By NICHOLE GOLDEN, Staff Writer | Published April 30, 2015
Following an annual tradition, The Georgia Bulletin has taken the opportunity to shine the spotlight on some of the extraordinary high school seniors who grace our Catholic schools in the area.
Leaders at the seven Catholic high schools in the Atlanta Archdiocese were asked to nominate a graduating student they believe represents a role model for their students—a student who symbolizes the drive and faith and compassion of the student body—someone that the faculty watched grow from a wide-eyed freshman to a confident leader.
Among these profiles are a senior who teaches a special needs student to ice skate, a teen who started a charity for children struggling with cancer, and a French-speaking immigrant who began her school career answering all questions with a yes or a no without understanding the question. These profiles and all of the others illuminate an attribute of perseverance.
As these young people and all their classmates step toward the future in the next weeks, we wish them well. We are proud to share their stories.
ATLANTA—In the afternoons, Marist School senior Joanna Lu can be found on the playground corralling energetic toddlers at Marist’s Early Learning Center.
Lu volunteers to help care for the infants and toddlers, whose parents all work at the Atlanta school.
A love of children is spurring her to pursue studies in pre-medicine with an ultimate goal of being a pediatric cardiologist.
“All my life I’ve wanted to be some type of doctor,” said Lu.
Born with a heart condition called pulmonary stenosis, Lu has always heard her parents acknowledge the great care she received from physicians at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
“I’ve just had this respect for doctors,” explained Lu.
Despite her heart problem, she continued to be active, including running track and swimming. Participating in school sports allowed her to form strong friendships and bonds with fellow athletes.
Set to graduate May 23 from Marist, Lu will attend Georgia Regents University in Augusta this fall.
Marist ‘shaped who I am’
The daughter of Tan Lu and Aileen Nguyen of Chamblee, Lu is dedicated to community service both on and off campus.
Lu is a member of the student council, an altar server, lector and Eucharistic minister. She also worked last summer at the school’s Advanced Placement Summer Institute for teachers, helping to demonstrate chemistry experiments.
At Marist there’s a spirit of everyone trying to understand one another, said Lu.
“It’s really shaped who I am,” she said. “I don’t have to be afraid to talk about God.”
Lu is co-president of the school’s environmental club. Group members regularly hold electronic recycling events and clean up nearby Nancy Creek.
“We focus mainly on making Marist more environmentally friendly,” she said.
A recent endeavor is putting out boxes to recycle dry erase markers. “It saves a lot,” she said.
As a board member of Marist Habitat for Humanity, Lu joins classmates for home builds, particularly those sponsored by consumer expert and broadcaster Clark Howard.
“I tend to paint. I’m not very good at hammering,” she admitted.
Lu said that it’s rewarding to come back and see the families in their homes and to meet new people through the building projects.
Volunteering in metro Atlanta, Southeast Asia
Lu’s volunteering extends across the globe. On annual trips to her mother’s native Vietnam, the family visits orphanages with rice and pastries to share with the children.
“I guess that is when I got love of service,” said Lu.
A parishioner of Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Atlanta, Lu took missionary trips to Taiwan and West Virginia, volunteers in nursing homes and feeding the homeless at St. Francis Table at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
Lu said that she feels the Marist education has prepared her well for college. Marist alumni return to campus to talk about life in college, another school tradition that helps prepare students for life after graduation.
Lu enjoyed taking AP biology and felt very encouraged by her math teachers.
“I trust all the teachers,” she said.
Lu also credits campus ministry chaplain, Marist Father David Musso, for his spiritual support of her and other students.
“We used to eat lunch in his office,” she recalled of her early days at Marist.
Beth Edwards, math department chair, taught Lu advanced pre-calculus and calculus.
Edwards said that Lu brightens any room with her friendly and gentle manner.
“Her zest for life includes an enthusiasm for learning and a positive personality,” said Edwards.
Edwards said Lu regularly comes to class with questions that are relevant and that indicate serious thought about the assignment.
“If she is not satisfied that she understands an idea thoroughly, Joanna drops by during tutorial and we would work together until she is able to achieve a true understanding of the concept,” said Edwards. “In class, she is quick to provide an insightful question or comment and often is willing to explain to her fellow students the concepts they cannot initially grasp.”
Lu is not interested in the spotlight, just in doing things correctly in a positive way, noted Edwards.
“Joanna is a delightful and warm-hearted young person with so much to offer to others,” said Edwards.
Lu agrees with a common assessment of the Marist community as a “tight-knit” group.
“Everyone supported me,” she said.