21 June, 2012


It was a most awe-inspiring, humbling experience for BENEDICTINE ACADEMY to be awarded the  NATIONAL GOLD MEDAL for PUBLIC SERVICE.   Known as the Nobel Prize for Service, Benedictine Academy was awarded the Jefferson Gold Medal for the Greatest Public Service by a High School in the entire nation!

Sam Beard, President and Co-Founder of the Jefferson Awards
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The preliminary Gala Events began Monday evening with the presentation of the Jefferson Gold Awards for the 13 Regional High Schools across the United States of America.  Benedictine Academy was presented with an autographed lithograph by famed artist Peter Max of the White House for the Jefferson Awards Students In Action 2012 Outstanding Service by New Jersey High School.  This was only the beginning...

BENEDICTINE ACADEMY also was awarded The National Jefferson Gold Award for Greatest Public Service by a High School.  The National Jefferson Gold Award was announced Tuesday afternoon and presented to Benedictine Academy at the evening gala.  SIA Moderators, Mrs. Linda Michalski, Sr. Donna Jo Repetti, and Ms. Ashley Powell, attended the various events with Senior Graduates Ariana Taveras, Andrea Mendoza, and Dannah Laguitan.

                                                  (Robert Sakowitz, Board Member of the Jefferson Awards)  
                                                 L to R: (Dannah Laguitan, Andrea Mendoza, Ariana Taveras)
                                                 BENEDICTINE ACADEMY SIA Globe Changers Leaders, Class of 2012

At the historic Constitution Hall in Washington D.C., we were in the company of great humanitarians such as David H. Petraeus, the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.  Four Star General David H. Petraeus led the United States Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and was also the recipient of the U.S. Senator John Heinz Award. He received the Jefferson Gold Medal for Greatest Public Service by an Elected or Appointed Official.

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Jim Kelly, Hall Of Fame Quarterback of the Buffalo Bills,  received the Jefferson Gold Medal for Greatest Public Service by a Professional Athlete. After the death of his son, Hunter, he formed Hunter's Hope Foundation to help promote new born screening for genetic or metabolic disorders.

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Hall of Fame Hockey Player, Pat LaFontane formed a group for creating game rooms for children in hospitals around the country.  Race car driver, Charlie Kimball, was recognized for his unceasing work as spokesperson for Diabetes.

Harry Connick, Jr. and Branford Marsalis, two most amazing performers, won the Jefferson Gold Medal for Greatest Public Service by Private Citizens.  They are Creator's of the Musicians' Village in New Orleans in an effort to help bring healing through the Arts and Music after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.  Harry Connick, Jr. is a well known singer/actor and Branford Marsalis, an awesome jazz saxaphonist.

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Jourdan Urbach, a violin virtuoso, was trained at Julliard and Yale University, and has performed at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and the United Nations.  As founder of Concerts for a Cure, Jourdan has raised over 10 million dollars to fight children's neurological diseases.  He is the recipient of the Tribecca Film Festival Innovator Award, World of Children Award, and now the Jefferson Gold Medal Globe Changer Award for his work in Global Child Advocacy.

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Benedictine Academy attended the breath-taking events with graduating seniors, Dannah Laguitan, Andrea Mendoza, and Ariana Taveras, Class of 2012.   On behalf of the Students In Action Senior Globe Changers (Ariana Taveras (President), Caroline Antonio, Dannah Laguitan, Andrea Mendoza, Cinthya Pizarro), the SIA Leadership Team and the entire Benedictine Academy School Community, we received the Jefferson Gold Medal Award for Greatest Public Service by a High School.  Benedictine Academy competed against over 350 other Students In Action Service Leadership Schools across the country.  The thirteen Regional State High School winners were evaluated by the Jefferson Awards Board of Selectors in Washington DC.   Benedictine Academy's accomplishments were scored based on Seven Directives. We received a scoring of 99.5 (out of 100)!

