The following story was published in today’s edition of the Saddleback Valley News:
Nicole Madro smiled so much on Saturday “my face hurt,” she said.
The reason: She ended a high school career filled with achievement on a high note – as co-valedictorian of JSerra Catholic High School’s fourth graduating class.
During her address to an audience of 2,000, classmates, friends and family members, Madro, 18, discussed some of the lessons she learned at JSerra.
Late one night, while she struggled to write a paper for an Advanced Placement English class, she noticed a biography of Mother Teresa on the floor of her Mission Viejo home.
The quote on the back cover: “We are called upon not to be successful, but to be faithful.”
“Those words gave me a healthy dose of reality,” Madro said. “Schoolwork and grades (alone) cannot define someone as a good person.”
Madro finished high school with a 4.7 GPA and plans to attend Thomas Aquinas College, a Catholic liberal arts school in Santa Paula, Calif.
And she hopes to make a difference beyond achievement in the classroom.
Madro’s “devotion to furthering the Gospel message through service,” combined with her extraordinary performance at JSerra, made her an ideal valedictorian, said principal Tom Waszak.
Here, we asked her to look back – and forward.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I will have finished college with a liberal arts degree, and I will probably be working to earn money for graduate school. During college, I will hopefully have gained a better sense of how I can use my intellectual talents in a career that truly builds up society.
You volunteered as a peer leader at your church and with the Splendor of Life club. How have those experiences shaped you?
Working as a peer leader at St. Kilian’s helped me more confidently use the faith I have to serve others. Our youth minister, Nick Braun, often reminded the leaders that we can serve the Church as we are, with our own unique God-given gifts. Participating in peaceful protest and prayer with JSerra’s Splendor of Life club gave me the opportunity to pray for the needs of others and not just for my own needs.
Your family moved to Mission Viejo from Arizona your sophomore year. How was the transition to the JSerra community?
It went smoothly. The people I met at JSerra were very welcoming. I also enjoyed coming to a school with weekly Mass.
What do you think you’ll look back upon as your key high school moment?
I don’t have a single defining moment of my high school experience. I learned a lot about friendship – with God and with my peers. But that did not come at one moment. Different experiences taught me bits and pieces about friendship – certain lunchtime conversations, the Kairos retreat, the senior trip to Catalina, and some chemistry labs and English group projects stand out in my mind.
How much time do you spend reading, writing and studying?
A lot. I don’t keep track of how much, because I enjoy learning. Of course there are times where school feels like work, but there are other times where I just get really into reading a certain book or writing a certain paper and I want to make as much of the learning opportunity as I can. When I do have free time, I will often spend it reading a book or article to answer some question I might have about the Catholic faith.
JSerra Class of ’09 at a Glance:
College scholarships: $2 million
Athletics: Soccer, lacrosse and baseball league champions
Community Service: More than 30,000 hours