Graduation Day for Domenica Scholars

Twenty Domenica Scholars graduated from high school this month — and we were thrilled to be able to join them! Here, Domenica Foundation Director Elena Piperno and Founder and President Pepe Piperno are flanked by scholarship graduates of Camden Catholic High School. 

Every year, the Domenica Foundation awards scholarships to enable rising ninth graders to attend Catholic high schools. All attended Catholic Partnership Schools during their elementary and middle school years, where they also benefited from Domenica Foundation support.

The Domenica Scholarship class of 2022 represents the full cohort of students to whom we awarded scholarships in 2017. That means their on-time graduation rate is 100 percent! Their average GPA is 3.66; seven achieved GPAs greater than 4.0.

These graduates attended four local high schools:

  • Camden Catholic: 9 students
  • Paul VI: 5 students
  • Gloucester Catholic: 4 students
  • Cristo Rey Philadelphia: 2 students — our first to graduate from Cristo Rey!

All 20 are going on for more education. Most are bound for college — Rutgers and Rowan are popular choices — and one will attend beauty school. Together, they earned more than $2 million in college scholarships and awards. 

“One reason we focus on high school is that financial aid is so much more available for college,” said Pepe. “But kids can’t get to college without a good high school education — which isn’t always available in disadvantaged neighborhoods. We give them the foundation they need for success in college and beyond.”

Besides a high-quality academic education, Domenica Scholars benefit from classes and extracurriculars that may not be available in public high schools. For example, Nannsi Villa credits the Domenica Scholarship with enabling her to study music at Paul VI High School. 

Beyond financial aid, we also support our Domenica Scholars in other ways. For example, in April, we took students in grades 9-11 on a tour of Rowan University. Most had never set foot on a college campus before. Our scholars often need experiences like this to begin to envision themselves as college students.

“These are bright, passionate kids with the potential to make a huge difference in our community and our world,” said Elena. 

“They just need a boost to put them on equal footing with young people from more affluent backgrounds,” she continued. “What they do with that boost is up to them — and we’ve never been disappointed in what our Domenica Scholars have accomplished.”

Nannsi Villa hugs another Camden Catholic grad
“I was very passionate about music from a young age,” said Nannsi Villa. “Without the Domenica Scholarship, I would have never been able to continue this passion.”
Young high school graduate
Aliyah Rojas, Camden Catholic graduate, said, “The Domenica Scholarship has had an amazing impact on my family and me.” Aliyah is headed to St. Joseph’s University, where she plans to study criminal justice and pre-law.