The Diocese of Palm Beach honors its Catholic high school graduates, particularly the valedictorians and salutatorians, with senior spotlights. In the second of three articles shining a light on excellence in Catholic education, the Florida Catholic spoke with top seniors at John Carroll High School.
FORT PIERCE | From the perspective of Catholic education in the Diocese of Palm Beach, it is a source of satisfaction when the top high school students are the products of Catholic grade schools. For John Carroll High School, the two top-ranked 2023 graduates trace their educational excellence to St. Anastasia School in Fort Pierce.
Valedictorian Lauren Richards and salutatorian Cameron Pantano both attended St. Anastasia in their earlier years. Richards touted “the community aspect” of Catholic education. “I have most of my classes with my friends, and it’s just enjoyable to be with a great group of peers,” she said.
Richards added that being at John Carroll, where class sizes are smaller, allowed her to “have a better relationship with teachers than I would have gotten at a public school.”
Both students spoke about teachers who have helped them excel the past four years. Spanish teacher Mary Yudin, Richards said, “was an extremely excellent teacher. Probably the best education I’ve gotten in any class.” She also mentioned history teacher Carolyn Henderson, math teachers Beth Murray and science instructor Beau Roberts, who Pantano applauded as his favorite teacher.
“He’s very straight and to the point, but you can tell it’s something he really cares about,” he said. “He has so many fascinating stories about doing chemistry. He worked as a marine biologist for a while, so you get to hear all the cool stories about him going to the Keys or wherever.” Pantano added that English teacher Bridget Fieler made him a bigger fan of literature.
Richards and Pantano said they are proud of their accomplishments and enjoyed taking advantage of all that John Carroll had to offer. Both were involved in John Carroll’s band program and music outside of school.
“I’m proud that I was able to be valedictorian and work toward that, get good grades and participate in a lot of activities because I also did soccer and tennis and a bunch of other clubs and stuff like that,” said Richards, the daughter of Kenneth and Michele Richards.
The valedictorian is headed to the University of Michigan in the fall to major in engineering. “I think I’m going to major in something along the lines of climate, space sciences or engineering. I’m not exactly sure.”
Pantano, who ran on the high school cross country team all four years, is the son of Richard and Elizabeth Pantano. He will attend the University of South Florida’s Honors College, majoring in microbiology, pursuing “something in the medical field, but I’m not too sure, to be honest,” he said.
After being very active on campus and off and finishing at the top of their class, their advice to incoming freshmen belies their young age.
“Definitely be able to manage your time very well,” Pantano said, “because, especially when you get home, you want to know, ‘OK, do I have enough time for whatever I want to do after school, if I want to do a sport? Will I have enough time to do my homework and have enough time to get decent sleep?’”
Sounding like a high school veteran, Richards said, “My main piece of advice would be to be involved. Get involved in extracurriculars. I mean, academics are important and stuff like that, but don’t stress yourself out like crazy because you want to enjoy it. You want to get to where you want to be but enjoy the journey there.”
For more information about John Carroll High School, visit www.johncarrollhigh.com, call 772-464-5200 or follow the school on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.