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OLP student selected for national award

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SAN DIEGO — A senior at the Academy of Our Lady of Peace was one of only 10 students nationwide and the only one in California to win the Youth Virtues, Valor, and Vision Award from the National Catholic Education Association.

The award is given annually to Catholic school students in the United States who, through their selfless service, innovation, and commitment to social justice, are changing the world.

According to OLP’s website, Isabella Cubillas founded and serves as president of the Tijuana Sin Hambre (Tijuana Without Hunger) social justice club at OLP, which supports a local nonprofit focused on ending hunger in that city.

Isabella volunteered more than 785 hours in 2021, delivering food and home goods to low-income families living in Tijuana. The group has 60 members and has helped more than 20,000 Mexican residents.

“Isabella is a tremendous representative of (OLP’s founders) the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, living out their charism of unifying love and their mission that all may be one,” said OLP’s head of school, Dr. Lauren Lek. “We are grateful to her for being an example to all of us, and for carrying on their tradition beyond these walls; beyond, even, this country.”

Matthew Cordes, associate director of the diocesan Office for Schools, presented the NCEA award to Isabella on Feb. 1, during the national observance of Catholic Schools Week.

Also during Catholic Schools Week, a local high school student received the annual San Diego Catholic Seton Award. Presented by the diocesan Office for Schools, the award is named after St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, patron saint of Catholic schools.

Each Catholic high school in San Diego and Imperial counties was invited to nominate two juniors who best exhibit the values of faith, excellence and service. The theme for Catholic Schools Week, which was observed this year from Jan. 30 to Feb. 5, is “Catholic Schools: Faith. Excellence. Service.”

The eight “distinguished nominees” from four local Catholic high schools each recorded a two-minute video via Flipgrid, sharing how they lived out one or more of the values. The committee selected one overall winner, Courtney Ralph of Cathedral Catholic High School.

Dr. Julie Cantillon, associate director of the Office for Schools, presented the award to Courtney on Feb. 15. Courtney received a certificate signed by Bishop Robert McElroy, a congratulatory letter from Schools Office Director John Galvan, and a $500 college scholarship.

“Courtney is one of our most kind-hearted, genuine, respectful students,” wrote Stacy Wells, dean of mission and ministry, in her nomination. “She lives her faith joyfully as Christ to others.”

“An exceptional student,” Courtney created a program to distribute Thanksgiving meals to families during the pandemic and is active in student government and campus ministry, Wells wrote.

The other nominees are: Esteban Murillo, Cathedral Catholic; Lora Frigerio and Morgan Pack, Academy of Our Lady of Peace; Nathaniel Kotnik and Jack Elgas, St. Augustine High School; and Margarita Alfaro and Maeve Hagarty, Mater Dei Catholic High School.

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