Jazlyn Rodriquez Speaks at the President’s Circle Dinner

Rodriquez Wows

Jazlyn RodriquezFor those of you who were unable to attend this year’s President’s Circle Dinner, we bring you senior Jazlyn Rodriquez’s speech to the attendees.

Jazlyn wowed the crowd with her address. There wasn’t a dry eye in the place.

Our President, Dr. Tom Curry, introduced her. “It is now my pleasure to introduce to you why we are all here. Our featured speaker this evening is Jazlyn Rodriguez, one of our amazing Cougars. All our Cougars are amazing. And Jazlyn is like “amazing plus”. She is a senior and has been involved in nearly every facet of the school – athletics, drama, campus ministry. She is a Eucharistic minister, and last year was the junior grade winner for the Archbishop’s pro-life essay content. She was recently recognized by the College Board, receiving a National Hispanic Recognition Award. This program has a prestigious list of partners, including the Jackie Robinson Foundation, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, and the Hispanic Scholarship Fund. And, talk about Cougars getting noticed, Jazlyn was profiled in the World Herald for receiving the award. When a student meets the criteria and is accepted and recognized into the Hispanic Recognition program, her award status is shared with colleges nationwide. And so, I give you, Jazlyn Rodriguez…

Jazlyn’s Address

Good evening. I’ve attended Gross Catholic for all of high school, and in that time, I’ve managed to dip my toes in just about everything.
• Athletics-wise I’ve played on the basketball team, I used to hurdle in track which was a terrifying learning experience but pretty fun when I got the hang of not falling, or um, testing gravity if you will.
• I’ve been in a few of the drama shows, mainly as an extra, in fact most recently you may have seen me last Spring as a happy little cloud with the very important role of doing this *cloud dance move*. I also directed and edited a short film for Theater, and I additionally directed, filmed, and edited six music videos for the streamed Christmas Cabaret of 2021.
• I’m a mandated EMHC and a volunteer Catechism teacher for children looking to receive the sacraments of Baptism, First Communion, and Reconciliation. Last year I was the Junior level winner for the Bishop’s pro-life essay contest,
• I’ve been an honor roll student throughout my high school career, and I was recently awarded by the College Board with a National Hispanic Recognition award which is a part of their National Recognition Programs that grant underrepresented students with academic honors and connect them with universities across the country to help them stand out during the admissions process. Additionally, I’ve taken advantage of every single honors and AP class I could possibly handle.
• After Gross, I plan on double majoring in English and Criminal Justice, and I dream of attending Swarthmore or the University of Chicago. I’ve already sent in all of my applications, so I’m just kind of holding my breath right now.
• From there I plan on entering into law enforcement with the goal of influencing and implementing policy changes that ultimately create more collaborative and safe communities. I am so in love with the idea of being a first responder and getting to help people, to protect them, and to work with them on a day to day basis in order to strengthen the bond of trust between law enforcement and citizens.

That’s enough about me! I want to spend the majority of my time talking about Gross Catholic and why you have made it such a special place.

Find The Why

Does anyone know what Find The Why is?

This is a program encouraged by Gross Catholic. Joining Find The Why did a lot of things for me, besides contributing to my bank account – yes, they pay students real money. These competitions were presented to me and my 3D Engineering class as early as Freshman year, which I think is the perfect example of how Gross just absolutely jumps at the chance to open their students to new possibilities as soon as possible. Find the Why is a genuine opportunity to work with real companies and to really get your name out there in various industries which go a long way to helping students make real connections right from the get-go. Through Find the Why, I discovered my passion for filming videos, and now I post on YouTube once a month and it has been such a great creative outlet for myself.

And I mean, that’s kind of the goal of High School, right? To help students explore what’s out there and discover what they love. Gross Catholic is a really great place to foster and nurture that journey of self-discovery. There’s something here for everybody, whether you’re looking for an easy four years with only the basic requirements, or if you are someone who is absolutely ravished for knowledge. Then Gross challenges you, revolutionizes your view, and strengthens your mind. Whichever path you choose, no one leaves Gross the same person they were when they came in.

Something Different About Gross Catholic

Any school can be great. Any school can spew out a few successes, make a few splashes for the sake of media coverage, and pose for a pretty brochure. But there’s something different about Gross.

At Gross Catholic, there’s a beating, bleeding heart inside of these walls. It’s almost tangible. You can feel it in every classroom.

You can hear it from the mouth of every teacher and from the fruits of every student.

You see, Gross Catholic has this way of taking the most immature and hopeless of middle-school graduates, and just absolutely transforming them. Shaking their foundation to the very core until they find someone deep within themselves that they never dared hope they could be. The staff are the lifeblood of this beating heart. I am so very grateful to all of my teachers, I wish I could recognize every single one and thank them over and over again. Miss Holys in the Advancement office helped me strategize on my top five to mention tonight. Gross has what I like to refer to as an “all-star cast”, which is just my way of saying that they literally have the greatest teachers I have ever encountered.

Rodriquez Speaks About the All-Star Cast

Mrs. Michele Sweetmon

We have Mrs. Sweetmon, who is someone I genuinely admire so much. This woman is so dedicated to what she does, and she bends over backwards to make our time here at Gross not just formative, but so incredibly fun. She is the reason Gross functions as a community. As a family. Because of her effort, her creativity, and her passion and dedication we get to be four houses in one home. Even her classroom has literally been transformed into a safe haven for students who are struggling with mental health and just need a place to escape to. Essentially, there is not an inch of this school that bears not her touch.

