Ten seniors graduated last month from Lumen Christi High School, a ministry of St. Benedict Church in Anchorage.
Principal Brian Ross praised the graduates for upholding the school’s three core values — “faith, family and excellence,” as well as working throughout the year to put their faith into practice, both individually and as a class.
The Catholic Anchor spoke to each of the graduating seniors about their time at Lumen Christi.
Flaherty, this year’s valedictorian, has attended Lumen Christi since seventh grade. She chose to join the Catholic Church when she was in second grade at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Elementary School in South Anchorage and has found Lumen Christi a good place to encourage her growth in faith. She especially loves the school retreats, and wrote in a school biography, “It’s fun being with the whole high school, with Jesus in the middle.”
She was one of the founding members of Lumen Christi National Honor Society and served as president. Flaherty’s academic credentials led to scholarship offers at several schools, but she has opted for the University of Hawaii at Manoa where she plans to major in math.
Active in sports during her years at Lumen, Flaherty loves that “everyone gets to play on the varsity team here.” In addition to Lumen sports, she plays comp hockey and looks forward to the warmer climes of Hawaii.
Nagel is Lumen’s 2019 salutatorian, and plans to attend Northern Arizona State for college. Raised in a Lutheran family, Nagel described himself as an agnostic right now, and despite the fact that his parents chose Lumen Christi for him for his junior-senior high school experience, he “would definitely recommend this school.”
Nagel praised the school’s teachers for taking the time to really get to know students. Like many at the small Catholic school, he appreciated the “inclusiveness of the sports program,” where everyone has a chance to participate in competitive athletics. He said everyone likes to compete and is grateful to have attended a school that allows everyone to do that. Nagel also spent two years in student government and five years in the school drama program. He hasn’t landed on a college major field of interest yet, and said his freshman year will be “exploratory.”
Julianne Estes spent 13 years in Catholic schools, first at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Elementary and then Lumen Christi. She plans to attend UAA in the fall to become a sonogram technician. Estes praises Lumen Christi for what it’s done for her personally.
“I was really shy,” she said. “Lumen helped me to open up, and I’ve met a lot of very close friends here.”
She also grew in faith, she said, because of “Mass, retreats, theology classes and the small, tight-knit community.” Additionally, she trained to be an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist.
Heavily involved in sports, she played soccer, volleyball and basketball since seventh grade. She was a mentor to younger kids in the “Big A, Little A” mentoring program which encourages upper classmen to pair off with junior high students. Estes was also co-editor of the yearbook for two years.
“I would recommend Lumen to anyone,” she said, “I’ve grown a lot.”
Trey Bernert also attended St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Elementary, and after trying out public school for one year, he and his parents opted for the smaller, more personal approach of Lumen Christi in eighth grade. Raised in a Catholic family, Bernert, like many of his age, is now exploring his own religious beliefs, but he definitely sees the positive advantages in attending a Catholic school.
“It’s a good community — the teachers care about their students and go out of their way to help students succeed,” he said. “It’s a great place to go to high school.”
Bernert is thinking about attending Northern Arizona, an increasingly popular destination for Alaskan graduates, and he hopes to eventually go to law school to possibly focus his studies on constitutional law. Bernert was active in the school’s drama program and student government. He also took part in athletics, participating in track and field, soccer and basketball.
Jaime Martin, who served as co-editor of the yearbook for two years, hopes to attend Grand Canyon University in Phoenix where she plans to major in graphic design. Her favorite classes at Lumen Christi were speech and composition, and as a Catholic, Martin appreciated the faith aspect of the school, “especially the school retreats held at St. Theresa’s Camp.”
Like many Lumen students, Martin is a graduate of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Elementary in Anchorage, and she came to Lumen Christi in the eighth grade.
“I was super shy when I came,” Martin said. “Lumen has definitely made me more confident.”
