Class of 2022: A World Wide Open

June 14, 2022

Members of Frassati Catholic High School’s graduating class throw their mortar board caps in celebration during the school’s commencement ceremony on May 20 in Spring. (Photo by Michelle Eisterhold and Graphics by James Ramos/Herald)

HOUSTON - Catholic education has long been intertwined in the history of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.

Since its founding 175 years ago, dozens of religious congregations brought education to the frontier lands of Texas, with today’s students, like those of the Class of 2022, experiencing the legacy of these brave educators.

With the world reopening after two years of quarantine and closures from the COVID-19 pandemic, so too is the world opening wide for these students in the senior class of 2022.

As they throw their caps in the air, seniors are opening the doors to college, careers and new opportunities awaiting them. The following is a glance into hard work and futures of the valedictorians, salutatorians and outstanding students from Catholic high schools around the Archdiocese.

Cristo Rey Jesuit College Preparatory School

Founded: 2009 by the Jesuits of the Central and Southern Province
Address: 6700 Mount Carmel St., Houston

One of the two Outstanding Students from Cristo Rey Jesuit College Preparatory School’s 2022 graduating class is Jennifer Lopez.

Lopez, a QuestBridge Scholar and Posse Foundation finalist, plans to major in biology at the University of Chicago before attending medical school to become a pediatric surgeon and travel the world. An avid reader and baker, Lopez is a member of the National Honor Society, Student Ambassador, the Corporate Work-Study Program Student Executive team, and The Woods Project outdoor adventures.

She joined Cristo Rey Jesuit’s annual mission trip to Eagle Pass to repair homes. Lopez is currently interning in financial services at the Macquarie Group after working for a natural gas company during her freshman year. This summer, she will participate in the 2022 Partnership for Careers in Cancer Science and Medicine at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

The other Outstanding Student from Cristo Rey Jesuit is Daniel Garcia.

Garcia plans to attend the University of Houston on a full-ride Terry Foundation Scholarship, majoring in finance.

While attending Cristo Rey Jesuit, Garcia played soccer and worked at the Houston Food Bank in his free time. He interned at BP his freshman through junior year, working in data analytics and human resources before interning at Cheniere Energy in his senior year, where he worked on the trading floor and in the engineering department.

He will participate in the Bank of America Summer Internship Program this summer, as he did last summer. Garcia hopes to become a quantitative analyst and also give back to the community in the form of scholarships for low-income students.

Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart

Founded: 1960 by the Religious of the Sacred Heart
Address: 10202 Memorial Dr., Houston

Julia Lauren Rushton is the Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart Class of 2022 Valedictorian. She plans to attend Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada, to study medical science.

At Duchesne, Rushton participated in the Honor Council and volunteered at several nonprofits such as BEAR (Be a Resource For Kids at Duchesne) and Books Between Kids, the Houston Food Bank, a special education school and Angela House.

In school, she participated in choir, theater, biomedical club, the National Honor Society, and was an Upper School Ambassador. Rushton also worked in the Duchesne Extended Care program. She hopes to go to medical school and become a pediatrician.

Abigail Beth Thompson, Duchesne’s Salutatorian, will be studying engineering with the Engineering and University Honors Programs at Texas A&M University.

She participated in several service projects each year, including serving as a teacher’s assistant for a class of 10-year-olds at a parish school and a seventh-grade humanities teacher with BreakThrough Houston.

Her goal was to form personal relationships with her students and help prepare them for their subsequent years, both mentally and academically. In school, Thompson was on the basketball and volleyball teams all four years and a three-year member of the treble choir.

Senior year, she was a member of the National Honor Society, the Honor Council and the advanced choir. Thompson was also the vice president of the Ping Pong Club, choir secretary/treasurer, and was heavily involved in the Young Life.

Frassati Catholic High School

Founded: 2013 by the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia
Address: 22151 Frassati Way, Spring

The Frassati Catholic High School Class of 2022 Valedictorian, Anna Lackner, will be attending the University of Tulsa in the fall and double major in chemical engineering and energy management.

Lackner was very involved in school activities at Frassati Catholic. She was an all-state swimmer taking gold in the 200 free relay her senior year. She has received state-level awards in government and debate, and is a National Merit Finalist.

She has volunteered many hours toward Love for our Elders and served as an athlete representative on the board of USA Swimming. Her role allowed her to speak out in support of potential changes that would contribute to safety improvements within the swimming community. She hopes to become a nationally ranked triathlete and be an executive at a Fortune 500 company before the age of 35.

“I also want to visit every continent and rescue several pets,” she said.

The Frassati Catholic High School’s 2022 Salutatorian, Ashlyn Miller, will be attending Texas A&M University in the fall and study biomedical sciences.

