Meet the valedictorians, salutatorians of the Class of 2022 in Catholic schools

EDITOR’S NOTE: Below are photos and brief biographies of the valedictorians and salutatorians of the seven Catholic high schools and academies in the Diocese of Peoria. We congratulate them, all Class of 2022 graduates, their school staffs and families for their accomplishments and perseverance — especially through the years of pandemic.

The top students were invited to briefly answer two questions: 1) How would you describe the advantages of attending a Catholic high school?, and 2) Name one or two lasting memories from your high school years, and what makes those memories special.

We thank them for sharing their reflections with our readers, and wish them all the best in the years to come.

 

ALLEMAN HIGH SCHOOL — Rock Island

Austin Kerker, Valedictorian

Parents: Anthony and Wendy Kerker; City: East Moline; Parish: Christ the King, Moline; College choice: Princeton University; Anticipated major: Astrophysics

High school activities: Boys Club Volleyball, manager for the Alleman and Moline varsity girls’ volleyball teams, National Honor Society, piano

Catholic school advantages: There were many advantages to going to Alleman High School. First, there were its advanced and rigorous education and curriculum. Next, the class sizes were around 15 to 20 students, which allowed for the teachers to easily connect with the students and give more in-depth explanations if needed. Additionally, everyone felt like they were a part of a family or community.  Finally, Alleman prepared me greatly for college. With multiple practice ACT tests and counseling available at any time, I was able to receive invaluable help in my college application process, and I wouldn’t be attending an Ivy League school next year without it.

Lasting memories: My favorite memory from my high school years is when my club volleyball team, “High Flyers 18 Red,” placed second out of 67 teams at a national qualifier in Chicago. Because of our outstanding performance, we qualified to play at the USA Volleyball Boys Junior National Championships in Las Vegas. Competing at nationals has been a dream of mine since I started playing club volleyball five years ago, and it finally came true that weekend.

 

Mary Nonnenmann, Salutatorian

Parents: James and Julia Nonnenmann; City: Milan; Parish: St. Pius X, Rock Island; College choice: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Anticipated major: Chemical Engineering

High school activities: National Honor Society Vice President, captain of Dance Marathon, Student Council, Sigma (Students Against Destructive Decisions), ICTM (Illinois Council of Teachers of Mathematics State Math Contest) team captain and four-time state qualifier; ACES (Academic Challenge for Engineering and Sciences), Student Hunger Drive ambassador, editor of Pioneer Reflections

Catholic school advantages: Attending Alleman Catholic High School has influenced my life in a positive way because I have been blessed with a great education and the opportunity to learn in a faith-filled environment. My classmates and teachers all demonstrate good Christian values and exemplify what it means to be in a Catholic community. I have been able to express my faith not just in theology class, but in all classes.

Lasting memories: A moment from high school that I will always remember is participating in Alleman’s Dance Marathon 9. This moment was so special to me because it is something that I had participated in as an underclassman and, as a senior, was able to lead. We raised more than $23,000 this year, which was all donated to children in need. Being able to witness how Dance Marathon impacts the families that we help is what made this event so special.

CENTRAL CATHOLIC HIGH SCHOOL, Bloomington

Izzy Campbell, Valedictorian

Parents: Rick and Larissa Campbell; City: Bloomington; Parish: St. Patrick Church of Merna; College choice: Loyola University Chicago

Anticipated major: Biochemistry (pre-med track)

High school activities: varsity softball captain, president of Interact Club, vice president of Student Council, co-president of National Honor Society, Book Club, Academic Challenge

Catholic school advantages: It’s nice to know that the teachers are there for more than just your academic success. They want you to grow in your faith and as a person. It is refreshing to know that all faculty at Central Catholic want you to succeed in every aspect of life.

Lasting memories:  I love Catholic Schools Week, especially the mock-Olympics Central Catholic puts together. It is always so fun to come together as a school and partake in some good old-fashioned competition.

 

Bridget Wieland, Salutatorian

Parents: John and Kathy Wieland; City: Bloomington; Parish: Holy Trinity; College choice: Benedictine College; Anticipated major: Special Education

High school activities: spring musical, fall play, band, choir

Catholic school advantages: The faith is not just a part of theology class. It is integrated into every subject, so it increases the spectrum on which we learn about Catholicism. In addition, the class sizes are pretty small so the teachers can offer one-on-one time to students and create meaningful relationships.

