The graduates of Catholic schools in the Diocese of Trenton who continue their education in Catholic colleges or universities find that choice offers them much more than a rigorous academic journey – it helps them incorporate their faith and service-minded desires into their entire lives.

The Monitor Magazine caught up with three graduates of Catholic high schools in the Diocese who went on to pursue studies in Catholic colleges, learning about their career paths and hearing their reflections on how Catholic education shaped their personal and professional trajectories.

Jamayrah Moore, a graduate of Trenton Catholic Academy, Hamilton, and the College of St. Elizabeth, Convent Station, is the founder of My Life Movement, which encourages and motivates individuals in Trenton through action while creating positive change. Professionally, she serves as a legal assistant with Volunteer Lawyers for Justice, Newark, where she works on re-entry legal services; the children’s representation program, providing support for children with disabilities; and the South Ward Promise Neighborhood Program, supporting those living in the south ward of Newark.

Reflecting on her time at TCA, Moore sees the experience as critical in helping her develop in her faith.

“If I were attending a regular high school receiving a regular education … I would never have understood or [have come to know] God as I know him now,” she said. “My relationship with God has guided me to be where and who I am today.”

The emphasis on service at TCA, she added, helped her to decide to attend a Catholic college, as well.

“I genuinely believe that their commitment to service watered the servant leader seed within me,” she said. “So when choosing my university, I needed a school that would match the growth and nourishment I received while in high school. So naturally, I choose a Catholic college.”

Moore’s time at TCA also included founding My Life Movement, which has since attained 501(c)3 status.

“With the help of our seasonal staffers, the My Life Movement hosts coat drives, leadership forums and developmental workshops, and implements after-school mentoring programs in public schools,” she said. “I connect with and aid foster children, children who live with or have been impacted by AIDS, children who suffered from the loss of a loved one, immigrant children and children who have and are battling chronic diseases.”

James Vicari is a graduate of Donovan Catholic High School, Toms River, and Fordham University, the Bronx. He earned a master’s degree in biomedical science last spring. He is now continuing in a doctorate program in biomedical science. Vicari serves as a researcher at Mount Sinai Hospital,  working with compounds that reduce inflammation in the context of Alzheimer’s disease, hemorrhagic stroke and Parkinson’s disease.

“I would not be where I am, or on the path that I’m on, had it not been for the people and advisers I met at Fordham and Donovan,” said Vicari. While attending what was then Monsignor Donovan High School, Vicari said the advisers and faculty he came in contact with were always student-focused; their main goal was to help students reach the next stepping stone.

In college, Vicari served as a resident assistant for three years, and also tutored students struggling with biology and chemistry. Along the way, he was surrounded by mentors and supporters.

“My mentors truly made my goals a priority and couldn’t have been more supportive,” he said. “I knew that I could turn to them for anything – not only with respect to class work but also what decisions I would have to make for the next steps in my career.”

Catholic education has been key in his growth, Vicari said.

“I think that Catholic education ends up acting as a hub for certain types of people – the kind who care a lot and make it a priority to help and serve others,” he said. “It’s only natural that after being in environments like Donovan and Fordham, your values and goals start to mirror that of your mentors – and having a positive attitude, acting with humility and being a genuine person end up taking you pretty far.” 

Dr. Jeanine Genkinger, a graduate of St. John Vianney High School, Holmdel, and Notre Dame University, South Bend, Ind., serves as an associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology at Columbia University, N.Y.

Genkinger focuses her research on understanding how to prevent and detect early ovarian and pancreatic cancer. Her research involves analyzing results of long-term studies of men and women who have completed questionnaires, donated blood or saliva samples and are followed over a period of time. The studies are conducted around the world and are aggregated as part of a comprehensive study of the rare diseases.

Reflecting on her education, Genkinger said that Notre Dame University played a significant role in her development and growth.

“I believe I received a great education in the sciences that was grounded in liberal arts. However, one of greatest treasures from my experience is the friendships that I formed while I was at Notre Dame,” she shared. “I still am extremely close to my friends and really value those connections that I built there.”

Her Catholic university education also provided perspective – on what she could do to help others.

“I have always known that I would go into a field that needed to have a direct impact on individuals’ lives, and through public health I am able to do that,” she said.

“I believe it formed the basis for my future studies and my desire to make life better for others,” she said, then added, “I hope that through my work, and also my teaching of students in public health, that I will continue to help others by improving the lives of individuals through nutrition and prevention of diseases.”