College is a challenging time for many, and few students meet the stringent requirements to graduate Summa Cum Laude from their college or university. Recently, three Carroll County students beat the odds, graduating “with great honor” from High Point University, located in High Point, North Carolina. What makes this story even more unique is that the three students, Kirsten Dahlberg, Ryan Kelly, and Jessica Stark all graduated from a small private school in Carroll County - St. John Catholic School in Westminster.
Kirsten Dahlberg is one of the three – graduating Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Art Education. Dahlberg believes much of the trio’s success has its roots in their common background: “The individualized attention I received at St. John from the teachers made all the difference.” She recalled the story about losing her father while a freshman in college, and how the teachers from St. John supported her during this difficult time. Having friends from her hometown also made the transition to college much easier. “It was nice going to school and having that support system in place.” This summer, Dahlberg will backpack across Europe with her family, planning to see firsthand some of the masterpieces she studied at High Point. When she returns, she hopes to secure a teaching position in the Carolinas.
Ryan Kelly credits St. John Catholic School with instilling strong academic values and fostering his interest in science. Kelly graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology and a minor degree in Sociology. Kelly heads off to the Medical University of South Carolina in the fall to pursue his PhD in Bio Medical Sciences, focusing on stem cell research. He formed life-long friendships with his fellow students from St. John: “No matter what happened at college, you always knew that your friends had your back,” stated Kelly.
“The environment at St. John School encouraged you to learn,” stated Finksburg native Jessica Stark. St. John School has greatly impacted the lives of the Stark family over the last 17 years. Stark and her four siblings have all attended the school and her youngest sister is currently a seventh grader at St. John. Stark credits the school with fostering a love of learning both in the sciences and the arts. Stark also graduated Summa Cum Laude with a dual degree, a Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology and Music. This summer she hopes to get some hands on experience in research or clinical psychology before pursuing her PhD next fall.
In addition to achieving highest academic honor of Summa Cum Laude, the trio individually earned spots in various honor societies. During their junior year at High Point, Dahlberg, Kelly and Stark were named to the list of Who’s Who for American Universities and Colleges. Kelly also belongs to Beta Beta Beta honor society for Biology, Alpha Kappa Delta, Alpha Chi Omega. Dahlberg belongs to Kappa Delta Phi and Alpha Chi Omega. Stark was President of Alpha Chi Omega and a member of Psi Chi honor society for psychology. Each of the three was also awarded Junior Marshall status – top 2% - 3% of juniors at High Point University.