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Women honor Gibbons principal

MACCW luncheon also raises funds for girls' scholarships to Catholic high schools

Posing for a photo after the Miami Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women's annual scholarship luncheon, from left: Cardinal Gibbons Principal Oscar Cedeno, recognized this year for his contributions to the Catholic education; and scholarship recipients Isabella Parra and Alexis Battoo, both attending Gibbons, and Aolani Dominguez, who attends St. Thomas Aquinas High School. The annual scholarship luncheon, which resumed after a one-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, raises funds that help girls graduating from Catholic elementary schools to continue their education at a Catholic high school. The luncheon took place Feb. 19, 2022 in Fort Lauderdale.

Photographer: ANA RODRIGUEZ-SOTO | FC

Posing for a photo after the Miami Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women's annual scholarship luncheon, from left: Cardinal Gibbons Principal Oscar Cedeno, recognized this year for his contributions to the Catholic education; and scholarship recipients Isabella Parra and Alexis Battoo, both attending Gibbons, and Aolani Dominguez, who attends St. Thomas Aquinas High School. The annual scholarship luncheon, which resumed after a one-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, raises funds that help girls graduating from Catholic elementary schools to continue their education at a Catholic high school. The luncheon took place Feb. 19, 2022 in Fort Lauderdale.

FORT LAUDERDALE | Calling himself merely “a cog that helps perpetuate (God’s) plan,” Cardinal Gibbons’ young principal, Oscar Cedeño, humbly accepted the Miami Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women’s award for “making a difference in Catholic education.”

But the women themselves were honored by those they aid with the money they raise at their annual scholarship luncheon, which took place Feb. 19, 2022. The scholarships go to eighth grade girls in Catholic elementary schools who wish to continue their education in a Catholic high school.

Even though the luncheon itself went on hiatus last year due to the pandemic, the MACCW still distributed $20,000 in scholarships — $5,000 each — to four young ladies. Since the start of the scholarship fund in 1996, the MACCW has awarded over $316,000 to 71 girls, according to Mary Weber, chair of the Scholarship Committee. This year marked the MACCW’s 23rd scholarship luncheon.

In his acceptance speech, Cedeño cited two recipients who currently attend Cardinal Gibbons High. “Their futures are bright, and this council has helped make that possible,” he said.

Both girls expressed their thanks in person as well.

2020 scholarship recipient Alexis Battoo, a graduate of St. Coleman School in Pompano Beach, thanked the women of the council for enabling her to attend her “dream high school” so she could work toward another dream: attending an Ivy League college. She is now a sophomore at Gibbons.

Oscar Cedeño, principal of Cardinal Gibbons High School in Fort Lauderdale and this year's honoree, poses with Mary Weber, chair of the Scholarship Committee during the Miami Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women's annual scholarship luncheon, held Feb. 19, 2022 in Fort Lauderdale.

Photographer: ANA RODRIGUEZ-SOTO | FC

Oscar Cedeño, principal of Cardinal Gibbons High School in Fort Lauderdale and this year's honoree, poses with Mary Weber, chair of the Scholarship Committee during the Miami Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women's annual scholarship luncheon, held Feb. 19, 2022 in Fort Lauderdale.

Gibbons freshman Isabella Parra, a 2021 scholarship recipient and graduate of St. Anthony School in Fort Lauderdale, thanked the women by listing her high school accomplishments. She joined the Speech and Debate team and is competing at the varsity level despite this being her first year. She also qualified for the Excelsior Program, which identifies students “who demonstrate outstanding academic performance, as well as a passion for their studies and a commitment to excellence.”

Another 2021 scholarship recipient, Aolani Dominguez, a graduate of St. Jerome who is now a freshman at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, expressed her gratitude this way: “You guys gave me an opportunity to actually do better and get a good education.”

Cedeño, who described himself as an introvert who does not like public speaking, said he became an educator because “I wanted to prepare others for the reality of the real world, because it comes no matter what.”

He is a native Miamian — born at Mercy Hospital — and a product of local Catholic schools: Blessed Trinity in Miami Springs, Immaculata-La Salle High, Barry University for undergrad and St. Thomas University for his master’s in educational leadership. He taught at Immaculata-La Salle and served as director of Student Services at the since closed Archbishop Curley-Notre Dame High before joining the staff at Gibbons.

In June 2021, he also married a fellow Catholic educator: Melissa Menendez, a middle school teacher at Our Lady of the Lakes in Miami Lakes. “We came together through Catholic education, and it is our shared passion,” Cedeño said.

Jim Rigg, archdiocesan superintendent of schools, introduces himself to the Miami Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women during the group's annual scholarship luncheon, held Feb. 19, 2022 in Fort Lauderdale.

Photographer: ANA RODRIGUEZ-SOTO | FC

Jim Rigg, archdiocesan superintendent of schools, introduces himself to the Miami Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women during the group's annual scholarship luncheon, held Feb. 19, 2022 in Fort Lauderdale.

He thanked MACCW members and donors for providing “hard-working Catholic families the opportunity for their daughters to attend Catholic schools,” noting that he and his sister did so back when Step Up and other scholarship programs did not exist. Step Up is the umbrella organization for Florida’s Tax Credit Scholarship Program, which allows low-income students in kindergarten through 12th grade to attend the private or public school of their choice.

“Some [Catholic] schools rely heavily on Step Up,” Cedeño said. He exhorted those present to “continue to push the envelope for God’s plan” because “the ordained priesthood can’t do it all. We [lay people] are called to the communal priesthood through baptism.”

Father Michael Greer, pastor of Assumption Church in Lauderdale-By-The-Sea and spiritual director of the MACCW, echoed Cedeño’s words at the conclusion of the luncheon.

“Let’s keep Catholic education afloat,” Father Greer said. “We need to do more for the spirituality and encouragement of our young people in the Church.”

FIND OUT MORE

  • Applications for the 2022 MACCW Lucy Petrillo Scholarship are due March 10, 2022. They are sent out to the principals of every elementary school with girls in their eighth-grade class.
  • Recipients are selected based on financial need, character and academics. Applicants must write an essay on why they want to continue their education in a Catholic high school as well as obtain the recommendation of their pastor and principal.
  • The amount and number of scholarships each year depends on the money raised by the MACCW. The recipients are announced at the MACCW’s annual convention, which this year will take place April 29-May 1 at the Doubletree Hotel in Deerfield Beach.
  • For more information on the MACCW or to donate to the scholarship fund, go to maccw.org or email [email protected].