A new dawn awaits the Class of 2023

June 13, 2023

Graduation is upon us, and for high school seniors, this is the twilight of their childhood education. This summer, the seniors will pack their bags and see a new dawn on the horizon — college.

The following is a glimpse of the valedictorians, salutatorians and outstanding students of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston’s 10 Catholic high schools who excelled during their high school days, going above and beyond the call of duty to be exceptional in academics and serve in their community.

Cristo Rey Jesuit College Preparatory School

One of the two Outstanding Students from Cristo Rey Jesuit College Preparatory School’s 2023 graduating class is Maria Barsallo. She will be going to Benedictine College in Illinois.

Johnatan Cabrera is also an Outstanding Student from Cristo Rey Jesuit College Preparatory School’s 2023 graduating class. He will be attending the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart

Megan Toussaint is the Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart Class of 2023 Valedictorian. She plans to attend the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, majoring in history on a pre-law track and considering a double major in economics. At Duchesne, Toussaint was president in the Mock Trial club.

Jenan Othman, Duchesne’s Salutatorian, will be studying biological sciences at Carnegie Melon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. At Duchesne, she was involved in robotics, the cyberpatriot club and CAVE.

Frassati Catholic High School

The Frassati Catholic High School Class of 2023 Valedictorian, Collin Dufrene, will be attending the University of Texas at Austin in the fall to study philosophy.

In the community, Dufrene has been a regular volunteer at the Montgomery County and Houston Food Banks, and was a volunteer faith formation teacher at his parish, St. Anthony of Padua, where he also serves as an altar server.

At Frassati, he was in the Culture of Life Club, YMCA Youth and Government, National Honor Society, World Languages Club and National French Honor Society. He was also involved in cross country and tennis.

When asked about his hopes and dreams for the future, Dufrene said, “I plan to either become a university professor, plant biologist or lawyer if God calls me to marriage, or to become a Dominican priest if I am called to the religious life.”

The Frassati Catholic High School’s 2023 Salutatorian, Sophie Blakesley, will be attending Texas A&M University in the fall and study biomedical sciences.

In the community, Blakesley volunteered as a Confirmation teen assistant in her parish, St. Anthony of Padua, served at St. Anthony’s Bread Pantry and the Houston Food Bank, and organized a toy drive for Northwest Assistance Ministries. At Frassati, she was in the Culture of Life Club, Acts of Mercy Club, World Language Club, Musical Theater and National Honor Society.

She was also involved in swimming and softball, both of which she was named to Academic All-State Teams. Blakesley hopes “to become a physician’s assistant after finishing at Texas A&M. My dream is to have a family and be able to serve others in whatever line of work I end up in.”

Incarnate Word Academy

Incarnate Word Academy’s 2023 Valedictorian, Xiomara Salinas, will attend the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta and major in chemical and biomolecular engineering.

Throughout the last four years, she has given back to the community by volunteering at a variety of organizations and programs, such as the Texas Wildlife Rehabilitation Coalition, Houston Food Bank, Star of Hope Soup Kitchen, and Camp Blessing in Brenham, Texas. Additionally, during her sophomore year of high school she worked with several classmates to organize and execute a service project called Casa de Esperanza Collection, a donation drive to collect toiletries and hygiene products for at-risk youth in the Houston area.

Throughout high school she’s been involved in student council (as sophomore class vice president, junior delegate and student body secretary), Falcon Ambassadors (event team executive officer), Spanish Culture Club (co-president), engineering club (president and founding officer), campus ministry team (service and retreat teams), National Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta and Sociedad Honoraria Hispánica.

Her dream for the future is to study how chemical engineering and human biology interact at the biomolecular level to make advances in the ever-changing and evolving fields of engineering, medicine, biochemistry and pharmaceuticals. Salinas hopes to pursue a career in which she can follow her academic and professional passions, but also have the ability to help and serve others and make a positive impact on her community.

IWA’s 2023 Salutatorian, Anna Gardner, plans to attend Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame, where she’ll major in biology and minor in art. She will also play Division 3 NCAA tennis for the Belles.