Miller has been involved in every aspect of student life at the school, including athletics, theater and clubs. She was a leader on the cross country, soccer and track teams. Her athletic abilities earned her district championships and top 10 finishes at State, First Team All-State and Academic All-State awards.
She had dancing and ensemble roles in both ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and the ‘Sound of Music.’

She was a student ambassador, a member of the Culture of Life club and the National Honor Society, where she served as president. In the academics, Miller was a CLT10 National Award recipient, wrote the top essay in the high school division of the Catholic Textbook history essay contest, and was most recently named a National Merit Scholar.

Incarnate Word Academy

Founded: 1873 by the Congregation of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament
Address: 609 Crawford St., Houston

Mary Caroline Turner and Makynzie Kitzmann are the Incarnate Word Academy (IWA) Class of 2022 Valedictorian and Salutatorian. 

Turner plans to attend Baylor University in the fall to major in health science studies. During her four years at IWA, Turner played volleyball, was a captain on the Falcon ambassadors program, and a member of the National Honor Society, Campus Ministry team and Mu Alpha Theta. Her service-learning project was volunteering at Camp Beloved and Beyond, which serves children with special needs.

Kitzmann plans to attend the University of Texas at Austin in the fall to major in biology, with plans to enter biomedical research.

During her freshman year, Kitzmann was part of the Falcons volleyball team. She was a member of the National Honor Society and Mu Alpha Theta and was one of the Falcon Ambassadors.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, she helped sew facemasks for at-risk members of the community. It began as a project for family and evolved into sewing masks for a friend of the family as well.

O’Connell College Preparatory School

Founded: 1847; The school represents a consolidated history of three communities: Dominican High School (1882), Kirwin High School (1927) and Ursuline Academy (1845).
Address: 1320 Tremont St., Galveston

The O’Connell College Preparatory School Class of 2022 Valedictorian is Kyle Tan. He will attend Johns Hopkins University to pursue biomedical engineering.

Tan served as a volunteer pianist at the University of Texas Medical Branch and the Rosenberg Library. He was also an altar server and lector at Holy Family Parish and helped the Filipino Santo Niño group. He dedicated his senior project to underserved youth ministry. He volunteered at the Galveston Food Bank and was named a volunteer of the month.

Tan was the president of the National Honor Society, secretary of Student Council, secretary of Phi Theta Kappa, and president of the Pepsi-Co Recycling Club. Tan participated in the NASA high school aerospace scholars program, interned at UTMB, and was a varsity basketball player.

O’Connell’s Class of 2022 Salutatorian is Katherine Taylor. She will be attending the University of Houston and will be majoring in psychology.

Taylor regularly volunteered at concession stands for school-sponsored events. She also enjoyed helping at local food banks and participated in several canned food drives. Taylor has been a yearly speaker for the Settlement Historic District to speak on the importance of family and Black history and was given the opportunity to donate an important family relic to the Texas City Museum

She chose to stay busy through extracurriculars, especially during her senior year. Taylor was a member of the National Honor Society and became the vice president of NHS her senior year. She played tennis and was the O’Connell cheer manager her senior year. She was also a member of the recycling and chess clubs.

St. Agnes Academy

Founded: 1906 by the Dominican Sisters of Houston
Address: 9000 Bellaire Blvd., Houston

The St. Agnes Academy’s Class of 2022 Valedictorian is Arbor (Nicole) Ahlgren. She will be attending Haverford College in Haverford, Pennsylvania, to study engineering and environmental studies.

In school, Ahlgren was involved as a goalie for the school’s state championship-winning field hockey team, a student attorney for Harvard Mock Trial, a member of the National Honor Society and the Kaleidoscope Club. Ahlgren took 10 AP classes and numerous honors courses and is a National Merit Scholar.

She worked at the DeBakey Veterans Association assembling supplies during the COVID-19 pandemic and volunteered at the Hayes County COVID vaccine clinic, assisting vaccine access for childcare workers. Ahlgren volunteered at SIRE, helping those with disabilities receive therapy, built a squirrel enclosure to help with rehabilitation efforts for the Texas Wildlife Rehabilitation Center and volunteered at The Montrose Center.

Ahlgren wants to be an environmental engineer and reverse the effects of climate change and make the world a more sustainable place.

The St. Agnes Academy Class of 2022 Salutatorian is Karis Williams. She will be attending Rice University to study biology and natural science.

She volunteered at SIRE, an equine therapy program, helping those with disabilities receive therapy. She is also a National Merit Scholar and took 18 honors classes. Williams is an animal lover, a horticulturist, and has a passion for all things natural science.

St. John XXIII College Preparatory

Founded: 2004
Address: 1800 W. Grand Parkway N., Katy

The St. John XXIII College Preparatory’s Class of 2022 Valedictorian is Laura Merlina. She will be attending the University of Texas at Austin majoring in the Plan II Honors Program on the pre-med track, minoring in social and behavioral sciences. She hopes to work and research in the field of addiction psychiatry.

