By Arlene Edmonds

Special to The CS&T

Eighth grade honor students have received the coveted Connelly Foundation and Neumann Scholars Program scholarships.

The Josephine C. Connelly Achievement Awards were given to 105 students at Archbishop Ryan High School on May 11 and another 63 pupils at West Catholic High School on May 13.

Among those receiving this accolade were Northeast Catholic High School senior Alex Omar Ruiz-Cortez and Mary, Mother of Peace Regional School eighth- grader Haeley Horan.

Lindsay Fitzpatrick, a student at Monsignor Bonner and Archbishop Prendergast High School, was among the outgoing Neumann Scholar seniors celebrated at a graduation service held at the St. Joseph’s University Chapel of St. Joseph recently. The 11 a.m. service was held Sunday, May 3.

Later that day, ceremony marked the honored the new recipients of the Neumann Scholarship. Steven Ferrigno of St. William School was among the awardees.

All the students have impressive credentials.

Ruiz-Cortez, for instance, has maintained an “A” average and has successfully completed honors and AP classes with first honors. He is student body president and was vice president of his junior class.

“He is an outstanding young man who goes the extra mile to serve others,” said Sister Margaret Gavaghan, S.S.J., a Connelly Foundation counselor. “I chose him as a potential speaker for the closing ceremony in May 2009 because of his commitment to his education and his involvement in school activities.

“Alex is an outstanding student,” she added. “He has been a member of the National Honor Society for two years, the Community Service Corps for one year, ASPIRA for one year, Mathletes for one year and the student council for three years. He is continually reminded of the following words of St. Francis de Sales, the school’s patron, ‘Be who you are and be that well.'”

Horan is president of the student council, first-place winner at the regional level for the Pennsylvania Academy of Sciences, and participated in the Leadership Conference at Princeton University. In addition, she is a member of both the school’s basketball and softball teams.

The Josephine C. Connelly Achievement Awards are 33-percent tuition scholarships to an archdiocesan high school of the recipient’s choice. They are awarded to 168 eighth grade students each year representing 82 parish elementary schools in Philadelphia.

The 118 senior scholars represented 15 archdiocesan high schools. Collectively they earned $7.2 million in college scholarships. Within this group, 13 were identified as honor scholars in their sophomore year by being in the top 10 students of their respective high schools. In their junior and senior years the scholarship awards are increased to 50 percent scholarships.

The Neumann Scholars Program offers outstanding eighth grade students full tuition scholarships to attend any of the 20 archdiocesan high schools. The students reside within Philadelphia, Bucks, Chester, Delaware or Montgomery counties. Forty-five scholarships are offered each year. Since the inception of the initiative in 1995, 871 students have earned scholarships.

The student honorees all met strict criteria. They attended a parish elementary school, were in the 90th percentile on standardized tests, had a grade average of 92 or above, desired to attend an archdiocesan school and received an invitation to take the scholarship examination. There were 740 students who took the competitive test resulting in 28 male and 17 female recipients. The scholarship grant is renewable annually over the four years of high school.

Arlene Edmonds is a freelance writer and St. Raymond of Penafort parishioner. She may be reached at