Alex Bellin was among the first but hardly the last to bid farewell this month to high school and begin a new chapter in life.
Alex, 17, of Ahwatukee, was the valedictorian at Seton Catholic Prepatory’s graduation May 14 — the first in a series of high school commencement ceremonies.
That series will reach a crescendo in Ahwatukee today, May 23, as around 1,500 Mountain Pointe and Desert Vista High School seniors graduate. The community’s other high school, Horizon Honors Secondary, will hold its graduation next Tuesday for 103 seniors.
At Mountain Pointe High, three students will be addressing their classmates after they were chosen for their academic and extracurricular accomplishments over the last four years.
Those three students, who each racked up an impressive cumulative GPA of 4.88, are: Emma Mason, one of 20 winners this year of a coveted Flinn Scholarship; Zuy Pham, the school’s Scholar Athlete of the Year; and Christina Diggs, another scholar-athlete and Mountain Pointe’s only National Merit Scholarship finalist.
Emma is eyeing a career in public health and is headed to The University of Arizona. Zuy plans to study computer science at Arizona State University’s Barrett, The Honors College, leaving a legacy at Mountain Pointe that includes captain of the swim team; and $40,000 in scholarships. Christina hasn’t yet decided on a major when she gets to Princeton University, although a Marine Corps Tankers Association Scholarship will help her cover the cost.
At Desert Visa High, student body President Margaret Braun will address her classmates, more than 90 who have earned a total of over $24.2 million in scholarship offers so far. The value of scholarship offers to Mountain Pointe’s seniors so far is $21.7 million.
At Desert Vista, five seniors are at the top of the class with weighted grade point averages of at least 4.9.
They are: Naoimi Chao, daughter of Miao-Chan Lin and Shih Hui Chao, who is attending The University of Arizona; Iris Cheng, daughter of Zhu Yan and Yuanda Cheng, who is attending Brown University; Sana Gill, whose parents are Sarabjeet and Vijay Gill and who is bound for Carnegie Mellon University; Max Jiam, son of Bianca and Michael Jiam and another soon-to-be Carnegie Mellon University freshman; and Michael Liu, son of Yuwei Qi and Binqing Liu, who is heading to Duke University.
Other grads-to-be also picked up unique awards: Jack Brake received an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy for Jack Brake; Mina Hong won the a Daughters of the American Revolution Good Citizens Award; Matthew Valdez and Brianna Ford won American Legion School Awards; Will Counch won a Chase Charton White Chase Your Dreams Scholarship; Kyle Ostendorp and Reina Ferra were named Scholar Athletes of the Year; and Brett Johnson and Sevanna Hanson were named Athletes of the Year.
Both Mountain Pointe and Desert Vista will host their respective graduation ceremonies on campus at 7 p.m.
Meanwhile, Horizon Honors will send off its grads in a ceremony at 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 28, at Mountain Park Church.
Horizon spokeswoman Melissa Hartley said they earned scholarship offers worth a total $3.1 million amd 89 percent of them are college bound. Among them are 23 who have attended Horizon since they were in kindergarten.
The valedictorians for Horizon are Kate Wilson, who is heading to Purdue University to study industrial engineering, and Burke Wood, who will be majoring in environmental studies at ASU. Rebecca Ger, the salutatorian, is attending UA for biomedical engineering.
Alex Bellin was one of 135 seniors who graduated last week from Seton and one of 79 who earned a total $2.9 million in scholarships.
To be named valedictorian, he had to compete with other high-achievers who were among the top 10 of his class.
Alex said he was humbled to be selected from among so many people who were qualified for the title.
“It’s exciting,” Alex said. “I was actually kind of surprised. I’m obviously happy I won it.”
A National Merit Finalist, he excelled in all academic subjects, especially math. He also played volleyball for three years at Seton as well as the trombone in band and string bass in orchestra while holding down a part-time job.
He also served in the Sentinel Ambassador Society, a club of Seton students who answer questions and show youths around the campus if they are considering going to Seton.
Since he lives in Ahwatukee and Desert Vista High School would have been his home high school, Alex said students often asked him why he decided to attend Seton.
He had attended a public school until after eighth grade, when he decided he wanted to go to the Catholic school.
“The sense of community and the Catholic aspect was really important to me,” Alex said. “I wanted to come here, learn about my faith. I was really impressed with their academics. I just wanted to change it up. I found a lot of cool people.”
His favorite class at Seton was AP macroeconomics. “I’m really interested in economics and finance,” Alex said.
He said the staff and teachers at Seton “really do seem to care” about students.
Alex said he has gotten “lots of great advice” from people over his years at Seton but his parents’ advice stands out.
“My parents always told me, ‘Don’t lose sight of what’s important, being a good person and a good friend,’” he said.
They told him to work hard but not to overdo it and to always find time for prayer, Alex added.
He urges incoming freshmen at Seton to get involved in a club or sport.
“It always helps to know people,” Alex said. “I’ve really liked everything I’ve done at Seton.”
He is going to Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles in the fall, where he is planning to study finance and probably complement it with a business degree, too. Alex earned the prestigious Trustee Scholarship, which is equivalent to full tuition, room and board for four years.