Dr. David T. Coghlan Young Catholic Leader award winners

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Three eighth graders in South Jersey Catholic schools earned the top spot for the 2019 Dr. David T. Coghlan Young Catholic Leader award. Each winning student received $1,000, payable for their first year at a diocesan Catholic high school.

Above, Kathy Coghlan poses with Hailey D’Antonio of Saint John Paul II Regional School, Stratford, one of three winners of the Dr. David T. Coghlan Young Catholic Leader award. Below, Mike Angelo Rodriguez of Our Lady Star of Sea School, Atlantic City, poses with Sister Rose DiFluri, Assistant Superintendent of Schools. Not pictured is Mariannie Perez of Holy Name School, Camden.

Every diocesan elementary school is invited to nominate one student for the award, which was established in memory of Dr. David T. Coghlan, educator and former Superintendent of Schools in the Diocese of Camden. Nominated students are required to complete an essay on their contributions to family, community, school and church, and how they plan to share their gifts in high school and beyond. Dr. Coghlan’s family, who established the award, selects the scholarship recipients.

Typically, the scholarship goes to one first place winner, with two additional awards of $500 each. But this year was a different story. “Our committee just couldn’t choose one,” said the late Dr. Coghlan’s wife, Kathy. “Each student told such powerful stories. The kids are really putting their faith into action.”

Below are the 2019 Coghlan scholarship winners with an excerpt from their essays:

Hailey D’Antonio, Saint John Paul II Regional School, Stratford, plans to attend Paul VI High School: “My Catholic school community fosters the values and morals that I have learned from my family growing up. I feel blessed to be immersed in a loving and encouraging environment throughout my school day. That is why I have decided to continue my education in a Catholic high school.”

Mariannie Perez, Holy Name School, Camden, plans to attend Paul VI High School: “I have a 1-year old niece and I am always telling her stories about Jesus’ life. … My niece is the reason I work so hard to be the best possible me ever because I know she looks up to me and I want to be a good role model for her.”

Mike Angelo Rodriguez, Our Lady Star of the Sea Regional School, Atlantic City, plans to attend Holy Spirit High School: “Studying in a Catholic School there is an emphasis on service. Whenever volunteers are needed for an event, my school makes known the opportunity to volunteer. This formation given to me from a young age has instilled a good and faithful work ethic.”