In our annual awards ceremony on April 25, the Domenica Foundation welcomed 20 rising ninth graders into the newest class of Domenica Scholars! Pictured above are students who will enroll in Camden Catholic High School in the fall. Like all scholarship students, they are currently attending—and excelling in—Catholic Partnership Schools.
“There was something particularly warm about this year’s celebration,” said Elena Piperno, Domenica Foundation director. “It truly felt like we were welcoming the students into the family!”
For one thing, the audience was full of current and former Domenica Scholars, many of whom were there to cheer for a little sibling or cousin who was receiving a scholarship award. Of the 20 new scholars, five are siblings of current or former Scholars.
“At one point, a Domenica Scholar senior at Cristo Rey came up to us with her parents and her little brother, who had just been awarded his own scholarship,” said Elena. “She translated for her parents, who wanted to express their gratitude.”
The keynote speaker was Keyann’a Watkins, a former Domenica Scholar who graduated from Paul VI High School in 2019 and will graduate this month from Rutgers Camden with a business degree. She works for the office of the mayor of Camden and dreams of becoming mayor herself one day.
In her keynote, Keyann’a emphasized that her Domenica Scholarship changed her life. “The opportunity to attend Paul VI High School has been invaluable in my development and the path that I am now on,” she said.
We also enjoyed catching up with Jayla, who graduated from Cristo Rey last year and is now at Drexel University pursuing fashion design and merchandising. Jayla texted Elena after the event to volunteer to help with future events. “I want to continue to shine light on others, and definitely do what I can for people where I come from,” she wrote.
“These types of full-circle moments remind us how important these scholarships are,” said Pepe Piperno, founder and president.
“There are lots of scholarships and financial aid for college,” he went on to say. “But a lot of families need help to get there. You need a good high school education to benefit from a good college. That’s why we give scholarships to promising eighth graders and support them for all four years of high school.”
The students’ scholarship application essays show just how much both the young people and their families value the opportunity for a high-quality high school education. One scholarship awardee wrote that he wanted to attend Paul VI High School because it offers courses like computer science and world languages that he will need to pursue his goal of becoming an aerospace engineer. Several talked about wanting to live into their parents’ commitment to their advancement. One applicant quoted her mother as saying, “Education is the only thing no one can strip away from you.”
Since we began the scholarship program in 2006, about 340 Domenica Scholars have graduated from the four participating high schools in South Jersey and Philadelphia. Nearly all have gone on to attend college; a few have gone to trade schools or joined the military.