While at IWA, her primary focus in service was helping animals. She volunteered at the Texas Wildlife Rehabilitation Center and the wildlife center at the Houston SPCA. While at the SPCA, she worked primarily with birds. When the pandemic started and interactions were limited, her service involved making and distributing blankets, holiday placemats, and Christmas cards to the Star of Hope in downtown Houston.

In her four years at IWA, Gardner participated in the St. Thomas High School band for two years, the Admissions Department’s Executive Ambassador and Recruitment Team, tennis, National Honor Society and Mu Alpha Theta. She also successfully completed the requirements for a leadership certification. Outside of school, Gardner participated in private flute lessons, the Houston Flute Club, and USTA tennis.

After earning a degree in biology, she hopes to continue her education in veterinary studies.

O’Connell College Preparatory School

The O’Connell College Preparatory School Class of 2023 Valedictorian is Elizabeth White. She will attend Texas A&M University’s School of Visualization as an animation major. “One of my greatest aspirations is to provide ways to expose children and young adults to creative outlets who might not otherwise have the resources to do so,” she said. “I have big dreams of working for one of my favorite animation studios, DreamWorks Animation!”

White was able to raise over a thousand dollars for Ronald McDonald House Galveston, St. Dominic’s Village Senior Care, and Holy Family Catholic School, as well as dedicate volunteer hours to support their causes.

The O’Connell College Preparatory School Class of 2023 Salutatorian is Mathew Strueby. He will attend Galveston College, then move onto a four-year university to complete his bachelor’s degree.

At the school, Strueby was a member of the student council, National Honor Society, and a Dual Credit student with Galveston College. He was also a varsity player on both the football and basketball teams.

“I have many interests and have not pinpointed as to which direction I plan to pursue for the future,” he said. “I know I will find a way to serve my community and family in the future.”

St. Agnes Academy

The St. Agnes Academy’s Class of 2023 Valedictorian is Blythe Bath. She will be attending Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

She was called to action when she founded the non-profit organization “The Food Allergy Allies,” whose mission is to expand the food options available to individuals who face both food insecurity and dietary restrictions. Bath was also president of the senior class, a varsity soccer player and a National Merit Scholarship Winner.

The St. Agnes Academy Class of 2023 Salutatorian is Anika Shethia. She will be attending Yale University in Connecticut to study environmental science.

At the school, Shethia was the student body vice president and a National Merit Scholar. In the community, she was part of the Houston Youth Climate activism group.

St. John XXIII College Preparatory

The St. John XXIII College Preparatory’s Class of 2023 Valedictorian is Mark Parmenter. He will be attending the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma, majoring in chemical engineering.

A National Merit Scholar, at school, Parmenter served as captain of the Comedy Sportz team, as well as president of the Quiz and Science Bowl teams. He also served as head altar server for two years assisting at Mass in many capacities. He was a member of the National Honor Society and the National Science Honor Society. As a member of Aquinas House, he was elected to be a representative all four years at the school and has enjoyed participating in many school theater productions.

Parmenter volunteered often at the Brookwood Community, playing basketball with the citizens. He also assisted riders at Reining Strength. Mark has been an altar server at St. Bartholomew Catholic Church for over eight years and has volunteered in many other church activities.

The St. John XXIII College Preparatory’s Class of 2023 Salutatorian is Laura Ngo-Nguyen. She will be studying at the University of Texas at Austin and will be participating in the School of Human Ecology Honors Program to study advanced nutritional sciences.

Ngo-Nguyen hopes to pursue a career in medicine and use her research experience and education to make healthcare more accessible in the U.S.

In school, Ngo-Nguyen served as the treasurer of the International Club and Checkers Club as a junior and senior. She served as the secretary of the National Honor Society and is a member of the National Science Honor Society, Lion Ambassadors, and other various clubs. During these past four years, she has regularly volunteered at Mamie George Community Center and Loaves & Fishes Soup Kitchen.

St. Pius X High School

The St. Pius X High School Class of 2023 Valedictorian is Stephanie Birkelbach. She will attend Texas A&M University, majoring in computer science.

