Education & Youth - Scholarships

In the early 1990s, when Camden had the worst public school systems in the U.S., Father Michael Doyle inspired Pepe Piperno to get involved with Camden’s Catholic schools by sponsoring a student. Given a stack of photos and the opportunity to pick one child, Pepe took the whole class. That first class graduated 8th grade in 2006. So began the Domenica Scholars program.

Now as then, most children attending Catholic schools do not come from Catholic families. They do come from families who want them to get a rigorous education in a safe and supportive environment.

“Once they graduate high school, kids have plenty of scholarships available for college,” said Pepe. “But someone needs to help them get to that point. That’s why we concentrate on high school scholarships.” Since the program began in 2006, more than 350 Domenica Scholars have graduated from high school.

We currently offer up to 25 Domenica Scholarships every year to 8th grade students who show excellent potential and demonstrate financial need. Scholarships continue for all four years of high school unless students fail to meet academic standards.

Four South Jersey & Philadelphia region schools participate: Camden Catholic High School, Paul VI High School, Gloucester Catholic High School, and Cristo Rey Philadelphia High School. Eighth-grade students bound for one of these high schools apply through Catholic Partnership Schools.

Domenica Scholars have an impressive record of achievement. The class of 2023 is an example: The high school graduation rate is 100%, as compared to only 56% for Camden High School. Of the 22 members of the Domenica Scholars class of 2023, 21 were accepted into college and one went into military service.

Domenica Scholars have gone on to receive scholarships to prestigious universities, including Ivy League colleges. Others have stayed local while still amassing impressive academic credentials. Scholars from early years are now practicing as doctors and other healthcare professionals, lawyers, social workers, teachers, entrepreneurs, financial professionals, and many others.

Former Domenica Scholar Graduates from Villanova

Melissa posing in cap and gown

Melissa Rodriguez

Former Domenica Scholar Melissa Rodriguez graduated from Villanova University in May 2022 with a BS in nursing. She plans to serve as a registered nurse in the Philadelphia area.

Melissa attended Camden Catholic High School on a Domenica Scholarship, graduating in 2018. As a self-described “family- and friend-oriented person,” Melissa says that what she values most from her CCHS experience was the establishment of friendships that she expects to be lifelong. 

At Villanova, Melissa was admitted to Sigma Theta Tau, the international honor society of nursing. In summer 2021, she served as a nurse extern at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital

In August 2021, Melissa also served as orientation counselor for a group of incoming Villanova freshmen. She calls this experience “one of my favorite memories at Villanova” and says that she still feels connected to “her” freshmen and her fellow orientation staff.

“Being awarded a Domenica Scholarship changed the trajectory of my life for the better,” Melissa said. “Because of this scholarship, I was given the opportunity to attend Camden Catholic High School and take challenging courses. Without this scholarship, it would have been financially burdensome for my family to afford CCHS.”

More than 320 students have benefitted from Domenica Foundation scholarships since they were first awarded in 2006. That’s 320 students who are closer to being able to achieve their dreams because they start with a high-quality high school education.

From Domenica Scholar to Member of the Bar

young woman law school graduate


Arlette Lebya, Domenica Scholarship class of 2013, graduated in January 2022 from Rutgers Camden School of Law and “walked” with her classmates in May. In June, she learned that she passed the bar exam, so she is now a full-blown lawyer!

Arlette graduated from Camden Catholic in 2013 on the strength of her four-year Domenica Scholarship. Every year, we award up to 25 scholarships to enable promising 8th grade students to attend one of four local Catholic high schools.

After finishing her undergraduate degree, Arlette enrolled in Rutgers Camden School of Law. During law school, she worked part-time at the Camden Center for Law and Social Justice and was active in the Hispanic National Bar Association, Law Student Division.

Because of her outstanding service, she received the Dean’s Pro Bono Publico Award for Exceptional Service from Rutgers and the Eve Biskind Klothen Law Student Pro Bono Distinction Award from the Philadelphia Bar Association.

This summer, Arlette is finishing her internship in the legal department of Subaru in America. In August, she begins her clerkship in the New Jersey Appellate Division under Judge Morris Smith.

“I want to thank the Domenica Foundation for believing in me and building me up,” she said. “My high school education is what made me who I am today. It set me up for success, and it taught me to serve others. I wouldn’t have come as far as I have today without the foundation’s help.”

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