Lincoln Pius X Catholic High School

Q&A with Clairvaux Villa, National Merit finalist

Clairvaux Villa, a senior at Pius X, has been named a National Merit finalist. The goals of the National Merit Scholarship program are: 1) To promote a wider and deeper respect for learning in general and for exceptionally talented individuals in particular; 2) To shine a spotlight on brilliant students and encourage the pursuit of academic excellence at all levels of education; 3) To stimulate increased support from individuals and organizations that wish to sponsor scholarships for outstanding scholastic talent. Villa answered our questions about her time as a student at Pius X, and her future academic plans.

Describe the process of applying for this honor? I believe it involved essay writing, and if so, what did you choose to write about?

The PSAT you take during your junior year is also the qualifying test for this program. After that step, there is an application to fill out in the fall of senior year, which does include an essay portion. I wrote about how spending so much time with younger kids, especially through my experience nannying over the summer, has given me a greater appreciation for the world around me. My counselor, Mrs. (Jess) Psota, was also asked to submit a letter of recommendation and helped me out with the application process.

What college are you planning to attend, what do you plan to study, and what is about this school and academic area that is interesting to you?

I am planning to attend Hillsdale College in Michigan and study Biochemistry. I love their focus on providing students with a well-rounded education, so while I am taking classes in preparation for getting a degree in pharmacy, I will still be learning about subjects outside of my main field of interest.

What classes and/or teachers at Pius X have you found most interesting, and why?

Honestly, I have had great experiences in so many of my classes, but I will say that it is really fun to go back and take a class with a teacher for another year. I get to know them and their teaching style even better, and the classes get more advanced as you go along, which is why I think my more recent classes stand out to me the most. I have also found my science classes very fascinating, which is part of the reason why I am planning to go into pharmacy.

You are involved in other activities at Pius X, and yet you continue to excel academically. How do those other activities help you become a better person and perhaps a more well-rounded person with your faith, in life and in school?

My biggest takeaway from the various activities I have tried over the years is the friendships I have formed through them. They have allowed me to connect with so many amazing people who have encouraged me to become a better Catholic, a better student, and a better person in general. Obviously, some clubs, like Campus Ministry or Students for Life, are clearly meant to bring you closer to God and allow you to share Him with others. Other clubs I have joined, like Pius Players, pushed me to mature without me even realizing it. Even the most unserious clubs can be incredibly fulfilling, which I found out when I started Fantasy Book Club with a few of my friends.

Where did you go to K-8 school?

I went to Cathedral of the Risen Christ for all of my elementary and middle school education.

What are your two favorite classes (1 from senior year and one from 9-11 grade) and why?

My favorite class changes constantly, but it is currently Classic Literature II because we just chose Classics to read for the next few weeks. I am having fun getting a few minutes every day to read Charles Dickens. My favorite class from freshman to junior year would have to be Academic Decathlon, which have taken every year. It doesn’t sound fun when you describe the class, but we have the most amazing teachers and team coaches, and the themes each year have been pretty fascinating.

What is your most favorite ‘place’ in school and why?

Our school library is one of my favorite places to go, whether I have homework I need to get done, a good book I want to read, or a library project I want to work on. I have spent a few semesters as a media assistant there, so I get to help Mrs. (Erin) Willis keep the library running smoothly. I am also president of Px Libris, the library club where we come up with fun ideas and projects to keep the student body involved in our library. All the time I have spent down there has given me an appreciation for what a welcoming and interesting place it is. Plus, I love books, so…

What is the best part about Pius X?

The best part of Pius is definitely the community here. The teachers and staff are so dedicated to educating you but also helping you grow as a person. There are so many opportunities to meet other students who share your interests, and all the fun student-led clubs and activities here are a testament to that. The Campus Ministry team and the counselors are invested in your emotional and spiritual well-being and are always willing to help in any way they can. Overall, I think that the student body creates a very positive environment to be a part of.

What is the best study tip or habit you use?

In my opinion, one of the best study tips is to know your personality and recognize that studying looks different for everyone. If you lack focus, find an app or set limits on your phone to help you. If you tend to procrastinate (like me), get a head start on your assignment so there is less to do later. If you get anxious before every test, be prepared for that and channel it into energy. I know students who turn their study material into Blooket games, others who fill out the study guide three times the night before a test, and still others who create weird mnemonic phrases for every fact they have to memorize—and they all slay.

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