As valedictorian, Grayhawk resident Gabriella Alessio, 18, spoke to the 214-person graduating class of 2019 at Notre Dame Preparatory High School last Friday.
She left her fellow seniors parting words emphasizing that “once a saint, always a saint.”
“My message focused on the personal growth of our graduating class over the past four years, and reinforcing the idea that each of us are part of the Notre Dame Prep family forever,” Alessio said.
NDP Principal Jill Platt said she is proud of Alessio and all of her accomplishments.
“She embodies our pillar virtues of reverence, respect and responsibility, which she displays in all that she does,” Platt said.
Alessio, who attended Grayhawk Elementary and Explorer Middle School before attending NDP, participated in a long list of extracurricular activities, including receiving varsity letters in sand volleyball, track and field and robotics.
“I cannot think of a single aspect of student life that Gabby has not only participated in, but excelled,” Matt Rylski, said director of student life and admissions. “She is truly one in a million.”
Alessio also held multiple leadership roles in student government, regional leadership conferences and Christ’s Church of the Valley Scottsdale campus.
As a volunteer, he said, he was “a host for the elementary at my church, as well as a coach — what we call our group leaders — for the seventh grade girls, as well as stepping in the nursery when they are short-handed because having a baby fall asleep in your arms in the most beautiful moment.”
Alessio received offers to study biomedical engineering from University of California Los Angeles, Purdue University, University of Michigan, Texas A&M University and University of California San Diego.
She ultimately accepted an offer to attend the Barrett, the Honors College at Arizona State University.
“I chose biomedical engineering and hope to focus on medical device and prosthetic design because I have seen first-hand the incredible and life-changing opportunities these advancements make,” Alessio said.
Her grandfather passed away from brain cancer when she was young.
“And it has been on my heart ever since to help others live meaningful lives when faced with health challenges,” she said. “Embracing my love of math and natural curiosity, I believe biomedical engineering will enhance my passion to help others.”
In addition to receiving multiple scholarships to attend ASU, Alessio was selected for ASU’s Leadership Scholarship Program founded by Dr. Christine K. Wilkinson, ASU’s senior vice president and secretary.
Alessio, along with 24 other exceptional student leaders, received a four-year scholarship, as part of the program.
They will enroll in leadership classes, join and assume leadership roles in student organizations at the university, participate in annual service projects, learn more about civic responsibility and make long-lasting connections with peers, faculty members, staff and LSP alumni.
“I believe LSP will provide resources to continue making an impact on Arizona, and possibly the world, that encourages love and community. I also look forward to learning more about ways to work with people and how to be an effective leader that works sacrificially for others,” Alessio said.
Notre Dame’s Class of 2019 is the first class of seniors to lead the school since the school implemented the House System, intended to build community, mentorship and opportunities for growth and leadership.
The student body is divided into 10 Houses: St. Blaise, St. Francis of Assisi, St. George, St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. Michael, St. Patrick, St. Sebastian, St. Teresa of Calcutta and St. Valentine.
Alessio was the House captain for St. Teresa of Calcutta, which she helped develop.
“Having the opportunity to serve fellow students at NDP and church and allowing them to feel safe and loved is one of my most rewarding moments,” she said. “Some students have difficult home lives, and providing a safe place for them to share and feel loved has changed their lives for the better while leaving an indelible mark on my life.”
The houses compete for “points” against each other through academics, Christian service and school spirit.
According to Notre Dame spokeswoman Kimberly Haub, the Class of 2019 is known as the founding fathers and mothers of the House System.
“Gabby will always be known as the first House Captain for that House in school history,” Haub said.
The Class of 2019 is also known for its high grade point average and for serving more than 30,000 service hours.
Alessio had a weighted GPA of 4.5 leading up to graduation day and graduated summa cum laude.
“My goal has always been to complete work I am proud to put my name on, and over the past four years, this philosophy has served me well, academically,” she said.
Founded in 2002, northern Scottsdale high school NDP is a Catholic diocesan college preparatory school in the Diocese of Phoenix with a co-ed enrollment of 900 students.
“Notre Dame Preparatory has taught me so much about who I am and what I stand for,” Alessio said. “Although I am still growing and shaping into the woman I will become, Notre Dame provided an atmosphere that allowed me to question everything and rebuild the person I want to become, one brick at a time.”
But above all, Alessio thanks her family – mom, Michelle; dad, Paul; and sister, Ally – for her success.
“We are very proud of Gabby, but not just for her academic successes, but for the person she is. Her commitment to faith, family and friends never waivers,” Paul said of his daughter, adding:
“She lives by the mantra: Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.”