Monthly Archives: May 2020

Class of 2020 honor graduate earns appointment to U.S. Naval Academy

December 2019 is certain to be a memorable one for recent Mount St. Mary graduate Cecelia Rech. While visiting her sister in London with family over Christmas break, this year’s fifth honor graduate finally learned the result from the months of preparation and hard work that went into applying to the U.S. Naval Academy. On December 23 – just two days before Christmas and four days after receiving a Letter of Assurance – Cecelia received her official nomination from Congressman French Hill, thus ensuring her appointment to the highly selective federal service academy in Annapolis, Md.


The U.S. Naval Academy is recognized as one of the most competitive educational institutions in the country, typically offering appointments to less than 10 percent of its more than 16,000 applications each year. Cecelia is the fifth Mount St. Mary graduate in eight years to receive an appointment. She joins Annie Quo ’19, Allison Polston ’16, Rachel Parker ’15 and Bridget Lee ’12 as the most recent Belles to attend the prestigious service academy.


CAPT Scott Pursley, Arkansas area coordinator for the U.S. Naval Academy, presented Cecelia with her official appointment certificate during a brief ceremony in the MSM McAuley Center on May 29. The small celebration, limited in size due to social gathering restrictions related to COVID-19, included administration, teachers, family members and fellow students. Cecelia is scheduled to report to the Naval Academy and officially become part of its Brigade of Midshipmen as a member of the Class of 2024 on June 30.


We reached out to Cecelia as she prepares for her departure to get her thoughts on this impending new chapter, as well as to have her reflect a bit on her time at Mount St. Mary.


What motivated your decision to apply to a federal service academy – and the U.S. Naval Academy, in particular?


Before mid-December of my sophomore year, I hadn’t considered a service academy for college. I knew about West Point, but had pretty much ruled out the military. I learned about the Naval Academy from a summer program information card I received in the mail, and then I decided to look into the other academies, too. Ultimately, I just had a feeling about the Naval Academy. When I visited, I knew it was where I was meant to go. I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself, and to become a better leader, and I feel there is no better place to do that than the Academy.


Had you applied to, and received acceptances from, any other academic institutions?


Yes, I also received acceptances from Georgia Institute of Technology, St. Louis University, Illinois Institute of Technology, University of Dayton, St. Edward’s University and Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.


You’ve chosen to major in Cyber Operations with the ultimate goal of pursuing a career in Cryptologic Warfare. What initially sparked your interest in this field? How have you already been able to study/explore it?


My mom first got me interested in computer science when I was in fifth grade with drawing shapes in JavaScript. I’ve since been able to explore this interest through online coding programs, girls’ coding workshops and other engineering camps around the state. I initially planned on pursuing computer engineering. However, I decided to shift my focus slightly to cybersecurity, which will allow me to protect and create safer technology.


What part of your four years at “the Yard” are you most looking forward to?


I’m most looking forward to developing close friendships with my classmates; the people in your company are essentially your family while you’re there!


In what ways do you feel MSM has prepared you for this opportunity and your future?


MSM taught me how to work well under pressure, to not be afraid to ask for help from both my teachers and classmates, and to always aim high. When I told [MSM College Counselor] Mrs. Coffey I wanted to apply to the Naval Academy, she immediately helped me write essays for summer program applications, learn everything I could about it and plan out when I could start my application. Having her support and encouragement throughout this process was such a gift!


Is there one experience from your time at MSM that has been most meaningful to you?


Taking AP Physics with Fr. Fred my junior year was my most meaningful experience. It challenged me in a way that I had never before experienced in the classroom. Throughout the year, there were many times I wanted to give up because I wasn’t constantly successful. It was one of the first times I was unable to rely solely on natural academic ability and had to work to further my work ethic and study skills. This experience taught me that progress is just as, if not more, important than final success.


What advice do you have for younger students who are interested in pursuing an opportunity like this, but who may feel it’s unattainable?


My best advice would be to not be intimidated by the grandeur and challenge of it all. Yes, the Naval Academy is competitive, but only you know how amazing, intelligent and talented you are. Be confident when you talk to your admissions counselor, Blue and Gold Officer, and Congressional Nomination committee, and don’t be afraid to highlight all your well-earned achievements. Don’t let your accomplishments just be numbers and words on paper; really display all your hard work and effort.


Mount St. Mary Academy, sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, develops young women with a moral and intellectual foundation rooted in Catholic tradition. Mercy-minded and college-prepared, our students meet the future with wisdom, compassion and integrity.

Senior Basketball Belle’s volunteerism recognized by All Arkansas Preps, two other student-athletes also honored

Mount St. Mary Academy’s athletic program will be well represented in the upcoming Arkansas Democrat-Gazette All Arkansas Preps awards ceremony. Three student-athletes from the Class of 2020 are set to be honored during the event, which will take place virtually this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Basketball Belle Catherine Althoff has been chosen as the recipient of the Hussman Community Award. Additionally, Golf Belle Lauren Loeb and Tennis Belle Presley Southerland have been named to their respective sports’ All Arkansas Preps teams.


The Hussman Community Award, named in honor of Arkansas Democrat-Gazette publisher Walter E. Hussman Jr., is one of only three All Arkansas Preps “Inspiration Awards” that will be presented during the ceremony. It honors one Arkansas high school student-athlete who has worked to better his or her community through volunteerism, and who has demonstrated strong leadership skills while setting a positive example for others.


