Celebrating Distinguished Alumni

Niagara Catholic’s Catholic Education Week celebrations concluded on a very high note – with the Second Annual Distinguished Alumni Celebration. This event, which took place at the Catholic Education Centre, honoured seven very unique and diverse individuals for the positive impact they have made on the world around them.

Our 2014 Distinguished Alumni Recipients are:

John Belcastro – Notre Dame College, Class of 1952

John Belcastro was the first lay principal of Notre Dame College School in Welland. He sought to motivate and challenge students.  John was eager to ignite a love of learning in young students.

John encouraged teachers and was committed to creating a culture within the school that would serve the whole person, body, mind and soul.

In his retirement, John continued to serve Catholic education as a trustee. He continues to model faith, passion for Catholic education and servant-leadership.

John remains a strong advocate for Niagara Catholic and Catholic education.

Jennifer Hollett – Holy Cross Catholic Secondary School, Class of 1994

Upon her graduation from Concordia University, Jennifer Hollett embarked on a diverse media career that included working as a TV host and reporter at CBC, CTV, and MuchMusic. Throughout the course of her years as a multimedia journalist, Jennifer became a passionate advocate of the rights of women while on location in places such as Afghanistan, Kenya, and Sierra Leone. She founded YouthCARE in 2006 with CARE Canada, and has been the moderator of the G(irls)20 Summit since 2010, an international girls leadership conference.

Jennifer recently graduated from Harvard University with a Master’s Degree in Public Administration. During her time at Harvard, she was voted “Most Persuasive Student” and participated in the “From Harvard Square to the Oval Office” practicum. She recently made her move into politics, as a candidate in the NDP nomination race in Toronto Centre. It is clear she has used her passion for human rights and journalism to give a voice to the voiceless.

William Jones – Saint Paul Catholic High School, Class of 2004

William Jones was in class on March 23rd, 2004, when he suddenly passed out. He was rushed to hospital and despite early CPR administered by school staff he was given a seven per cent chance of survival. He spent a month in hospital and lived with side effects including a loss of his short-term memory, but William refused to give up on his dreams.

Today, William has an Honours Degree in Aerospace Engineering and is currently pursuing his MBA. He is President of the Schulich Non-Profit Management Student Group and Vice-President of the Schulich Student Speaker Series. He has been a volunteer ambassador for the Heart and Stroke Foundation, speaking at schools, universities, at conferences and in commercials to share his story. In 2011, he was selected by the Governor General as one of 120 youth leading Canada toward being a Smart and Caring Nation.

Lisa Monchalin embodies what it means to be a Catholic school graduate. She attended Eastern Michigan University on a rowing scholarship following her graduation from Lakeshore Catholic High School.  Lisa has become a leader in her field and an advocate for Aboriginal culture.  She was the first Aboriginal woman in Canada with a PhD in Criminology, and is currently Professor of Criminology at Kwalten Polytechnic University in British Columbia.

Lisa Monchalin – Lakeshore Catholic High School, Class of 1999 

In addition to teaching, Lisa is a motivational speaker, who is passionate about speaking to young people about the importance of community, involvement and social justice. She has a deep compassion for and love of her culture and truly exemplifies the motto of Lakeshore Catholic High School: She Thinks Clearly, Feels Deeply and Acts Wisely.

Shannon Passero – Notre Dame College School, Class of 1991

Shannon Passero graduated from Notre Dame College School in 1991 and has since become an internationally renowned clothing designer and producer. Her clothes are beautiful, versatile and made by workers in safe conditions using sustainable materials.

Her factory in Thailand employs 1,100 workers and another 4,500 skilled artisans from nearby villages. Each worker is guaranteed a minimum wage, free English and Thai classes, free health care, and paid health benefits, including maternity leave. Sixty per cent of management is comprised of women. Shannon is also committed to the environment, ensuring the dyes for the fabrics are produced in-house and only high-efficiency lightbulbs are used in the factory. Shannon is dedicated to initiatives at home, through a scholarship for students at Notre Dame College School and ongoing support for The Hope Centre.

Father Michael Rosinski – Notre Dame College School, Class of 1993

Michael Rosinski graduated from Notre Dame College School in 1993 and entered the Jesuits the following year. He took his Perpetual Vows in 1996 and was ordained a decade later.

He was inspired to enter the priesthood by Fr. Michael Kucharski, his parish priest at St. Ann Fenwick, and Bishop Fulton, who was a family friend. Michael’s desire to become a Jesuit was inspired by their emphasis on critical thinking, education and global outreach.

In his years as a priest, Michael has served as a Confessor at the Church of Gesu in Rome, a Pastoral Animator for the Jesuit Refugee Service in South Sudan and a Chaplain and Religion teacher. He was frequently in the media during the most recent Papal election and is currently a Doctoral Candidate at St. Paul University.

 Khalil Syne – Saint Francis Catholic Secondary School, Class of 2002

Khalil Syne always knew he wanted to be a pilot, and immediately began preparing for a career as a commercial pilot following his graduation from Saint Francis Catholic Secondary School. He secured his first position with an airline in St. Maarten and then began working for an executive charter airline in Canada. While working abroad, Khalil developed a keen interest in world events and applied to be a pilot with the United Nations.

In his capacity as a United Nations Pilot, Khalil was stationed in hot spots around the globe, including Afghanistan, the Ivory Coast, Liberia and Haiti.  Many of the flights in these areas included medi-vac missions and delivering humanitarian aid.

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