High School Graduate Profiles

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Catholic New York editors and reporters interviewed five graduating seniors from Catholic high schools around the archdiocese about their high school experience, how they have coped during the coronavirus pandemic and their plans for the future.

Courtesy photos of the graduates were provided by their schools.

Kennedy Catholic Senior Cherishing Time With Family

By DAN PIETRAFESA

Virginia Capellupo said she would one day look back and recall the special time she spent with her family during the coronavirus pandemic.

“I always look at the light at the end of the tunnel,” the senior at John F. Kennedy Catholic High School in Somers told CNY. “The thing I’m going to cherish the most is the family memories of being at home before I go off to college. I’ll cherish it forever.

“I was always running all over the place with student government, volleyball and other activities. I came home and I was always studying. I’m able to sit down to dinner with my family now, which is so nice. Cooking with mom, doing some crafts, painting, going out with dad on bike rides, they may seem little, but at a time like this they mean the world.”

Virginia, who lives in Bronxville with her parents Vincent and Theresa, missed her final day of in-school classes at Kennedy Catholic to attend the Student Leadership Conference at the Sheen Center for Thought and Culture March 12. She also missed being in the classrooms of Kennedy Catholic with teachers and friends for her final weeks of high school, but said online learning and social media have enabled her to learn and share memories with members of the Kennedy Catholic community.

“We need to trust more in faith,” she said. “In times like this, a lot of people are grasping on straws trying to find a reason why. I think what they really need to do is try to trust in God and trust in his journey. I’m sure He’ll never do us wrong. At the end of the day when it comes to something like this, the only thing we can really and truly do is trust in Him.”

Virginia attended Annunciation School in Crestwood before enrolling at Kennedy Catholic, where she was a member of the volleyball team that competed in the 2019 CHSAA state final.

“I wanted to branch out and start something new somewhere,” she said of her Kennedy Catholic years. “Going to Kennedy, being a coed school, it was really nice to have both guys and girls as friends. It built more than just friendships, but a family. That’s something I’ll always cherish.

“I’m going to miss the environment. I knew a lot of people. The faculty, staff and my coaches, they’ve all been absolutely amazing. They helped me on my path to where I have to go now.” 

Virginia graduates Saturday, June 13, and will be off to Northeastern University in Boston to study criminology and psychology in the fall.

“I’m really excited to take what Annunciation and Kennedy had taught me and carry it through, and hopefully, through the light of God and through what I’ve learned, inspire people to do better.”

Hayesman Planning Many Archaeological Travels and Adventures

By ARMANDO MACHADO

For one graduate of Cardinal Hayes High School in the Bronx, the milestone is an important step toward his goal of becoming an adventurous archaeologist—through world travels that will lead him to significant discoveries on behalf of world-class museums.

“Hayes has shown and taught me so much throughout my four years, having a brotherhood that can support you with anything you need,” said Ethan Zayas last week. “I played sports and I was on the student council, and I’m also a photographer for the yearbook; so I’ve taken pictures at all kinds of events.”  

At Hayes, a boys’ school, Ethan played defensive tackle on the varsity and junior varsity football teams. He was recognized at a school sports team dinner for the quick jump he made from the junior varsity to the varsity bowling team. He also was a member of the golf team.

Ethan also helped with the school’s holiday food drives.  

He will attend Manhattanville College in September, majoring in archaeology. As for graduation from Cardinal Hayes, “They gave out information this past week about doing a live video chat with students; they sent us a link.”

As for his archaeological goals, he is primarily interested in working for museums in Europe, particularly in England. “I plan to travel the world and make archaeological discoveries; there are jobs in museums where people analyze fossils and determine how old the fossils are and how they were formed,” Ethan said. “When I was little I used to watch a lot of Indiana Jones.” 

It has long been a tradition for Cardinal Hayes graduation ceremonies to be held at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, but this year that won’t be possible.

“Yes, because of the pandemic. It’s been a struggle,” Ethan said. “Graduation was supposed to be the number one thing. I was really excited about it.” Ethan added that he has been grateful for the words of faith and hope that Church leaders and school administrators have expressed. 

