis is a staff writer for The Catholic Sun.

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