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AHA Class of 2020 Recognized for Scholarship, Grace, & Resilience

the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Demarest, NJ: On the morning of May 29, 2020, the Academy of the Holy Angels community celebrated the school’s 140th graduating class by logging in to a video presentation. AHA developed the program to permit everyone to recognize the Class of 2020 while adhering to COVID-19 safety regulations. This year, 124 graduates persevered through the pandemic to amass 20,702 service hours and over $23.2 million in scholarships.

In the opening prayer, senior Hannah Schultz gave thanks for the gifts of faith, knowledge, and sisterhood. “May the angels who are always with us continue to guide and protect us,” she said.

AHA Principal Jean Miller commented on the class as a whole, saying, “In the face of great disappointment, they have found ways to overcome challenges. They have supported each other and those around them with grace and wisdom that is beyond their years.” Miller added that she is impressed by the seniors’ grace and wisdom.

She announced that Sophia Luongo of Upper Saddle River and Katherine Gazzini of Ridgewood had risen to the top of this distinguished group of young women. Luongo, who posted the top grade point average in her class, graduated First in Merit. Gazzini graduated Second in Merit.

Luongo was a Sister Nonna Dunphy Scholarship finalist in her sophomore year. She earned a silver medal on the national Italian exam, and won a Coccia Foundation award in recognition of her academic accomplishments and study of Italian at AHA. She also received the Presidential Award – Gold. She is a member and past-president of the Italian Honor Society. In addition, she is a member of the National Honor Society, the Science National Honor Society, and Math Honor Society. She earned the George Washington University’s School of Engineering and Applied Science medal, and attended the Georgetown University Forensic Science Institute. She participated in AHA’s study abroad program at Oxford University, and traveled to Arizona’s border with Mexico as part of the School Sisters of Notre Dame’s immigration experience.

Luongo served as co-president of Project Greenhouse, where her responsibilities included maintaining the school garden and donating the AHA-grown produce to a local food bank. As co-president of Joining Old and Young, Luongo sang at assisted living facilities. She also invested four years in AHA’s PowerBack program, which helps students recognize unhealthy relationships. Her many activities include work with Operation Smile, Lean In, the AHA Voice (school newspaper), Society for Animals, Veganism, and Ethical Decisions, and was co-president of the Forensic Science Club. Luongo is active with the Church of the Presentation Youth Ministry and other organizations. She will attend Boston College.

Gazzini earned a Sister Mary Nonna Dunphy Scholarship in her junior year. She also received the Brandeis Book Award for Social Action and Civic Engagement, in recognition of her academic excellence and commitment to bettering her community through social action. She finished first in the American Math Competition, and became a gold medalist for her work on the national Spanish exam. She is a member of the National Spanish Honor Society, the National Math Honor Society, and the National Honor Society.

This active member of the AHA Model United Nations group earned an Honorable Mention for her work at this year’s Harvard Model UN Conference. She has also been recognized at the Dalton and Bergen Tech conferences. Gazzini participated in the Yale Model United Nations Institute and Georgetown’s summer Immersion program for social justice and public policy.

Gazzini has contributed her political columns to the school newspaper, and has been an active debate team member. She shared her musical talents with the AHA Vocal Ensemble and Concert Choir. In the spring of 2019, she served on the Middle States Colloquium Student Panel, where she discussed growth mindset education. Her volunteer activities include managing a collection of sneakers, children’s books, and toiletries for victims of a deadly tornado. She is bound for Dartmouth.

Dean of Academics Francesca Tambone-Puzio and Dean of Students Andréa Beyer announced the winners of various awards. Annabel Hazrati and Sophie Miles both received the Religious Studies Award for Community Service. Hazrati also received awards for journalism and her contributions to the AHA Handbell Choir. Miles earned the Social Studies Social Awareness Award. The following graduates earned awards in the noted disciplines: Elizabeth Kim, English; Hyerin Chung, math; Sophia Luongo, chemistry; Kaitlyn Guintu, physics; Anayah Taneja, biology; Liliette Quintana, anatomy and physiology; Taliah Brisard and Camila Correa, French; Joanna Scorese, Italian; Julia Mohr, Latin; Camilla Scherer, Spanish; Joanna Hablitcheck, engineering; Irene Kim, physical education; Lauren Chin, studio art; Tara McDonald, business education; Isabella Cardamone, humanities; and Bridget Clark, technology. Katie Gazzini earned the Marilyn Kirschner History Award. Performing arts awards were presented to Cassandra Davila, choir; Leah Sanchez, music; Kayla Pringle, orchestra; and Joanna Scorese, theater.

The American Association of Teachers of Spanish & Portuguese honored Liliette Quintana for her work on the national Spanish exam. Camila Correa was honored by the American Association of Teachers of French. World language teachers from the Northeast Conference recognized Kayla Pringle, Amelia Brunda, and Clare Daughtrey for their studies of French; Isabella Cardamone, Sophia Luongo, and Ashley Toscano Vasquez for their work in Italian; Shannon Garrity for Latin; and Audrey Miller and Eungyo Shin for Spanish.

Sarah Folk received this year’s Scholar Athlete Award from the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association. Student Council School Service Awards went to Eleanor Kasprzak, Clare Daughtrey, Ciara Wacker, and Colleen Farrell. Student Council Senior School Service Awards were given to Olivia Leonard, Lola Samiian, and Meredith Joseph.

Angels who will be traveling the farthest distances to college are Ciara Wacker, who will be attending Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, and Peyton Stewart, who will be at Pepperdine.

At the request of her peers, Joanna Hablitschek delivered a message to her class. She acknowledged that finishing senior year in quarantine was not ideal, but said the Angels should be proud. She said, “God gives his toughest challenges to His strongest followers.”

Hablitschek described the overwhelming feeling of love that pervades Holy Angels. Although the students represent many different hometowns, and countries, she quoted the 2019-2020 theme, “Love is the bond that unites us.” She added that the students remain united, like family, knowing they have shared wonderful and difficult news, yet still love each other.

The seniors then presented photos, favorite AHA memories, and plenty of college gear.

AHA President Melinda Hanlon led the blessing for the seniors, and the administration led the Blessing of Mother Theresa Gerhardinger. During the faculty comments, AHA Campus Ministry Director Kathy Sylvester said the Angels entered AHA when the school theme was “In unity is our strength,” and are leaving while the theme is, “Love is the bond that unites us.” AHA Social Studies teacher Patrick Dunne reminded the Angels they have an entire school community available to them if they ever need anything. “We’re here for you,” he added.

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