Lasting memories: At the end of the year, all the seniors volunteered their time to put on a Special Olympics experience at school for the young athletes in the public schools in the Bloomington-Normal area. I have never seen an entire class enjoy something so much and have such a positive experience. Especially for me, as I want to go into special education, it was a great introduction into that field and just an amazing experience overall.

MARQUETTE ACADEMY, Ottawa

Isabel Garkey, Valedictorian

Parents: Joe Magnuson and Audrey Garkey-Magnuson; City: Ottawa; College choice: Lipscomb University; Anticipated major: Business Finance

High school activities: softball, basketball (co-captain), cross country (captain), Key Club, Crazy Cru, choir, Order of the M, Worldwide Youth in Science and Engineering team, Robotics Club, prom committee, National Honor Society, Running Start Program

Catholic school advantages: I love the small atmosphere of Marquette. Knowing all of my teachers are willing to sit down with me and give me one-on-one personalized help was a huge advantage that I was able to use throughout all four years of high school.

Lasting memories: My favorite high school memory came out of my senior year. Our basketball team won the Tri-County Conference Tournament for the first time since 2012. It was one of our biggest team goals for the season. My senior year was easily my favorite season of basketball, I was able to play with some of my best friends, and that will be something I will never forget.

 

Kaitlyn Magoonaugh, Valedictorian

Parents: Mary Magoonaugh and Charlie Leake; City: Ottawa; Parish: St. Patrick; College choice: Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana; Anticipated major: Early Education / Special Education

High school activities: Obtained Associate of Arts, Summa Cum Laude, Illinois Valley Community College while at Marquette through the “Running Start Program”; senior class president; Key Club (president as senior); National Honor Society; Worldwide Youth in Science and Engineering team; Future Farmers of America member; Crazy Cru; Student Ambassadors; Fine Arts Club; Order of the M; stage manager and soundboard operations for fall plays; spring musicals; prom committee; senior retreat leader; basketball; golf; volleyball; track; poms; softball

Catholic school advantages: There are countless! The small class size was one of my top priorities; Marquette offers a 10:1 student-teacher ratio. Teachers are available almost anytime you need them and will drop what they are doing to help you. The dedication of the MHS faculty and staff goes above and beyond to help accelerate their students and set us apart.

Learning about helping is another benefit of attending a Catholic high school. Even though Christian Service Hours are required at Marquette they have turned into life lessons showing me the importance of service to others. I have gotten the opportunity to go out into our community and give back to the people who have supported me over the past 18 years and not ask for anything in return.

The final and most substantial advantage is the connection to our faith. While this may seem like the most obvious of the advantages since it is a Catholic high school, it is, by far, the most important. Every day as I walked into the school I passed the Chapel; this was my favorite spot in Marquette. It was a place of peace and safety in my life. Because of Marquette, I feel that I have a strong sense of faith, community, and education. For that, I will always be thankful.

Lasting memories: My favorite high school memory was the trip to Washington D.C., sophomore year, to attend the March for Life rally. It changed my life in ways I was not prepared for.  What started out as a long weekend with friends on a bus to another state, turned into marching in our nation’s capital for something I so strongly believe in – the right to life! COVID canceled the following two years, but I will attend next year. I will march. I will have my voice heard. I will take the teachings of my Catholic education and move forward. How lucky I have been to experience this opportunity!

 

Josie Eager, Salutatorian

Parents: Scott and Kristi Eager; City: Mendota; Parish: St. Theresa, Earlville; College choice: Lawrence University; Anticipated major: Secondary Education;

High school activities: Key Club, prom committee, FFA, Robotics Club, Worldwide Youth in Science and Engineering team, basketball, Crazy Cru, senior retreat leader

Catholic school advantages: Attending a Catholic high school has allowed me to grow immensely in my faith. Each week I had the opportunity to take part in Mass and reconciliation. Receiving the sacraments often has helped me build confidence in my faith and find a deeper relationship with God.

Lasting memories: One of my favorite high school memories was attending senior retreat this past spring. This year I had the opportunity to plan it with five other classmates. I learned so much about others in my class that I may never have known without that opportunity.

Another favorite memory from high school was winning the Tri-County Conference basketball tournament last winter. It was such a special moment because we won it on our home court in front of a great crowd. Everyone on the team was all in during that tournament. Our ability to work as a team helped us get a 32-30 victory over a team that had previously defeated us.

