With the school year underway, Catholic parents are eager for their children to work to their academic potential and continue to form their faith. For four St. Dominic alums and their parents, dreams of high achievement in high school have been realized.

Graduates of St. Dominic Elementary School, Brookfield, finished at the top of their high school classes this spring. Pictured are 2011 St. Dominic alumni, Jack O’Grady, salutatorian at Marquette University High School, left to right, Rachel Mlsna, valedictorian at Catholic Memorial High School, Maggie Tallmadge, valedictorian at Divine Savior Holy Angels High School and Evan Wetzel, salutatorian at Catholic Memorial High School. (Submitted photo courtesy St. Dominic School)Jack O’Grady, Rachel Mlsna, Evan Wetzel and Maggie Tallmadge, alumni of the St. Dominic’s Class of 2011, graduated in May from three area Catholic high schools with high honors.

“We were excited to hear about the success of our alumni who attended Divine Savior Holy Angels High School, Catholic Memorial High School and Marquette University High School, and we celebrate their achievements,” said Jill Fischer, principal for St. Dominic School, Brookfield.

O’Grady, salutatorian of Marquette University High School, credits his high school success with hard work and a strong foundation in math that St. Dominic’s provided. He said his seventh and eighth-grade math teacher, JoAnne Bischof, now retired, provided excellent instruction.

“She’s an absolutely incredible teacher and I would credit the majority of my math abilities to the algebra that she taught,” he said.

O’Grady believes his faith also played a role in his success. He said a prayer before all of his big tests in high school and often attended the optional Thursday morning liturgies at Marquette High. He is continuing his studies at the University of Southern California where he is majoring in physics and minoring in technology commercialization.

Mlsna is valedictorian and Evan Wetzel is salutatorian at Catholic Memorial High School, Waukesha.

She attends St. Louis University and plans to double major in math and Spanish. She said having Bischof for math and Donna LaFlamme for science during her junior high years at St. Dominic benefitted her at DSHA.

“Mrs. LaFlamme was an awesome science teacher. I was incredibly well prepared for high school math and science,” said Mlsna. She also cited the community at St. Dominic’s for providing her with a group of friends dating back to kindergarten and with whom she is still friends.

Mlsna continued to be active at St. Dominic throughout high school, leading youth groups and confirmation retreats.
Wetzel is a student at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, where he is studying math, theater and other humanities. He also plans to ski cross country for Dartmouth.

Like O’Grady and Mlsna, Wetzel said Bischof played a key role in developing his interest in math. He also noted that St. Dominic helped form his faith and provided a great foundation for learning in high school.

“It is very gratifying to have been named salutatorian at Catholic Memorial, especially alongside my good friend Rachel (Mlsna),” he said. “We’ve enjoyed many years of school together, learning and achieving our goals.”

Tallmadge was valedictorian of DSHA and also received a Salvatorian Service Award.

“I worked really hard throughout high school and it’s nice to have it pay off,” said Tallmadge. During high school, she volunteered two hours every Saturday at Children’s Hospital in the infant care area. She also served at Easter Seals for two weeks during her senior year.

While at St. Dominic, she learned to be kind to others, which provided a groundwork to build on her faith in high school, she said. Following in the footsteps of her grandfather, a physician, and her mother and aunt, both nurses, Tallmadge plans to major in neuroscience at the University of Notre Dame and then continue on to medical school.

Excelling in all areas of instruction, but especially in junior high math and science, St. Dominic sets the bar high for those who want to go the extra academic mile, according to Fischer.

LaFlamme, junior high science teacher, offers the only grade school level SMART (Students Modeling a Research Project) team in the area for her eighth-graders. The SMART team is a joint program with the Center for Bio-molecular Modeling at Milwaukee School of Engineering. All of the other teams are from high schools.

La Flamme has led the SMART team for the past 15 years. While at St. Dominic, Wetzel and the team worked with Jason Bader at the Medical College of Wisconsin on a motor protein Cytoplasmic Dynein project.

“They are all excellent students.  I am not surprised they received high honors,” said LaFlamme of her four high achieving former students.

In addition to offering a high school level science extracurricular, St. Dominic also offers a higher level math option. While most eighth-graders are studying algebra, St. Dominic offers geometry to students who meet the pre-requisite. They can test into the next math level in high school.

Fischer and the teaching staff work hard to provide the best education for each student while keeping faith at the forefront of all activities.

“I have a stellar teaching staff who are all vested in the mission of Catholic education,” said Fischer, adding the parents of honors students are involved in the parish community and school board.

St. Dominic prepares its students for high school with “rigorous God-centered instruction,” said Fischer, adding that parental involvement in all areas of parish life goes a long way in producing honors students.

Parents’ expectations are high, according to St. Dominic pastor, Fr. David Reith, adding that teachers work to mimic the ways of St. Dominic.

“St. Dominic strived for humble excellence. Everything we have is a gift and we must use our gifts,” he said.