At the school, Merlina served Neri House as a senior rep while playing varsity volleyball, club volleyball and golf. With campus ministry, she led both Quest and grade-level retreats. She was a member of the National Honor and Science Honor societies, along with various school clubs. She was also a Lion Ambassador.

Merlina was a frequent volunteer at the Brookwood Community and Ballard House, Mess Outreach and the Marie George Food Drives. She was also a vacation Bible school group leader at Epiphany of the Lord Catholic Church and worked part-time throughout her senior year.

St. John XXXII’s Salutatorian Toni New is going on to Texas A&M University to study mechanical engineering. She hopes to work with innovative ideas that will advance society both technologically and environmentally.

In school, New served as Lisieux House Captain, softball captain, editor-in-chief of The Pride yearbook and a contributor to the Lion News. With campus ministry, she was a part of the Faith and Leadership Program, the Altar Guild, and Quest and Kairos retreat leadership. She was a member of the national science and Spanish honor societies, and various school clubs. She is also a Lion Ambassador and an SJ23 Scholar Athlete.

New also volunteered at the Brookwood Community, along with Catholic Charities, The Lord’s Kitchen, and the Friends of Rosenberg. She is a member of Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church.

St. Pius X High School

Founded: 1956 by the Dominican Sisters of Houston and the Diocese of Galveston-Houston
Address: 811 West Donovan St., Houston

The St. Pius X High School Class of 2022 Valedictorian is Colin Covington. He will attend the University of Texas at Austin in the fall to study mechanical engineering.

In school, Covington was involved in baseball and soccer. He was a member of the National Honor Society and a Junior Officer Candidate. In the community, he volunteered at First Methodist Houston, teaching underserved children over the summer. He also helped bag and deliver lunches to the homeless.
Covington also participated in various Eagle Scout projects.

Megan Domingo is the St. Pius X’s Class of 2022 Salutatorian. She will attend the University of Texas at Austin in the fall to study computer science.

She was a member of the National Honor Society, serving as president in junior and senior year. Domingo was also a member in the student council, serving as class secretary her senior year. She also participated in volleyball, softball and tennis.

St. Thomas High School

Founded: 1900 by the Congregation of St. Basil
Address: 4500 Memorial Dr, Houston

The St. Thomas High School Class of 2022 Valedictorian is Peyton Woodlief. He will attend Texas A&M University in the fall to study engineering.

He was a National Merit Commended Student, a member of the National Honor Society and a permanent member of the St. Thomas Club. He earned an Eagle Scout distinction as a freshman. Woodlief also was a three-year starting goalie and state champion as a sophomore for Cy-Woods varsity club hockey.
He was also a St. Thomas Ambassador, participated in the Eagle Broadcast Network, part of the student government and the yearbook staff. He volunteered at the Houston Food Bank and Loaves and Fishes Soup Kitchen.

The St. Thomas High School Class of 2022 Salutatorian is Thanh-Vinh McColloster. He will be attending University of Texas in the fall with a focus on science and chemistry.

He was a National Merit Scholar semifinalist, a member of the National Honor Society and a permanent member of the St. Thomas Club and earned select distinction in Theology Healing Racism. He is part of St. Thomas Rocketry and the chess club.

McColloster volunteered with the Missionaries of Charity addressing the medical needs of the homeless and undocumented.

Strake Jesuit College Preparatory

Founded: 1960 by the New Orleans Province of the Society of Jesus
Address: 8900 Bellaire Blvd., Houston

The Strake Jesuit College Preparatory Class of 2022 Valedictorian is Mason Abrell. He will be attending Yale University in the fall and plans to study physics and East Asian studies.

Abrell was very active in his community, whether that be co-founding HTT, a group dedicated to helping break the cycle of poverty, working the food bank, or organizing relief efforts in his neighborhood during Winter Storm Uri. He was a part of Spectrum 3847, Strake Jesuit’s robotics team, where he was a subsystem lead. He also played flute in the symphonic band, and was a house captain for Bellarmine House.

He founded the Fictitious club, a fiction book club, and was a proud member of the SJ Roundnet Corps. Mason plans to pursue a postgraduate degree in Applied Physics, and then work on major projects, whether in the public or private sector, that intersect physics and engineering in East Asia.

The Strake Jesuit’s Class of 2022 Salutatorian is Jonathan Taffet. He will be attending Texas A&M University and plans to study engineering.

He served the community by altar serving at Mass, yearly service projects, and keeping count of birds seen at Strake Jesuit. Taffet was involved in varsity soccer, photography for the communications department and was co-president of the Crusaders for Life, and the Tropical Thursday club. Taffet also enjoys taking pictures of birds.

He hopes to integrate his passions: problem-solving, birds, humanities and photography to help others, the environment and to serve God.