PEORIA NOTRE DAME

John Frederickson, Valedictorian

Parents: Fred and Barbara Frederickson; City: Peoria; Parish: St. Thomas the Apostle, Peoria Heights; College choice: University of Notre Dame; Anticipated major: Civil Engineering

High school activities: cross country, tennis, swimming, band, All-School Council

Catholic school advantages: In a word, “focus.” Faculty, staff and students all understand that Peoria Notre Dame is focused on the goal of educating body, mind, and spirit, and every class, sporting event, and artistic performance is directed toward that common goal. Because of the school’s clear and consistent mission, the whole community understands where our focus should be, and so the environment is much more conducive to learning than it might otherwise be.

Lasting memories: One lasting memory from my high school years comes from my senior year at sporting events, when the “Irish Nation” student section was able to support PND’s teams again after a pandemic-enforced hiatus. It was incredible to be a part of that electric atmosphere, both as an athlete and a spectator, and I appreciated it even more because it had been impossible in 2021.

 

Abigail Halberg, Valedictorian

Parents: Lise Sanders-Halberg and Gary Halberg; City: Peoria; Parish: St. Thomas the Apostle, Peoria Heights; College choice: Tulane University; Anticipated major: Undecided on a pre-medicine track

High school activities: swim team, Lumen Christi board member, Earth Club vice president, Irish Chronicle newspaper writer, AP Capstone

Catholic school advantages: Attending a Catholic high school has many advantages, but two that stand out to me in particular are the faith opportunities and the dedicated staff. With opportunities for confession, daily Mass, the rosary, and adoration, a Catholic high school allows for students to fully embrace their faith in a comfortable and easily accessible environment. Additionally, the teachers at Catholic high schools truly care about their students’ overall well-beings and will often go the extra mile to help their students succeed.

Lasting memories: One of my favorite memories from high school was at my sophomore year swim sectionals. After only swimming for two years, I had made it on the Sectional Team, which had been my goal to be on by senior year. Although I swam a best time in my 500 free, that wasn’t my favorite part. My favorite part was the support that I received from my whole team. From the pool, I could see all of my teammates up cheering on the sidelines, encouraging me to swim faster. The Peoria Notre Dame girls’ swim team has become my family, and the memories that I made with this team are my favorite from my high school career.

 

Ellen Tomlins, Valedictorian

Parents: Gregory Tomlins, Mary Hanley; City: Peoria; Parish: St. Mark; College choice: Northwestern University; Anticipated major: Engineering

High school activities: All-School Council, Student Ambassadors, Drama Club, cross country, band, The Irish Chronicle, Lumen Christi

Catholic school advantages: My Catholic high school has given me the opportunity to find a family alongside an education.

Lasting memories: Competing every day for 3 years in Mrs. Kelly’s class to win the bellringer has taught me humility in victory, grace in defeat, and brilliance in a timely manner.

 

Abigail Haytcher, Salutatorian

Parents: Tina and Stephen Haytcher; City: Chillicothe; Parish: St. Edward; College choice: Washington University in St. Louis; Anticipated major: Psychology and Chemistry (double major)

High school activities: All-School Council (president), Student Ambassadors (vice president of grade school outreach), St. Jude Club board member, National Honor Society

Catholic school advantages: Attending a Catholic high school, along with my previous K-8 education at St. Edward, has shown me that Catholic education is more than just “religion class.” I’ve been able to appreciate more that Catholic values are interwoven in every subject, and the teachers at PND do a great job of highlighting how to live a Catholic life in everything they do.

Lasting memories: For Student Ambassadors, I was fortunate to plan Grade School Visit Days, in which grade school students from 12 “feeder schools” in the Peoria area visit PND for a fun day of activities that introduces young students to PND. I created a brand new day for our eighth-graders called “Eighth Grade Academic Day,” where 200 students learned about PND’s different departments and academic offerings. The best part of Eighth Grade Day wasn’t the visit day itself, but actually what happened afterward. A friend of mine told me afterward that his mother, a grade school teacher at St. Thomas, asked her students what their favorite parts of the visit day were. I heard so many notes about how prospective students found new aspects of PND to look forward to, like the AP Capstone program or the Student Services department. When I received all of this feedback, I knew I’d done my part in showing grade school students everything that PND had to offer, especially because I already knew about all the opportunities PND has given me.

ST. BEDE ACADEMY, Peru

Deborah Daluga, Valedictorian

Parents: Thomas and Patricia Daluga; City: Princeton; Parish: St. Louis; College choice: Indiana University — Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI); Anticipated major: Neuroscience and Psychology

High school activities: bowling, student government, student ambassador, Tea Club, Heritage Club

Catholic school advantages: Attending a Catholic high school has allowed me to grow in both mind and spirit. I have been able to learn a lot in a small, safe, and virtuous environment.