A competitive soccer player in Anchorage, and an all-round athlete, Martin took advantage of all the sports options at the school. She hopes to continue her athletics in college, and plans to participate in club soccer. She was the captain of the Lumen Christi soccer, volleyball and basketball teams
Isabella Faro has lived in places as distant as Pennsylvania, Georgia and Florida, but came to Alaska in 2007 and attended St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Elementary in grades second through sixth. She attended Lumen starting with seventh grade.
“I love Lumen,” she enthusiastically told the Anchor, especially noting the chance to make close friendships in a small-school setting. Faro, who loves biking during Alaska’s summer, is a particularly gifted artist, according to her teachers, and recently won first place and runner up for two of her sketches at an art show in Florida. Her work is displayed at the school.
As a Catholic Faro said, “Lumen brings God into my life more. When I came here, the theology classes helped me learn much more about who God is in my life.” Although science classes were her favorites, Faro may take a gap year next year, but is exploring a field of study which will incorporate her artistic talents.
Savannah Hogue, a lifelong Alaskan, spent four years at Lumen Christi, beginning in ninth grade. She previously attended Inlet View Elementary, Bayshore, and Anchor Lutheran. Her religious tradition is Baptist, and since all students at Lumen attend Mass and theology classes, Hogue said she has been intrigued by learning more about Catholic beliefs. She would recommend the school to someone even if they were not Catholic.
Hogue is enthusiastic about the sports program at Lumen, saying, “I really liked volleyball. I bonded with people I wasn’t as close to in school, and I traveled to places like Ninilchik, Kodiak and Cordova on overnight trips.”
Hogue said when she struggled with math, the teachers offered her a great deal of help and were very encouraging. Savannah is an accomplished artist whose work can be found on the walls at Lumen. She plans to study graphic design or interior design next year.
Gage and Savannah are twins. Gage Hogue, raised a Baptist, found the Catholic traditions he encountered at Lumen very different from those of his background and somewhat more demanding or even “rigid,” including the sacrifices of the Lenten season and the obligations of Mass attendance.
Hogue has plans to join the Marine Corps, and has had plenty of opportunity to discuss his future with Lumen Christi Principal Brian Ross, who retired from the Marine Corps after 22 years. Hogue said he is looking forward to the physical and mental challenge the Marine Corps presents.
“After the Navy Seals, the Corps is the hardest branch in the world,” he told the Catholic Anchor.
Hogue speaks very highly of the academic training he received while attending Lumen Christi, particularly “the teachers, who take time to actually teach and not just do it for a pay check.”
Alexander Lych emigrated to the U.S. with his family from Belarus when he was nine years old. Now a U.S. citizen, he said his family considered other places to relocate, including Toronto, but the presence of family members brought them to Alaska.
He is a member of the Russian Orthodox Church and appreciates the historic Russian Orthodox presence across Alaska. But he said, “A Catholic school opened up many roadways to talk about feelings and opinions,” and a freedom to discuss controversial cultural issues such as abortion and same-sex “marriage.” In many ways, he said, there are more similarities than differences between his Orthodox faith and the Catholic Church.
Lych particularly enjoyed his “government class and learning about different political ideologies.” His plans for the future are not yet firm, but he is considering the option of joining the Army or perhaps enrolling at UAA.
Kyler Williams’ education has included what he described as “school hopping.” He came to Lumen Christi for his senior year but part of his education was at Grace Christian Academy in South Anchorage. Williams describes his religious background as “Christian.” Lumen Christi, he said, has given him “a new perspective on the Catholic faith,” of which he knew very little when he first enrolled at the school.
Williams said he has enjoyed spending the past six to seven years working as a commercial fisherman. He has his sights set on pursuing a career as a commercial fisherman in Bristol Bay, where he plans to spend the upcoming summer and hopes to eventually secure a fishing permit of his own.
While his time at Lumen Christi was short compared to many of his classmates, Williams said he appreciated the overall environment there.
“This school is really welcoming and supportive,” he said.