A tale of transition: 2011 Valedictorians and Salutatorians

June 21, 2011

The following is a look at the valedictorians and salutatorians of Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston’s Catholic high schools — those who answered the call to be faithful students at every level of academics and service. These select young people discuss what they have learned through their respective experiences and even share a glimpse at their hopes and dreams for the future. Congratulations, Class of 2011. † 

St. Thomas High School
Matthew Bedell is the 2011 St. Thomas High School valedictorian. While at St. Thomas, Bedell was elected president of the National Honor Society, a senior leader for campus ministry and a district champion in pole vaulting. He will attend the University of Notre Dame this fall.
As a junior, he served at the Magnificat House and the Loaves and Fishes Soup Kitchen. This year, he was Junior Volunteer at the North Cypress Medical Center, assisting the orderlies, nurses and helping at the front desk.
“The first time I truly experienced what service meant was when I went on our Sophomore Retreat/Service day to the Loaves and Fishes Soup Kitchen,” Bedell said. “Now I see it as a way to be an example of Christ in the community.”

The St. Thomas salutatorian is Alex Saldaña. He is a National Hispanic Scholar, a member of Houston Leaders of Tomorrow and a state finalist in wrestling. He will study pre-med at Duke University with a major in history.
Saldaña’s most memorable service experience at St. Thomas involved a Spring Break Mission Trip to Hackberry, Louisiana.
“We helped in the rebuilding of homes and interacted greatly with the beautiful people and community of Hackberry,” he said. “This trip helped me to realize how lucky we all are and that one random act of kindness can really change a person’s life.”

Strake Jesuit College Preparatory
The 2011 valedictorian at Strake Jesuit is Ryan Lord. An AP Scholar with Distinction, Lord will attend the University of Texas in Austin to study biomedical engineering in Plan II Honors. He was a CCE catechist at St Laurence Church in Sugar Land this past academic year. He volunteered at M.D. Anderson as an internal medicine clinic volunteer in the summer of 2009 and participated in the Strake Jesuit/Amigos for Christ Mission Trip to Nicaragua in the summer of last year.

Phillip Posway is the Strake Jesuit salutatorian. Posway was a Chemistry Olympiad National Qualifier and state qualifier as a member of the Crusader wrestling team. He will attend the University of Notre Dame this fall.
At Strake, he volunteered with Habitat for Humanity and was a Junior Retreat Leader.
“I’m looking forward to meeting all the new people and learning how to live somewhat on my own,” Posway said about his future. “I think that, more than anything, my Catholic education has prepared me to keep practicing my faith without as much guidance from my family, both during college and [for] the rest of my life.”

Incarnate Word Academy
Maire Kelley is the 2011 valedictorian at Incarnate Word Academy. She was a recipient of the Certificate of Merit and Achievement Award from the Society of Women Engineers-Houston Chapter. A member of IWA’s two-time district champion cross country team, Kelley will attend the University of St. Thomas and major in math/engineering. At IWA, Kelley served as a CCE teacher and head lector at Ascension Church and volunteered at blood drives.
“When I was volunteering as a CCE teacher, one of my 5-year-old students gave me a small field flower just because he thought it was pretty,” she said. “It taught me to enjoy the simple pleasures in life.” 

The IWA salutatorian is Kira Hein. A recipient of the Certificate of Merit and Achievement Award from the Society of Women Engineers-Houston Chapter, she recently earned her private pilot license. Hein will attend Texas A&M University to earn a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering.
The past two summers, she volunteered at St. Luke’s Hospital in The Woodlands.
“Working at St Luke’s was a wonderful experience,” Hein said. “Volunteering at an elementary school as a junior was also a great experience. They helped me learn how to interact with people better, and I found out how to help them in the best way possible and how to be more outgoing.”

Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart
Kendall Williams is the 2011 valedictorian for Duchesne Academy. She will attend Brown University to study biomedical engineering this fall. While at Duchesne, she was a co-captain for the varsity swim team and earned multiple Academic All-American honors.
Williams said that her experience at Duchesne has prepared her for experiences beyond high school. “My Catholic high school education … has given me a solid foundation from which I have formed longstanding values and standards. 

The Duchesne salutatorian is Kara Chung. She will attend Washington University in St. Louis. A leader with the Houston Diversity Coalition and a Tae Kwon Do black belt, Chung volunteered at Texas Children’s Hospital and with an elementary school mentorship program while at Duchesne.
“I had the opportunity to mentor [and] tutor elementary school-aged children, and being able to encourage them, to see them excited about what they were learning, and to watch their progress was a wonderful experience,” Chung said. “All children have interests, both academic and extracurricular, and it was a blessing to be able to help a few to discover them.”

St. Pius X High School
Julian Sia is the 2011 valedictorian at St. Pius X High School. He was a member of NHS, Student Council and Honor Board, a community leader through many service activities, a three-year cross country runner and the founding member of the SPX Rock Club.
He will attend the University of Texas this fall, joining the honors program at the McCombs School of Business to pursue a dual-degree in finance and accounting as he looks into a possible future in investment banking.
In service, he volunteered at a nursing home and said mentoring children with epilepsy at Camp Spike ‘n Wave offered him an experience to reflect upon.

The St. Pius X salutatorian is Margaret Armstrong. At St. Pius X, she was a member of NHS, Student Council and Honor Board. The National Merit Commended Scholar was also the president of Latin Club, a Eucharistic Minister and competed on the swim team.
Armstrong will be heading to Texas Tech to major in petroleum engineering. She will be joining her older siblings in Lubbock, both St. Pius X graduates. It is a reunion she anticipates.
“My greatest accomplishment is growing up and staying close to my family. It seems like a lot of people my age aren’t close to their siblings or parents. I’m glad that I managed to make it all work – school and family and growing up and making friends,” Armstrong said.

Pope John XXIII High School
Matthew Krusleski is the Pope John XXIII valedictorian. The Eagle Scout and the Vigil Honor of the Order of the Arrow recipient participated in numerous Boy Scout food drives and projects. Krusleski will attend Texas A&M University and is considering a career in teaching or engineering/architecture, as well as discerning the priesthood.
He was a member of the Pro-life Club and participated in other volunteer endeavors, including the March of the Surviving Youth in his junior year.