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Three St. Cecilia Academy Graduates Win Highest Honors

St. Cecilia Academy
While there are many exemplary young women in the St. Cecilia Academy Class of 2020, Valedictorian Penelope Herrero-Marques, Salutatorian Shelby Mryncza, and St. Cecilia Girl Rosie Robinson have particularly distinguished themselves among their class of 62 graduates. 
The title of Valedictorian and Salutatorian are traditionally given to the top two students with the overall highest and second-highest grade point averages, while the St. Cecilia Girl Award is the school’s highest honor bestowed on a member of the senior class by her peers in the senior and junior classes.

Penelope Herrero-Marques came to SCA from St. Matthew School, and even during her freshman year distinguished herself with multiple academic honors, including that of Best All- Around Freshman. Over the past four years, Penelope has won multiple awards for both Mock Trial and her work as lead programmer with SCA’s award winning all-girls robotics team, the Lady Bots. She helped organize robotics scrimmages at St. Cecilia for regional high school students and also mentored middle school students interested in robotics. Although she excels in all academic disciplines, her heart is in the world of math and physics, which she plans to pursue in college. Last year, she was chosen to attend the very competitive Tennessee Governor’s School for Computational Physics. She was also a Scholar at the Carnegie Mellon Summer Academy for Math and Science, achieving the highest award, the EQT Foundation Award for Academic Excellence. Penelope is a recognized school leader as well. One teacher has described her leadership style as “very appealing and influential…She has a natural ability to stay calm, encourage others to think logically versus emotionally, and still has a witty sense of humor, bringing about productivity and creative ideas rather than frustration and anxiety.”

Penelope is an AP Scholar with Honor, a National Merit Commended Student, and a National Hispanic Scholar. With acceptances from twelve excellent universities, including Yale, Columbia, Stanford, Brown, Carnegie-Mellon, the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, which offered her a full-ride scholarship for the Sciences, the University of Virginia, the University of Michigan, Georgia Tech, the University of Wisconsin and The Ohio State University, she has decided to attend MIT this fall.

Passionate, determined and adventurous, Salutatorian Shelby Louise Mryncza attended St. Henry School before choosing St. Cecilia. Since the beginning of high school, Shelby has thrived on both academic and athletic challenge. As a champion cross country runner and track team captain who demonstrates true grit, she qualified four years in a row for the cross country state meet and was named SCA’s top Scholar-Athlete both her junior and senior year.

Every year Shelby has opted to take the most rigorous academic schedule possible, including 8 AP classes. She has also repeatedly won top honors on the National Latin Exam and as the top student in multiple classes, including English Literature, Honors Chemistry, and AP US History. But Shelby has as much a heart for service as she does for intellectual pursuits. She has loved being a part of dental mission trips to Haiti through the Be Happy Haiti initiative. She is also President of the SCA Service Club, an active school Ambassador and a member of Student Council, as well as a devoted member of Best Buddies. As one of her teachers said, Shelby’s “drive for mastery is accompanied by a strong vision of what she can do for the world.” After receiving admittance to many excellent colleges, Shelby has decided to attend Rhodes College, where she will run cross country.

Rosemary Therese Donnelly Robinson is the 2020 St. Cecilia Girl, the highest honor Saint Cecilia Academy confers on a student. By vote of the juniors and seniors and with faculty approval, a senior is chosen who best exemplifies the ideals of Saint Cecilia Academy. The St. Cecilia Girl is also the recipient of the Lisa Elcan Bruner Memorial Scholarship, a monetary scholarship that the graduate takes with her to college.

Rosie is an excellent student who came to SCA from Overbrook School. She has been named to the Honor Roll every year of high school and is known for her strong work ethic and resilience, a trait that has not only distinguished her presence in the classroom but also her leadership in various clubs, service organizations, and athletics. While both a basketball player and a runner, she has especially excelled in cross country and track and field. During track season she competed variously in sprints, distance, hurdles, long and high jump, and shot put. As a freshman, sophomore, and junior she qualified for the state championships in cross country and track. Last year she qualified for the AAU Junior Olympic Nationals and this year was track team captain and winner of the Tri-Sport Athlete award.

The entire St. Cecilia Academy community has rallied around Rosie this past year in her battle with cancer, designing “Team Rosie” shirts to show their solidarity, and eagerly keeping up with the family’s Caring Bridge posts about her treatment regimen. Daily they have prayed for Rosie’s complete healing and have supported her as she has continued to come to school, play basketball, and enjoy senior year moments with friends. Earlier this year, Rosie wrote in her college essay, “Since the time of my [cancer] diagnosis I have realized that I get to choose to be happy and positive. It is my choice…In the beginning I thought that my life was stopping because of the cancer, and everyone else’s was going on without me. Now I realize that just the opposite is happening. My life is still going and not stopping in any way. There is just a little bit of a bigger hurdle to jump over.”

Her response to this challenge grows out of her deep faith and the strong support of her large and loving family. As a junior she wrote on the topic of the Blessed Virgin Mary as model for all Christians, and there is rarely a daily Mass where Rosie has not been present, inspiring others to deeper faith by her own example of joy in the midst of trial. In the fall Rosie Robinson will attend the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, where she intends on majoring in nursing.