By Marie Galetto-Dugoni, Marketing Manager at the Catholic Community Foundation

This year’s Catholic Impact Scholar Award winner, Claire Nguyen, certainly embodies the award’s themes of Catholic values and community impact. The Catholic Community Foundation selected Nguyen from a group of five high school juniors, representing five of the local Catholic high schools. This year’s winner will receive $5,000 toward her senior year tuition while the other four students will receive $1,000 each.

Nguyen, an alumna of Saint Clare School and current junior at Notre Dame High School, wrote a compelling essay answering the prompt, “How has my Catholic education prepared me to contribute to, engage with and improve my community and the world?” She reflected that her parish community and high school experience have shaped and deepened her faith, especially through her participation in multiple choirs and increasing interest in musicianship. Her religious education classes and participation in the Music Ministry at Notre Dame assisted her as she composed her first song, entitled “To Grow in Our Faith.” She notes that the song “illustrates how God will always be there to answer our prayers, and we are called to grow in our faith by trusting in Him.”

Advocating for justice and impacting the community through service are also passions for Nguyen. When the pandemic caused widespread shutdowns and quarantine, Nguyen was disappointed that she could no longer volunteer in her community in-person. But that did not shop her from making an impact. She began a face mask project with her family where she gathered donations from family and friends to purchase materials to make face masks for local charities and services. Over the first five months of quarantine, she and her family were able to make over 3,700 fabric masks for first responders and community volunteers. “I realized that I was able to use my abilities and skills taught to me at Notre Dame to engage with those in need in my community during the pandemic and help to protect their health.” Working on this humanitarianism project has further cemented her desire “to pursue my dream and work in the medical field to help others.”

While Nguyen’s story and accomplishments earned her the honor of becoming this year’s winner, selecting only one winner was not an easy task for the Grants Committee of the Foundation. Each of the five nominees is an exceptional student and community member. “Reading through all the essays was a pleasure but selecting only one winner was very difficult!” says Maya Reyes, the Grants Program Manager at the Foundation. “It’s clear that these young people will go on to do great things in their lives and for their communities.”

In a change from last year’s inaugural Catholic Impact Scholar Award, this year the Foundation was able to award a scholarship to every student nominated, not just the winner. “We are so pleased to be able to offer financial support to each of these students. We hope that through donor support the amount we are able to give will grow,” says Grants Committee Chair Bertha Minnihan.

Each high school is asked to nominate one student for this award. The nominees this year were Genevieve Boken of Presentation High School, Elizabeth Diaz of Cristo Rey San Jose Jesuit High School, Claire Nguyen of Notre Dame High School, Pedro Santana of Bellarmine College Preparatory, and Sebastian Young of Archbishop Mitty High School. Saint Francis High School decided not to nominate a student this year.

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