By ANDREW NELSON, 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.
FAYETTEVILLE—Ange Mvilongo remembered walking into middle school wide-eyed as she saw teachers encouraging students and students talking among themselves.
“Each time someone asked me a question, I would just say yes or no, even though I had no idea what they were asking me. I just kind of struggled with school and made sure I knew what my lessons were,” said Mvilongo about her 11-year-old self.
A native of Cameroon, in Central Africa, Mvilongo, 17, arrived in Georgia in seventh grade and entered Clayton County public schools speaking only French.
She was used to classrooms run by dictatorial teachers, not instructors inspiring students.
However, the self-described timid student came out of her shell during her four years of high school, spent at Our Lady of Mercy in Fayetteville. For a reserved person, it would seem Mvilongo should have bypassed cheerleading tryouts. But, in fact, she was drawn to the sport from the first practice. She liked the cheerleaders’ upbeat attitudes and how they’d get fans sitting in the bleachers excited and enthused during football and basketball seasons.
“I liked how the girls are all friendly, like family, sisters,” she said.
This year she was a co-captain of the cheerleading team.
Standing out ‘as a person as well as a student’
Math instructor Sharon Shaw has seen a lot of students come in and out of her classroom in her 45 years’ teaching. She praised Mvilongo as “one of the most dedicated, responsible students that I have ever taught.”
“Her caring Christian attitude and desire to help others makes her stand out as a person as well as a student,” she said in an email.
Shaw, who leads the cheerleading program too, saw Mvilongo mature from a shy freshman to a student leader.
“She has grown so much with cheerleading and her years here at Mercy. She has become a leader in the classroom and on the cheerleading team,” Shaw said.
The honor roll student plans on attending Mercer University in Macon. She intends to study medicine. Her long-term goal is to study the brain, but first she plans to gain experience working as an emergency room nurse. She’s motivated by a personal loss.
“It is a very personal devastating experience that I had, losing a family member due to a problem with their brain. And the doctors couldn’t do much about it,” she said.
Desire to serve others
Mvilongo, the daughter of a teacher and nursing student, is in the National Honor Society and a youth leader at her parish, St. Philip Benizi Church, in Jonesboro. With her parents, Genevieve and Anselme, the family lives in Fayetteville.
Her desire to work in medicine is motivated by service.
“To know you can be an influential person in saving a person’s life, that’s great,” Mvilongo said. “I know it’s not me. It’s definitely God using me to save a person. I just love helping people.”
Mvilongo wants incoming high school students to know success will never come from avoiding what they dislike. Instead, she advised, find a passion, no matter how surprising. “Don’t just come to school and go home. Put yourself out there and do something you love. You only get to be a freshman once. Just have fun.”
And now her high school career ends in less than a month. “I remember freshman year, I thought senior year would never come. When it actually came, it was out of nowhere. But now that it’s senior year, I feel like it has only been a day. It is kind of exciting because this is where you get to be independent and see what it feels like to be an adult. It has gone very, very fast.”