It’s hard to gauge a person’s level of success when they’re only a sophomore in high school. But, despite her young age of 16, Lidia Mora-Gallegos already has a few promising indicators that, so far, she’s on the right track.
Not only has Mora-Gallegos successfully transitioned to an academically rigorous high school, Divine Savior Holy Angels (DSHA), she did it confidently, without knowing any other students when she started on campus in the fall of 2019. And, since that time, throughout the upheaval of pandemic life and virtual schooling, she has maintained pristine grades in advanced classes.
Mora-Gallegos is a young woman with goals and plenty of capability, to be sure, but she credits her background at St. Rafael the Archangel School in Milwaukee with laying the foundation for her success.
“I really appreciate the fact that my parents sent me there,” said Mora-Gallegos, who attended the school from kindergarten all the way through eighth grade. “It just made me who I am today.”
St. Rafael was the family’s school of choice because of its Catholic identity and strong ties to their parish, said Mora-Gallegos’ father, Jose. “That was a really important factor for me,” he said.
Throughout the family’s time at St. Rafael, he said he felt included in his children’s education. “The teachers were always willing to talk to you about anything that related to your child,” he said. “They had the consideration and they took the time to make sure they were informing you of how your child was doing at school, and how you could help them.”
For her part, Lidia said that she felt especially supported in her preparation for high school. As early as sixth grade, her teacher was encouraging students to begin considering what high schools they would like to attend, taking into account their own passions, skills and goals for the future. At that time, DSHA caught Mora-Gallegos’ eye, and when she attended a middle school leadership conference later that year, “that definitely solidified my goal to get into DSHA,” she said.
St. Rafael counselors, administration and teaching staff supported her through the next two years as she worked toward being accepted to her dream high school. The variety of academic classes offered at St. Rafael helped to prepare her for the entrance exam, Mora-Gallegos said, as did experiencing the different instructional styles of the St. Rafael teachers. She attributes her proficiency in math to using the app Dreambox, an online math program that Seton schools utilize to develop math skills.
When she was accepted to DSHA, she felt “able to snap into things” academically. “They really prepared me, and I think it shows in my grades,” she said. Mora-Gallegos has maintained a First Honors GPA throughout high school, even while taking challenging courses like Advanced Biology and Algebra 2, into which she placed as a freshman.
Looking to the future, Mora-Gallegos hopes to tackle a double-major in college and eventually have a career in biomedical engineering — another passion that was developed through curriculum at St. Rafael.
“I always wanted to go into an engineering career path,” she said. “What definitely encouraged my interest in engineering was the fact that I took a coding class when I was at St. Rafael for my entire eighth grade year. There was also an elective called Boatworks, where we literally built a boat, and I think that really helped amplify my interest in building things.”
That interest carried over to DSHA, where she enrolled in a stagecraft class building props for theater productions. “I think that really did pique my interest in a lot of these engineering programs. There is a lot of creativity to it, and a lot of putting the pieces together to build these bigger things.”
Wherever her future takes her, Mora-Gallegos still feels she has a home at St. Rafael, as well as a trusted community that she regards as “a safety net” if she ever needs advice, support or guidance.
“I can definitely say that I still count on the teachers there, those who no longer teach there and those who still do, for support and guidance,” she said. “That has been really important — the fact that I can contact them for any help that I may need, and any advice. I can go back and talk to people there if I need any help.”