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Immaculata Names Valedictorian and Salutatorian

Immaculata Names Valedictorian and Salutatorian
Posted on 05/06/2021
Valedictorian and Salutatorian

Olivia Izzo of Somerville and Sean Castellano of Ringoes have been named the Class of 2021’s Valedictorian and Salutatorian. Immaculata’s Baccalaureate Mass is Thursday, June 3, 2021 at 6:00 PM at Immaculate Conception Church with Immaculata High School Director Msgr. Joseph Celano as the main celebrant. The Graduation Ceremony is Friday, June 4, 2021 at 6:00 PM at Immaculate Conception Church. Barbara Stevens, Assistant Superintendent of Catholic Schools, will distribute diplomas. Tickets are required for both events.

In September, Izzo will be attending the University of Connecticut as a Biological Sciences major within a pre-med track. Among her high school accomplishments are serving as President of the National Honor Society, Treasurer of the Spanish Honor Society, member of the Tri-M Music Honor Society, winner of two Presidential Service Awards, Special Projects Coordinator for Student Council, and member of the Model UN.

Since her freshman year, Izzo was part of the Marian Scholars, an invitation-only scholastic program. Her research over four years focused on therapy comparison for depression, the clinical and social perceptions of Postpartum Depression, the incarceration epidemic associated with drug-related offenses, and the value of a teacher’s voice pitch in communicating with students. For Izzo, the strength of the program was the intense emphasis on sophisticated research techniques, as well as the opportunity to vigorously explore diverse topics.

The Music Department provided Izzo numerous opportunities to develop as an individual and leader. A member of the Color Guard and Drum Major of the Marching Band, she also was involved in the Chamber Choir, Music Ministry, Spartan Choir, and Spring Musical Cast. Within the Music Department Izzo feels “I formed lasting friendships, and most importantly, found the confidence in myself to know that I can accomplish whatever I set my mind to do. I learned discipline and time-management, while realizing how important it is to give 100% of oneself to whatever goal you want to obtain. The Music Department brought out the best in me and I will take the lessons in respect, passion, and hard work for the rest of my life.”

Embracing the school’s pillar of Service, Izzo was a camp counselor at the Immaculata Drama Camp, worked at the Somerset Patriots fundraisers at TD Bank Ballpark, was a school ambassador, served as a staff member for the Lata Living New Student Welcoming Program, and volunteered at the Immaculata Garage Sale. “From these events,” Izzo says, “I discovered how much there is to learn from others. The stories people tell about their unique experiences, enrich my life in amazing ways. Whether it is the people I volunteer with or the people I serve, I left every event as a wiser and more compassionate human being.”

Izzo feels that “Immaculata’s family atmosphere was extremely important to me. For example, teachers, who never taught me, would congratulate me on my musical performances; students, who heard my birthday announcement, would say "Happy Birthday" in the hallways; Immaculata just felt like home. The spirit of faith, scholarship, service, and friendship was always evident in the building. I had an amazing high school experience, because of the loving community Immaculata provided to me.”

This fall Castellano will be going to Rutgers University's School of Engineering to study Environmental Engineering. A member of the National Honor Society and French Honor Society, Vice President of the Student Council, Pro-life Club, a Moody’s Math Challenge participant, as well as President of the Math League, Castellano had the honor of serving as the school’s mascot, Joe Spartan, at many key school and alumni events. In his high school tenure, Castellano has earned the Silver and Bronze Presidential Service Awards, the AP Scholar Award, the Rensselaer Medal, and the Dwight D. Eisenhower Leadership Award.

With a strong interest in the arts, Castellano flourished as a student photographer under the guidance of Digital Arts teacher Mr. Joe DeVito ’98. That led to his incredible involvement with the newly debuted Spartan News Network (SNN) in 2018. Under Mr. DeVito’s tutelage, Castellano served as an anchor, producer, camera operator, editor, and behind-the-scenes production manager. “SNN is closely tied with the school’s marketing initiatives, so I learned more about Immaculata and learned some basic marketing tenets,” says Castellano.

As a Marian Scholar, Castellano explored such diverse topics as the effects of space radiation on astronauts, the ethics of genetically modified organisms, universal healthcare’s impact on American mental health treatment, and corporate marketing’s influence on water consumption by teenaged high school students. What Castellano appreciated was learning to use scholarly articles and peer reviewed articles as credible sources for project statistics and research study design. In addition, the heightened emphasis on writing, presentation, and communication, he feels, will be a major asset in college and his career.

Named a Skyland Conference Scholar Athlete, Castellano was a 4-year varsity runner for cross country and spring track. As a senior, he served as co-captain of the cross country team and added winter track to his resume. During his junior year, the Spartans fielded a championship team and Castellano attributes his success as a runner to the guidance of Coach Chris Heibell ’05.

Castellano’s commitment to the underprivileged was strongly developed with his volunteer activities through the school’s Campus Ministry. He participated in a variety of programs, dedicated to providing food to the needy and elderly. He was a member of the Appalachia team, providing Christmas gifts and entertainment for the needy in Wayne County, WV and donated significant hours to Immaculata’s Garage Sale. Continuing his service outside of the physical boundaries of the high school, Castellano served as an assistant boys’ basketball coach at Immaculate Conception School and served as a 4th grade catechist for the parish’s Catholic Faith Formation Program.

“To me, Immaculata means opportunity and community,” sums up Castellano. “There are so many options to grow as a student academically, spiritually, athletically, artistically, and individually. I have found my teachers and coaches to be mentors, supporting and pushing me to develop into a responsible and good person. Immaculata is a home, a place where people of all types can join in unity behind our faith and commonalities and celebrate our differences and our talents. It has truly been a great four years.”