 (Left: Karen Hatcher (Jefferson Awards SIA Regional New Jersey Director), Andrea Mendoza (Salutatorian, Class of 2012), Ariana Taveras (St. Scholastica Award, Class of 2012), Mrs. Michalski (Theology Chair, Co- Moderator), Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Sr. Donna Jo Repetti, OSF (Director of Guidance),  Dannah Laguitan (Public Speaking Award, Class of 2012), Ashley Powell (English Teacher, Students In Action Co-Moderator, not present in photo)  

The Jefferson Gold Medal was awarded to Benedictine Academy in recognition of their civil advocacy in the area of Human Trafficking, systemic change in legislation for the protection of Good Samaritans, and for engaging other young people in Delivering Happiness through their compassionate action to help others.  The Delivering Happiness Program was implemented by the entire school community through the leadership of the School Clubs.  Accepting the Jefferson Gold Medal for Greatest Outstanding High School on behalf of Benedictine Academy were Dannah Laguitan, Andrea Mendoza, Ariana Taveras, Class of 2012, supported by their Moderators, Linda Michalski, Ashley Powell, and Sister Donna Jo Repetti, OSF.  

(Left to Right:  Gokce Yurekli,  New Jersey Regional SIA Staff, Mrs. Linda Michalski (Theology Chair/ SIA Co-Moderator), Robert Provost ( Marketing Director of the Star Ledger, Jefferson Awards Media Partner), Karen Hatcher (Jefferson Awards SIA Regional New Jersey Director), Andrea Mendoza (Salutatorian, Class of 2012), Ariana Taveras (St. Scholastica Award, Class of 2012), Dannah Laguitan (Public Speaking Award, Class of 2012),  Zachery Certner (Jefferson Award Youth Service Challenge Winner), Sr. Donna Jo Repetti, OSF (Director of Guidance), and Ashley Powell (not present in photo - English Teacher/SIA Co-Moderator) 

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Lesley Stahl, Correspondent 60 Minutes
Jack Russi, Management Partner Deloitte & Touche,
Jefferson Award Board Member

At the personal invitation of Sam Beard, President and Co-Founder of Jefferson Awards, Ariana Taveras, President of the Benedictine Academy SIA Globe Changers, received the honor to speak to the assembly of over 500 dignitaries, honorees, and invited guests regarding the significance of the Jefferson Award to young people's lives at Benedictine Academy.  She received an overwhelming standing ovation.  Bravo Ariana and Benedictine Academy!
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The Jefferson Gold Medal is known as the NOBEL PRIZE for Public Service.  This year was 40th Anniversary Celebration of the Jefferson Awards.  Co-founders, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, U.S. Senator Robert Taft, Jr. and Sam Beard, established the Jefferson Awards for Public Service "to recognize and honor individuals whose community volunteer efforts best exemplify dedication to enhancing the quality of life in their local and global communities".

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To celebrate this history making event, were the world champion renowned "wall of sound" performers, the Alexandria Harmonizers, joined by Rev. Dr. Bernard Richardson, Dean of Howard University.

The charming and delightful Lesley Stahl, CBS Anchor, was Mistress of Ceremonies.

Throughout the evening, we enjoyed the show stopper entertainment orchestrated by Producer/Director Rupert Hitzig (Left: Receiving Award ) including Top Cabaret Broadway Star, Jason Graae and Tony Award winner Faith Prince( below).

             It was an amazing evening.

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Thank you Lord, for the honor and privilege 
of being part of such a momentous experience.

A special thanks to Sam Beard, Maryann Younger, Robert Provost and Karen Hatcher.
We are deeply grateful for your support, encouragement and guidance. 

Special Prayers and Blessings for our Benedictine Sisters, 
Franciscan Sisters,
Benefactors, Families and Friends.
The Jefferson Gold Medal belongs to all of you!

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The Jefferson Award SIA Team at Benedictine Academy Senior Globe Changers:Ariana Taveras(President), Caroline Antonio, Dannah Laguitan, Andrea Mendoza, Cinthya Pizarro, and the SIA Leadership Team:(Class of 2012) Caroline Antonio, Cheila Cardosa, Cassandra Francois, Brittany Henderson, Dannah Laguitan, Andrea Mendoza, Maryann Nwako,  Cinthya Pizarro, Ariana Taveras, (Class of 2011) Kai Alexander,  Krystal Burns,  Samantha Frejuste,  Samantha Herrejon,  Milagros Lema, (Class of 2010) Leila Fragiacomo, Imani Greene, Harpreet Kaur,  Ewa Kowalski,  Joyce Mendoza, Sydney Sigue, Jada Yarbough, (Class of 2010)  Eileen Conaty, Toni-Wilson Davis, and the entire Benedictine Staff and Student Community. 