Born in East Stroudsburg, Pa., and raised there and later in the Bronx, Ethan grew up the second of two boys, sons of supportive parents Jaime Zayas and Rosa Fernandez. His father is a driver for Coca Cola, and his mother works as a nanny. The family lives in the Soundview section of the Bronx. Both sets of his grandparents were born in Puerto Rico, and the Caribbean island has been part of the family’s travels. 

Ethan’s favorite subjects were graphic design and religion. In freshman year, he struggled in biology class, but he persevered. “My friends and teacher helped me to do my best,” he said, adding that the support eventually put him “on the right path again.” 

Dominican Academy Grad’s Plans Include Pursuits in Navy, Engineering

By CHRISTIE L. CHICOINE

"I never really thought I would miss Metro-North so much.”

That was one of the assessments of how the global coronavirus pandemic has impacted Catherine Sutterlin, a graduate of Dominican Academy on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, who commuted one hour to school and another hour back home to Croton-on-Hudson before home-based, distance learning became the routine for her and her peers.

“Freshman year, all the way until junior year, we would see the seniors running through the school on their last day of classes, and decorating their blue skirts with their college logos and such. Not experiencing that was definitely not expected.”

Catherine conceded that “at first, it was really difficult, just the thought of missing out on all of that.” Yet, “how many other senior classes can say that they went through a pandemic? It’s something that we’ll definitely have forever. The things that we’ve learned throughout this have been pretty valuable.”

Catherine, the second of four children of James and Mary Ann Sutterlin, said remote learning gave her more time at home with her family, who belong to St. Augustine parish in Ossining. “I’ve gotten to know them a lot better.”

“There’s so much unknown” about the coronavirus, Catherine said, “so having that foundation, and that strong Catholic faith, has really just helped me be at ease. It’s all going to work out. There’s a plan for everyone, and all we can really do now is just do the most that we can do in our communities and in our families, and just pray and just have faith that God and everyone has something figured out for this.”

Catherine plans to attend the University of Michigan College of Engineering this fall and will be a part of the Navy ROTC battalion there.

Thanks to her Catholic education, she is ready. “Dominican Academy really pushes students to work hard and break their barriers, and go beyond what they think they can do.” The school, those who serve it and the support she has received there, Catherine said, have been “unmatched.”

Catherine founded the school’s engineering club her sophomore year, and served as its president. She was also the captain of the debate team, president of the Glee Club and a member of the National Honor Society.

She has similar sentiments for St. Augustine School in Ossining, of which she is a 2016 alumna. “The other day I was on a Zoom call with all of my friends from grammar school. We’re planning a virtual reunion. The fact that I’ve maintained those relationships and even gotten closer with some of them, just says a lot about the way that they taught us.”

While the future naval officer has found ample time amid the coronavirus stay-at-home restrictions to ramp up her training— “why not knock out some more planks or some more push-ups?” she tells herself—Catherine is mindful of an important door she has yet to close at Dominican Academy.

“My locker still has dance shoes and some notebooks. I know the day that I get to clean out my locker it will be a little bit sad. And I’m not really ready for that yet.”

St. Joseph by-the-Sea Grad Overcame Injuries to Become Honors Student

By ARMANDO MACHADO

Alexander Luey is graduating from St. Joseph by-the-Sea High School on Staten Island, three years after he suffered serious head injuries in a car accident, and underwent surgery for brain hemorrhage. There were frustrating setbacks, but determination and faith helped him to succeed, as well as strong support at home and in school.

How much did his faith help him get through that ordeal? “A hundred percent,” Alexander quickly replied. He also cited his mother and extended family, the family parish (St. Christopher-St. Margaret Mary in the island’s Midland Beach section) and his high school.

“They always emphasize your academics, but they make sure that everybody can participate in clubs and sports,” Alexander said of school administrators and faculty. “So everything is there for the students. I had a phenomenal education. That’s what I really appreciated from my school.”