Lasting memories:  I will never forget Spirit Day at St. Bede. It’s a fun tradition full of outdoor activities that brings the whole student body together.

 

Lia Bosnich, Salutatorian

Parents: Mark and Cinnamon Bosnich; City: LaSalle; Parish: St. Patrick (LaSalle Catholic Parishes); College choice: University of Wisconsin-Madison; Anticipated major: Neurobiology

High school activities: basketball, volleyball, track, eucharistic minister, student ambassador, Rotary, Heritage Club, InterAct Club, Venturing Club

Catholic school advantages: Learning in a Catholic high school feels more personal. Teachers are not only there to help you thrive in your education, but also in your faith. As a student, you can ask any faculty or staff member on advice for education or your faith. I felt more closely connected to my classmates, especially when we had retreats together. It is not always easy to learn and grow in faith every day, but being at a Catholic school definitely helps with that.

Lasting memories: The senior retreat is one lasting memory. I felt at this moment, especially when there was an open microphone, it allowed us to express our feelings and mend broken bonds. It was at this retreat that I realized it would be a lot harder leaving my classmates than I thought. Another lasting memory from high school is our Spirit Day tradition. I loved spending the day outside on our beautiful campus with all students at St. Bede. I remember how muddy the seniors got because we kept pushing each other in the mud pit. It is a very special tradition at St. Bede that tied me closer to the school.

THE HIGH SCHOOL OF SAINT THOMAS MORE, Champaign

Molly Hergenrother, Valedictorian

Parents: Dianne and Paul Hergenrother; City: Champaign; Parish: St. Matthew; College choice: University of Notre Dame; Anticipated major: Biology

High school activities: fall and winter cheerleading (captain in senior year), soccer (captain in senior year), and student leadership at STM (School Captain senior year, similar to student body president)

Catholic school advantages: I am so thankful that I attended a Catholic high school because it allowed me to build friendships on a foundation of Christ and His love for us. I think that another huge advantage of going to a Catholic high school (and a main reason for why I loved it) is the opportunities outside of the classroom to serve others and bring God into sports and extracurriculars.

Lasting memories: One of my favorite moments from high school is the Homecoming pep rally we had senior year on the Friday before the dance. It was so much fun to see the energy that the whole student body had, and I loved performing with my cheer squad and leading the crowd with lots of school spirit! Some of the most lasting memories I’ll have from high school are my friendships and the great experiences we had in class, especially in AP Calculus, and outside of class, through service and spending time together. These memories are so special because I see myself being friends with these people for the rest of my life, and high school is just the beginning.

 

Catey Alcaraz, Salutatorian

Parents: Merlinda and Norman Alcaraz; City: Champaign; Parish: St. Matthew; College choice: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Anticipated major: Biology

High school activities: Art Club (president), House Captain, Spanish Honor Society (secretary)

Catholic school advantages: Attending a Catholic high school has come with great advantages like smaller class sizes and a close-knit community, but I’m especially appreciative that I’ve learned the importance of helping others since my school is so service-oriented.

Lasting memories: One of my favorite memories from high school has to be prom! I’ve always looked forward to it, and it was special to me because I had so much fun with my friends, whether before, during, or after the dance!

SCHLARMAN ACADEMY, Danville

Jason Craig, Valedictorian

Parents: John and Michele Craig; City: Danville; Parish: St. Paul; College choice: University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana; Anticipated major: Accounting;

High school activities: soccer, basketball, baseball, tennis

Catholic school advantages: Smaller and more personalized classes and everyone has one common goal of helping others and making the world just a little bit better.

Lasting memories: The COVID times and having to stay at home during my sophomore year will never be forgotten. And having to speak in front of so many people for my valedictorian speech was very scary, yet an experience I would never want to pass up.

 

Caroline Bogen, Salutatorian

Parents: Patrick and Sarah Bogen; City: Danville; Parish: St. Paul; College choice: The University of Alabama; Anticipated major: Food and Nutrition Science;

High school activities: volleyball, tennis, cheer

Catholic school advantages: The advantages of attending a Catholic high school for me was the feeling that came along with such a small school. It felt like a family, everyone knows each other and everyone is always there to help one another.

Lasting memories: A memory from my high school years that will stick with me for the future will be my class retreat. We had so much fun and everyone in my class was getting along so well. It was cool to see how you can still be learning and growing, yet have fun at the same time.

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