JPII 2021

Bishop Barbarito's message to the Class of 2021.

PALM BEACH GARDENS  |  Graduating seniors throughout the Diocese of Palm Beach eagerly participated in in-person ceremonies this month, a rite of passage that the class of 2021 is not taking for granted after witnessing the class of 2020 adjust to virtual ceremonies and socially distanced drive-throughs.  

Regardless of in-person or virtual graduations, the Diocese of Palm Beach continues to honor its Catholic high school graduates, in particular the valedictorian and salutatorian, with senior spotlights. 

In this e-edition of the Florida Catholic, the Diocese of Palm Beach shines a spotlight on St. John Paul II Academy. Read the following e-edition for a feature on the top graduates of John Carroll High School. Go to last week’s edition for a story on Cardinal Newman High School. The diocese wishes all graduates the best in their future endeavors and continues to pray for their success, well-being and steadfast faith in God’s plan for them. 

St. John Paul II Academy, Boca Raton 

Amber Lopez, salutatorian, will be attending the University of Florida next year. Looking back on her high school career, she is most proud of being able to balance school around her life, not life around school. 

“Even though academics were one of my top priorities — and school took up a majority of my time and attention — I was still able to enjoy life. If you know me, you know how devoted I am to my education and how hard I worked to succeed in school. However, I made it a priority to continue to spend time with my family, compete on sports teams and volunteer in the community.” 

Brendan Ludwig, valedictorian, will be attending the University of Notre Dame next year. He said a Catholic education has taught him to always be the best version of himself, academically and spiritually. 

“When it comes to academics, it has taught me to always put maximum effort in every assignment I do. Spiritually, it has taught me to always give back to the community and serve others.”

Amber added, “The practice of praying before every class and at the start of every day is something I will take with me to college. Praying before tests, quizzes and class in general has helped me learn to pause a moment, give thanks to God and take a breath before beginning the task ahead.” 

Although the top grads are appreciative for all the teachers they’ve had throughout their high school career, both are especially grateful for their AP chemistry teacher Mrs. Foley for her passion for science, her love for God and her enthusiasm for teaching.

“Mrs. Foley instilled in me a hunger to learn and strengthened my own love of science,” Amber said. “My desire to pursue a science major in college grew under her guidance and teaching, even though her class was by far my most difficult course in high school.”

Brendan shared, “I admire her dedication to helping students understand such a complicated subject as chemistry. Perhaps the most important thing I learned from her is the importance of attention to detail. Every little detail in everything you do matters.”

As for advice for the incoming freshmen, Amber and Brendanencourage them to be willing to get uncomfortable and try something new. 

“I tried cross country for the first time my freshman year,” Amber said. “Although I was nervous and knew no one on the team, it was one of my best high school experiences. Try a new sport, club or activity. Be open to meeting new people and do something completely out of your comfort zone. High school is what you make of it, so don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.”

“You will never know how much you like something until you try it. Meet as many new people as you can and surround yourself with good people,” Brendan said.

To learn more about St. John Paul II Academy, visit or call 561-314-2100. Follow the school on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @PJPIIHS. Stay updated on the Office of Catholic Schools at or follow it on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @dopbcatholicschools.  

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