Mary Pearson is headed to Gloucester Catholic High School. She is also the 2017 winner of the coveted Dr. David T. Coghlan Young Catholic Leader award, earning a $1,000 scholarship for her freshman year.
In her scholarship application essay, Mary said the move to a Catholic school “opened a door to a whole new world, which helped me develop a passion for learning, a passion that will help me throughout life.”
Known for her kindness and respectful attitude, Mary helps care for her younger nieces and nephews at home. A peer tutor during her time at Gloucester Catholic Junior High, she helps with fourth grade religious education and is an altar server at Saint Mary Parish in Gloucester City.
“I believe that God has guided me to help my family, school, church and community,” Mary wrote. In exchange, she believes she has been blessed with the gifts of patience and gratitude.
The Young Catholic Leader award was established in memory of Dr. David T. Coghlan, educator and former Superintendent of Schools in the Diocese of Camden, following his sudden death in 2005. At the time, Dr. Coghlan was principal at Paul VI High School in Haddonfield.
“Dave believed in the unparalleled value of a Catholic education. This belief led him to spend his entire professional career serving as a Catholic school educator. From classroom teacher, guidance counselor to a school and system-wide administrator, Dave did it all,” said his wife, Kathy Coghlan.
“At the time of his passing, we were overwhelmed by the response of so many people coming forward and telling us stories about how he impacted their lives — often making their college and career dreams a reality. The scholarship seemed a wonderful way to continue his work,” she added.
Coghlan said the scholarship is a way to memorialize her husband and see his vision alive in many Catholic school graduates. “It is incredibly rewarding to see the caliber of young Catholic leaders our schools produce. And for our family, reading the essays is a constant reminder of all that was so good in Dave,” she said.
Principals in each of the diocese’s elementary schools nominate one graduating eighth grader who plans to attend a diocesan high school. Thanks to growth in the scholarship fund, two runners up receive $500 awards as well. Runners up in 2017 are Sean Olcese, who graduated from Our Lady of Hope in Blackwood and will attend Paul VI High School in Haddonfield, and Samuel Matro, a Saint Joseph Elementary School (Hammonton) graduate who will attend St. Joseph High School, also in Hammonton. Every nominated student received a gift card.
“The decision process is never easy,” said Coghlan. “Each year we are once again amazed by the quality of writing — and student — our Catholic schools promote.”