Ms. Paulette Neuhalfen

We have our wonderful principal, Mrs. Nehauflan who is exactly what a principal should be. She is so incredibly attentive to the needs of the students, and she always keeps her ear to ground, listening intently. I’ve been to many schools, and the biggest complaint I’ve always heard is that “the principal doesn’t do anything!”. Mrs. Nehauflan couldn’t be farther from this. She makes change happen, whether it wants to or not. She is a force to be reckoned with, to which our obstacles dare not contend. She truly is our knight in shining armor, and this woman will go to battle for the future of her students.

Mr. Mike Dempsey

We have Mr. Dempsey, who I kind of see as an archangel. He commands respect and enforces the rules, which is never a fun job, but he executes it with grace. Like a reverence for a task that allows his corrections to shape our morality and conscience rather than embitter us towards high standards. He somehow manages to be intimidating enough to wrangle with the antics of a 6’5” football player, yet can be so encouraging at the most pivotal of moments. Which is honestly why every time he gives you a compliment it feels like this precious gem. He bears the praise of glittering emeralds.

Mr. Tim Powers

We have Mr. Powers, who I look up to both literally and figuratively. (It’s funny because he’s really tall). The way he teaches always leads to such interesting discussions in his classroom. He encourages us to ask questions, and he also values a student’s ability to argue their case more than a student’s ability to test well. I’ve never been afraid to approach him whenever I need help. On top of all this, his hard work as the Dean of Dual Enrollment is one of the reasons why I get to leave not just with a diploma, but guaranteed college credits. So thank you so much for that.

Mr. Steve Hamersky

Mr. Hamersky, who is one of the sweetest people I’ve ever known. His mind works a million miles a second, yet he’s always willing to slow down to help catch you up. He’s one of those people that kind of catapults you forward and just forces you to grow no matter how self-obstructive you tend to be.

Mr. Dan Connelly

And now retired, Mr.Connelly – so he doesn’t count in the five! I could go on here all night about our awesome teachers! He’s so beloved that everyone gets so excited whenever he pays us a visit. His theology classes taught me to have confidence in my faith. Before him, I was embarrassed to say the name of Jesus out loud, and I kind of hid my love for Christ because I was afraid of being ridiculed for it. But Mr.Connelly changed all that. He helped me discover that if I have God and my faith, nothing else matters. And nothing can do me harm with the Lord in battle beside me. And that is the greatest gift that someone can give to you, so I owe this man a million thanks.

Erick and Irma

Even the work study here is life changing. Our custodians are Erick and Irma, whom I have had the privilege of working with every summer for the past four years. The true effort and elbow grease that goes into maintaining this building is incredible. Look at this room right now. It wasn’t just like this. They work so hard, and I know it’s hard because I was always left utterly exhausted after work. Yet, they do this every day behind the scenes, so they don’t get a lot of the spotlight. But they deserve all the thanks and appreciation. They’ve taught me what hard work truly is, and to clean up my messes out of respect for the fact that if I don’t, someone else has to, and there is nothing more disgusting than someone who believes it is anyone’s responsibility but their own to clean up after themselves.

Faith, Courage, Integrity, Dedication, Passion

Now do you see what I mean by a completely all-star cast? Other places may have similar curriculums and technology and intelligence, but they don’t have our all-stars. Every staff member in this building has something that is difficult to encounter in any other place. They have faith. They have courage. They have integrity. They have dedication and passion. And they have endless love. And it is inescapable. They are truly men and women of Christ. They embody the message of the gospel. Just take five minutes to talk to a single teacher and you’ll see it. Like a bright vocational stamp on their forehead, they were called to be here.

And they get to be here, largely because of all of you. Because of your generosity they have the tools and the resources they need to help us succeed. I am one student, one story, of more than 400 others. Plus the countless alumni.

You Make This Happen

You make this happen. You embody Christ’s virtue of Charity, and His commandment to love your neighbor.

I may not know you very well, and you may not know me (all though you may know at least just a tiny bit after this whole speech), but your actions have directly touched my heart, and those of every foot that enters this building.

So thank you, so, so much for what you’ve done and continue to do for us. Thank you for taking the time to care about the next generation. And most of all, thank you for believing in us.

Thank You to Jazlyn Rodriquez

And Gross Catholic would like to thank you Jazlyn for all you do and for the person that you are. We are grateful for our journey together as one in the Cougar Family.

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About Gross Catholic

Gross Catholic, a co-educational, college preparatory high school, began its proud heritage of academic excellence rooted in the Marianist tradition in 1968. We consider ourselves one of the best Catholic schools in Omaha, Bellevue, and Papillion. The school motto Dux Esto (“Be a Leader”) is at the core of its extraordinary mission, innovative spirit, and fundamental values. The school offers a challenging environment and outstanding quality of life, both in academics and co-curricular activities, with a strong focus on STREAM (Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, the Arts, and Mathematics) education. The spirit of Christian service and giving back is part of everything the school does. Gross Catholic’s top-tier status is reflected in its talented faculty, staff, and coaches who take great pride in seeing virtually every graduate head to college, often to the most prestigious domestic and international universities and service academies. Together with families and alumni, Gross Catholic forges relationships for a lifetime, helping to ready the next generation to be exemplary, principled leaders of the world.

To discover the Gross Catholic difference, contact us at 402.734.2000 or visit our Admissions page.