The future looks bright for these all-American Pinays

Quintet of gifted girls, from left: Madeleine Pestano of The Hun School of Princeton, Jenevieve Gopez of Notre Dame High School, Gisel Calulo of The Pingry School, Sophia Rae Barber of Princeton Day School, Alyssa Olegario of St. Thomas Aquinas High School

Scholars. Athletes. Artists. Whether in academia, athletics, or the arts, this future generation of Filipina Americans are ever to excel. These five amazing Pinays are freshmen at top-ranked private high schools and highly regarded Catholic high schools in New Jersey continuing to represent well the FilAm community in all their endeavors.

This quintet graduated from National Blue-Ribbon School St. Augustine of Canterbury School in June 2022. All five received the President’s Award for Educational Excellence and were inducted into the National Junior Honor Society. Each of them also received distinguished awards at their 8th Grade Commencement: Sophia Rae Barber (Gold Medals in Algebra, Language Arts, Social Studies, and Silver Medal in World Language), Gisel Calulo (Gold Medal in World Language and Silver Medals in Language Arts and Religious Studies), Jenevieve Gopez (Gold Medals in Arts and Religious Studies and Silver Medal in Science), Alyssa Olegario (Silver Medal in Math), and Madeleine Pestano (Silver Medals in Algebra and Social Studies).

As we celebrate Filipino American History Month this October, we congratulate Sophia, Gisel, Jenevieve, Alyssa, and Madeleine on their wonderful accomplishments. The future is bright for these young Pinays.

SOPHIA RAE BARBER – Sophia is one of two daughters of Herald and Deborah Barber from Somerset, N.J. She is a bright, determined, and passionate learner. At her 8th grade graduation, Sophia was recognized for her exemplary work and earned the most gold medals in her graduating class. She loves playing basketball. She was a member of the St. Augustine 8th grade basketball team, which won the championship in the Diocese of Metuchen CYM Sports League. Sophia is also a member of Central Jersey Kalahi and played AAU with NJ Panthers. She currently attends Princeton Day School (PDS), which is ranked one of the Top 5 best private schools in New Jersey and one of the Top 5 best private high schools in Mercer County. PDS admitted Sophia to its Honors Studio Geometry Program, an interdisciplinary math and architecture course. At her high school, she is a member of the Asian Pacific Islander Desi American Affinity Group, Environment Action Club, and the school paper “The Spokesman”.

GISEL CALULO – A kind-hearted scholar-athlete, Gisel is the only daughter of Terence Calulo and Jhanice Domingo, Esq. of Somerset, N.J. Gisel completed her 8th grade academic year with First Honors and Knights of Accomplishment Award in Science. She was also the first place winner of her school’s Junior Tech Solar Car Sprint Competition. Small but fierce, Gisel was the chosen MVP of her 8th grade girls’ basketball team, which was the 2022 Diocese of Metuchen CYM Basketball League Tournament champions. Gisel is currently a freshman at The Pingry School, which is ranked the #1 K-12 private school in N.J. and the #1 best private high school in Somerset County. She is also a member of the Asian Student Union and Immigrant Relations Club, as well as, Pingry’s Student Movement Against Cancer, a club she joined in honor of her maternal aunt who passed away last year at the age of 45 from pancreatic cancer. An avid basketball player since she was 7 years old, Gisel is a member of Team Jersey Elite’s first-ever girls’ AAU basketball team and is the Captain of the Staten Island Philippine American Group Damsels/Girls basketball team.

JENEVIEVE GOPEZ – Jenevieve is the daughter of Orlando and Jennifer Gopez of Monroe, N.J. At St. Augustine, Jenevieve received First Honors and Knights of Accomplishment every year. She was involved with Odyssey of the Mind, Youth Group, and Babysitters Club, where she became CPR-certified. Last summer, she embarked on her first entrepreneurial endeavor selling handmade cards over social media and donating a portion of the proceeds to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. She is the recipient of the Mary Ann Liptak Merit Scholarship at Notre Dame High School (ND) which is ranked one of the Top 10 private high schools in Mercer County and among the Top 25 best Catholic high schools in N.J. Jenevieve was elected as the freshman class representative of ND’s student government and serves as a Student Ambassador. She is also a member of the Niceties Club, Yearbook Club, American Sign Language Club, and Joey’s Earth Angels. Honing her creativity and love for the arts, Jenevieve is a member of ND’s Art Club and Dance Intermediate Class. She has been a competitive dancer since she was 4 years old.

ALYSSA OLEGARIO – Alyssa is the only daughter of Alan and Katherine Olegario of Piscataway, N.J. At St. Augustine, in addition to her academic accomplishments, Alyssa was a member of the Babysitters Club and earned a CPR/Basic Life Saving Skills certification from the American Heart Association. In 2020, Alyssa and Gisel became the youngest winners of Work Design Magazine’s competition to design a solution for a post-COVID work environment. A dedicated competitive gymnast in USAIGC, under USA Gymnastics umbrella, Alyssa competed in the 2019 USAIGC Worlds Gymnastics Championship and brought home six medals. Alyssa earned gold medals in all four of her individual events at the 2020 N.J. State USAIGC Championship. She earned a silver medal in balance beam at the 2021 NJ State USAIGC Championship and most recently, became the 2022 N.J. State silver medalist in floor exercise and bronze medalist in vault for her age category. Alyssa now attends St. Thomas Aquinas High School (STA), one of the Top 25 best Catholic high schools in N.J. Alyssa earned an academic scholarship and was accepted into the Aquinas Scholars Program.

MADELEINE PESTANO – Madeleine is the middle child of Lito and Anjanette Pestano, and one of two sisters attending the Hun School of Princeton (Hun), which is ranked as one of the Top 10 boarding high schools in N.J. and one of the Top 10 best private high schools in Mercer County. Smart and hardworking, Madeleine graduated with first honors at St. Augustine. She continues to be a straight-A student at Hun, a streak that she has maintained since 5th Grade. While at St. Augustine, she also sharpened her creative and critical thinking skills as a member of the Robotics Team and Odyssey of the Mind Team. A competitive athlete, Madeleine was also a member of the St. Augustine 8th Grade Basketball Team and currently plays for Central Jersey Kalahi Basketball Team as well as the Girls Basketball Team at Hun. Madeleine is also a member of the Hun Review Art Magazine, Yearbook Committee, and the Arts in Action Club.

Leave a Reply