Alexander’s activities at St. Joseph by-the-Sea included chorus and the robotics club. At home he enjoys cooking and is quick to help with dinner. He had to give up school soccer and a private martial arts program because of the accident injuries. He was twice officially recognized by St. Joseph for his determination to persevere despite his health setbacks. 

Alexander had to forgo his aspiration of becoming a marine biologist; submerging his head under water would pose serious risks. He is now pursuing his back-up plan, a math-related career. He will begin studies in September at Penn State University, majoring in finance and minoring in risk management. He plans to become a bond broker.

On the morning of May 19, 2017, then-freshman Alexander was struck by a car as he walked to his bus stop. The vehicle was driven by a woman on her way to work. Alexander was in the hospital for 10 days, the first three in the ICU unit. He underwent long-term physical therapy for leg and hip muscle pains, and short-term speech therapy. 

Graduation logistics for St. Joseph by-the-Sea were still being worked out last week, as were the September starting plans at Penn State. “It’s really sad; we’ve been given a different hand of cards compared to students in past years with proms and graduations,” noted Alexander, who acknowledged the complications and risks stemming from the Covid-19 crisis.

In May 2019, Alexander was inducted into the National Honor Society, “because of demonstrated excellence in the areas of scholarship, leadership, service and character,” his proud mom, Ana Luey, told CNY. “Alexander has and still is learning to live with frequent headaches and mental fatigue.”

Ms. Luey, who was born in Ecuador, is a single mother; Alexander is her only child. She asserted that faith is always important, such as now with the pandemic. As for the car accident, she noted that bitterness is not the answer: “It could have happened to anybody. Once you share love, what you get back is love.”

Burke Catholic Grad Bound for The Catholic University of America

By CHRISTIE L. CHICOINE

Caitlin McCartney, a graduating senior from John S. Burke Catholic High School in Goshen, is headed to The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., the third jewel in her Catholic education crown.

She plans to pursue a double major in psychology and philosophy and hopes to do so on a pre-law track and subsequently attend law school to study criminal law.

The first jewel came from St. John School in Goshen, where she graduated in 2016. She and her family belong to St. John the Evangelist parish in Goshen.

“Having religion classes all year, every year” in grade school and high school helped make the case of the place she would choose for higher education. “I definitely wanted to go to a Catholic college. And having the opportunity to go to Mass once a week at school really showed me that I do want to have that opportunity at college, too.”

Caitlin has learned in her religion classes about gracefully bearing life’s crosses, lessons that prepared her to cope with the present day global coronavirus pandemic and adjust to remote classes conducted in a home-based, distance learning setting. 

“It’s been a challenge, but all my teachers, and all the administration and everyone at Burke has tried to make it as easy as possible. I think that it went very well, all things considered. Burke is doing the best they can for the seniors. I appreciate that, and I’m sure the rest of the class does, too.”

The second of four children of Jeffrey and Tara McCartney, Caitlin said she and her parents and siblings have bonded over family dinners where everyone’s schedules are currently in sync, and board games, throughout the stay-at-home restrictions of the coronavirus. Her family, she said, has been attentive to her senior year circumstances. 

“Sometimes it really hits you like, wow, I didn’t get the second half of my senior year. You have to look at the silver lining. I have a lot to be grateful for. My whole life I’ve learned to love your neighbor, and put your neighbor above you.”

At Burke, Caitlin served as vice president of the National Honor Society, a reporter and section editor of the school newspaper, secretary of the Key Club, which raises funds and promotes charitable causes, and as a right side hitter on the volleyball team.

She aspires to be a criminal lawyer. “I’ve wanted to go into law for as long as I can remember. I want to be a part of a legal system that does more than just prosecute and defend. I want to help as many people as I can.”

“I chose psychology and philosophy as my majors to get me there. I am really interested in learning how the human mind works and thinks, and I think that would be invaluable in the legal field. As for philosophy, it’s really about analysis, argument and debate. All of which I really enjoy and I think will greatly contribute to my career as a lawyer.”

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