(Photos Courtesy of Jefferson Awards)
(Videos by Michalski)


Benedictine Academy was awarded the prestigious 2012 Jefferson Gold Medal Award for Greatest Public Service by a High School in the entire nation.  Before returning home, we journeyed to the Basilica of the National Shrine in Washington DC to give thanks and praise to our Lord and the Blessed Mother.  What did it feel like to receive the Jefferson Gold Medal Award?  What significance does the Jefferson Gold Medal Award have in the educational mission of Benedictine Academy? The following is a glimpse of those intimate moments of prayer sitting before Mary.  As you can see,  the protection and guidance of the Blessed Mother is really the Gold Medal Award in our lives.

My Prayer Reflection:

As Aung San Suukyi's once shared, all the beautiful inspiring words we heard yesterday have been "written in gold on our hearts".   

It is unbelievable that we are here in Washington DC, our Nation’s Capitol.  One always secretly hopes and prays, believing it is possible, yet thinking it is highly improbable that we could be chosen to be awarded the Jefferson Award Gold Medal for Greatest Public Service by a High School.

Our journey with Jefferson Awards is a real Modern day Cinderella Story…. and Students In Action was our Prince Charming.  We lived and taught by Mother Theresa’s words, “Do small things with great love.”   Then Sam Beard came along.  He said, “That’s terrific.  But I want you to Think Big.  Think Global.”  They challenged us to expand our horizons beyond the 12 square miles of Elizabeth to 57 million square miles of our planet.   And they gave us the tools, the framework, and the network of support to do it. 

We live in a world full of violence, prejudice, exploitation, poverty and hunger.   Perhaps the greatest hunger is to be known and to be loved, to be treated with respect and kindness.   It is organically written in the DNA of every human being. Our goal was to start a movement, to ignite our love for humankind, by delivering happiness, one act of kindness at a time.  Everyone could Do Something.  No Zebras, no bystanders, allowed.

The real significance of Jefferson Awards for us is that it changed our reality.  They empowered our entire school to be like the NY Giants, to be ALL IN, for the superbowl of life.   They gave us the hope and the courage to be terrific in a world that is so in need of hope.   They connected us with wisdom people, people like Robert Provost, Maryann Younger and Karen Hatcher, to help us and guide us.  They instilled in our hearts their faith and belief that together, we could paint a new picture of humanity.

What does it mean to be awarded with the Jefferson Awards Gold Medal?  We are so proud and undeserving to stand along side of the great humanitarians last evening, and in the shadows of the great leaders of our planet, people such as Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, the Kennedy’s, Sam Beard and Robert Taft Jr., Eleanor Roosevelt, and Mother Teresa, who have all gone before us.   If we are quiet, we can here God whispering in the silence of our hearts, "Bravo Benedictine Academy, good and faithful servant.  In you, I am well pleased.”   

We give thanks to God and our Blessed Mother Mary for such a privilege and honor and grace.  

15 June, 2012

Gifts of the Holy Spirit

Benedictine Academy was blessed to have TEN STUDENTS of our school community receive the Sacraments with our neighboring parish, St. Catherine of Siena.  Padre Aurelio Yanez is a most welcoming Pastor dedicated to building the Kingdom of God.

Bishop Manuel Cruz was the Presider calling down the power of the Holy Spirit and anointing the candidates with their new mission.

Baccalaureate Mass

It was an amazing liturgical celebration as the trumpet blared on the Feast Day of the Visitation, for our dear Graduates, Class of 2012.  The Baccalaureate Mass was celebrated by Father Albert Holtz of St. Benedict's Prep, our  Benedictine brother's school,  at St. Walburga Monastery.  

Father Albert gave a most inspiring homily as he reflected on God's plan for us to be the light of His Love in people's darkness.  

Sister Sharon Mc Hugh, Prioress of the Benedictine Sisters, awarded the highest coveted honor to Graduating Senior, Ariana Taveras, who most exemplified the mission and values of the Benedictine charism.

In a special tribute to our Blessed Mother Mary,  Graduating Senior's, Cinthya, mom beautifully sang the Ave Maria bringing tears to all of our hearts.