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Top Students Take Their Place in SJU’s Freshman Class

Left to right: High school valedictorians Jordan, Jennifer, Brandon, Belley, and Scarly. Amy is not pictured.
Wednesday, February 15, 2017

This fall, St. John’s enrolled the largest freshman class at any Catholic college or university in the nation. Many of the 3,248 entering students have already distinguished themselves academically, including the young men and women featured below who graduated as high school valedictorians.

Amy Liu ’22Pharm.D.
High school valedictorians generally have their pick of top colleges. So it speaks volumes that Amy Liu chose to travel nearly 5,000 miles from Honolulu, HI, to attend St. John’s University. “It’s one of the few schools I found,” she said, “with a truly high quality, six-year pharmacy program.”

The Kalani High School graduate also was intrigued by the chance to discover a “new” part of the world. “New York City was at the top of my list,” she recalled. Today, Amy is pursuing her degree in the respected College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences at St. John’s. Though her courses are rigorous, she enjoys exploring the artistic and cultural treasures of the Big Apple. She also takes comfort in knowing that “there are so many caring professors who are eager to help me out.”

Jennifer LoCascio ’20TCB
When Jennifer LoCascio enrolled at St. John’s, she expected her education to offer memorable experiences. Yet even she was impressed by the breadth of the University’s varied service opportunities. “They truly changed my life,” she said. “Helping others helped me become who I am today.”

A member of the Catholic Scholars Program, Jennifer appreciates St. John’s Catholic and Vincentian focus on assisting those in need. As a sophomore at Holy Trinity High School in Hicksville, NY, she went on a service retreat at a Life Teen camp in Covecrest, GA. At Nazareth Farm, PA, she helped rebuild homes for struggling families. At St. John’s, Jennifer has taken part in the Midnight Run program, the mobile soup kitchen, and a service “plunge” in Panama. “The more you get involved,” she said, “the more you immerse yourself in the life of the community.”

Jordan Plair ’22Pharm.D.
When Detroit native Jordan Plair was considering colleges, St. John’s stood out. Jordan, a valedictorian at New Haven High School, MI, was drawn to the University’s reputation for excellence, along with its campus and New York location. “I really like the diverse cultures,” she said. “The atmosphere is welcoming and inclusive—and New York City is all around you.”

A longtime interest in service convinced her to enroll in the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. “Looking out for someone’s health is an important way to help others,” she said. She also has assisted others by participating in the University’s service programs. For example, she volunteers her time at the nearby Queens Public Library. “You can always find someone who needs you,” she said.

Scarly Ramirez ’20C
The desire to grow spiritually as well as academically convinced mathematics major Scarly Ramirez to enroll at St. John’s. Her decision has worked out well, with stimulating courses and a personally rewarding emphasis on service. “I’ve attended Catholic schools since I was three,” she said. “Now that I’m at St. John’s— where the Vincentian mission affects me daily—I truly understand the value of helping others.”

Scarly graduated as a valedictorian from Aquinas High School in the Bronx. As a student there, she volunteered for food drives and visited the elderly. She also served as a youth leader at the Church of St. Rose of Lima, her parish in the Bronx. At St. John’s, Scarly plans to join her classmates for her first service “plunge” this February, helping the homeless in Denver, CO. “No other university,” Scarly said, “could have offered me experiences that also allow me to help transform the lives of others.”

Brandon Tularam ’20TCB
At Mount St. Michael Academy in the Bronx, where he graduated as a valedictorian, Brandon Tularam refused to sit on the sidelines. He excelled at academics, earning membership in the National Honor Society and the Spanish Honor Society. In addition, he was Cocaptain of varsity soccer and Vice President of the Student Council.

Passionate about helping others, Brandon also volunteered with Habitat for Humanity and at Ronald McDonald House, which provides temporary lodging for families of children battling cancer. This interest in service made St. John’s a natural fit, along with its quality academics, nationally recognized athletic teams, and New York City location. “I love the environment here,” said the business major. “Students come from all over the world, and they’re very welcoming. That’s so important to a freshman.”

Belley Ye ’20P
For Belley Ye, success at Monsignor McClancy Memorial High School, in East Elmhurst, NY, involved more than excellence in academics, the yearbook, and student council.

“Even in high school,” Belley said, “serving others meant a great deal to me.” She maintains that commitment at St. John’s. As a student in the Physician Assistant program, she enjoys her course work, which she finds “extremely challenging.” Yet she also appreciates the “extra dimension” that St. John’s Catholic and Vincentian mission brings to her education. “The values, the service activities—they’ve already affected me,” she said. “You learn to stay humble, to learn from experience, and to strive to be a better person.”