In school, Birkelbach, a national merit scholar, was a member of the National Honor Society and junior class secretary in the student council. She was also in the varsity swimming team. In the community, she volunteered at the Houston Food Bank and a math tutor for students at SPX and in her community.

Logan Landry is the St. Pius X’s Class of 2023 Salutatorian. He will attend Southern Nazarene University in Oklahoma, majoring in finance.

In school, he was in the Student Honor Board and National Honor Society. In sports, he was part of both varsity rugby and football teams. In the community, he volunteered at the Salvation Army, St. Vincent De Paul Food Pantry, Houston Food Bank, Habitat for Humanity Restore and the Middle School Academic Rally.

St. Thomas High School

The St. Thomas High School Class of 2023 Valedictorian is Caleb Davis. He will attend Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the fall to pursue engineering and business.
He was a two-year leader in Round Up student fundraiser for St. Thomas tuition assistance. He is also a permanent member of the St. Thomas Club, and member of National Honor Society and St. Thomas Eagle Ambassador Program.

Davis was also editor-in-chief of the Eagle Online his junior year and feature editor his senior year. In sports, he was in the baseball and football teams, serving as captain in football.

The St. Thomas High School Class of 2023 Salutatorian is Thomas Pham. He will be attending Texas A&M University, where he was accepted into the Business Honors program.
He is a member of the National Honor Society, a College Board AP Scholar with Distinction and a permanent member St. Thomas Club. He served in the student council and student body government as executive board secretary, chaplain and class representative.

Pham is also a member of the Archdiocesan Youth Council, the St. Thomas Eagle Ambassador Program and a St. Thomas Senior Leader. Active in journalism, Pham wrote a few columns for the Texas Catholic Herald as well as participate as morning news anchor on the Eagle Broadcasting Network and as yearbook editor-in-chief, writer and photographer. In sports, he was in varsity Eagle soccer and Eagle track and field.

Strake Jesuit College Preparatory

Cristian Barinaga is Strake Jesuit’s Class of 2023 Valedictorian. He is going to attend Purdue University as a Stamps Scholar this fall and is planning on studying electrical engineering.

While at Jesuit, Barinaga founded the school’s Crusader Educator tutoring club, connecting over 30 Strake Jesuit student-tutors to peers and other students in the Houston Area. He also served in his faith, leading Freshman and Kairos retreats, serving at daily and school-wide Masses, and assisting in many Pastoral Ministry Center events. During his time at Jesuit, Barinaga was involved in a variety of organizations: he was on the Advisory Committee for Crusader Crew (Freshman Orientation), a three-year house captain in the school’s student council, president of the Crusaders for Life Club and Strake Jesuit Photo Club, and on the Junior Discipline Board. Moving forward, Barinaga hopes to integrate his passion for innovation with his dedication to Catholic Social Teaching and confront humanitarian issues, such as a lack of reliable electricity, internet and sanitation.

The Salutatorian of Strake Jesuit, class of 2023, is Jackson Amorosa. He plans to attend the University of Notre Dame in Indiana in the fall where he plans to study engineering in the College of Engineering.

Amorosa served his community in a number of ways throughout his high school career. He volunteered at the retirement community, Gardens of Bellaire, the Houston Food Bank, and at Camp Blessing, a Christian summer camp for people with disabilities and/or special needs.

While he was a competitive gymnast outside of school, Amorosa was able to participate in multiple activities at Strake Jesuit. Amorosa played Quiz Bowl, practiced martial arts, and was a commentator for Crusader Sports Network. Amorosa was also a Kairos Retreat Leader and a Ciszek Advisory Leader for two years.

Amorosa’s biggest hope for the future is that he continues on a similar path that he set for himself in high school. A path that includes a good work ethic, a developing friendship with Christ, and a commitment to being a good role model for his younger siblings.

Amorosa dreams to have success in college by excelling in the classroom and meeting new people. After college, Jackson hopes to have the opportunity to find a job that he is passionate about and where he can strive to be the best version of himself.