“Between a demanding course load and the responsibilities associated with athletics and being a student athletic trainer, Catherine’s plate was already incredibly full. Yet she always made time to volunteer, and she served her community in many ways throughout high school,” said MSM Athletic Director Marilyn Lenggenhager, who nominated Catherine for the award. “Her demonstrated commitment to academics, athletics and service deserved to be recognized. It’s truly phenomenal all Catherine has been able to accomplish within such a busy schedule.”


Lauren Lawrence, head basketball coach at MSM, shared similar sentiments upon learning that this year’s co-captain had been selected for the Hussman Community Award. “Catherine is the epitome of a high achiever. She consistently strives to be the greatest version of herself and certainly doesn’t fall short when it comes to volunteering. She always puts her best foot forward with a smile on her face as she is helping others and our community,” she said.


Catherine will be recognized as this year’s Hussman Community Award recipient during the 2019-2020 All Arkansas Preps virtual awards ceremony on Thursday, June 18. It will be streamed live on Facebook at beginning at 6:30 p.m.


In addition to Catherine’s recognition, Lauren and Presley will be honored for their achievements in golf and tennis, respectively, when they’re announced as one of just 12 members of their sports’ All Arkansas Preps teams. Lauren finished second in this year’s 6A Girls Golf State Tournament and third in the Arkansas State Golf Association High School Overall Championship. Presley was this year’s 6A State Singles Champion and finished as runner-up in the Overall State Tennis Tournament. Both Belles received All-Conference and All-State honors this year, as well.


Perhaps even more exciting is the fact that all three seniors have plans to continue playing sports at the college level next year: Catherine at Rhodes College in Memphis, Lauren at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, and Presley at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.


Congrats to Catherine, Lauren and Presley! Go Belles!


Mount St. Mary Academy, sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, develops young women with a moral and intellectual foundation rooted in Catholic tradition. Mercy-minded and college-prepared, our students meet the future with wisdom, compassion and integrity.

Mount St. Mary honors sports teams, student-athletes virtually

This year’s annual Athletic Banquet was canceled due to COVID-19, but that didn’t stop Mount St. Mary Academy from celebrating its sports teams, student-athletes and coaching staff. The school held a virtual Athletic Awards Celebration on Monday, May 11, during which Principal Sara Jones and Athletic Director Marilyn Lenggenhager recognized the accomplishments of the 2019-2020 teams and announced the recipients of this year’s special awards.


The winners of this year’s special awards, which are selected by MSM athletic staff, include the following:


  • Fr. Keaney Award: Kaitlin Tarini ’20
  • Donnie Bridges Award: Cami Kita ’20
  • Sara Fritz Outstanding Student Athletic Trainer Award: Catherine Althoff ’20
  • Sr. Phillipa Athletic Award: Lauren Loeb ’20 and Lily Wewers ’20
  • Sr. Phillipa Parent Award: Kim Markland and Kate Franks
  • Sr. Phillipa Memorial Scholarship: Sarah Johnson ’20 and Catherine Althoff ’20
  • Mary Drake Award: Millie Allgood ’22
  • Purple Heart Award: Presley Southerland ’20
  • Vassar-West Scholarship: Mia Aquino ’22
  • Marilyn Lenggenhager Passionate Athlete Award: Cami Kita ’20 and Fran Edwards ’21
  • Manager of the Year: Sarah Kate McConnell ’22
  • Most Valuable Freshman Award: Alexia Coca ’23 and Blair Barnett ’23
  • Most Valuable Belle: Kaitlin Tarini ’20


Thirteen student-athletes were recognized as Four-Year Scholar Athletes, having participated in athletics for all four years of high school and graduating with a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or higher. Lily Wewers was awarded the Top Scholar Athlete award for maintaining the highest GPA while also participating in the athletic program at Mount.


The virtual event also honored the coaching staff and paid special tribute to three coaches who are retiring from their coaching duties this year: Bubba Klugh (golf), Brian Loeb (golf) and Chuck Toomer (cross country).


View the virtual Athletic Awards Celebration online at


Congratulations to all of this year’s hard-working and dedicated student-athletes and their coaches. We are proud of you and all you do for Mount St. Mary and its athletic program.


Mount St. Mary Academy, sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, develops young women with a moral and intellectual foundation rooted in Catholic tradition. Mercy-minded and college-prepared, our students meet the future with wisdom, compassion and integrity.

MSM sophomore accepted to prestigious summer songwriting workshop

Sophomore Ellen Brady has been accepted into the New York University Summer Songwriters Workshop. Ellen, one of only 42 applicants from across the world to receive an acceptance, will participate in the intensive seminar June 15-26.


“I cannot describe the excitement and shock I felt when I opened the email from NYU,” Ellen said. “I applied to the program in the first place just to receive some feedback on the songs I had recorded, never expecting to actually get accepted considering how well-known and famous this workshop is.”


During the two-week workshop, which will be held online this year due to COVID-19, Ellen will hone her craft through instruction, targeted assignments and critique from a faculty of acclaimed songwriters in a variety of musical genres. The program also features extensive collaboration, daily peer review and panels providing discussion on the integral aspects of the record business as well as songwriters’ rights.


“I will be getting one-on-one time with GRAMMY-nominated songwriters, singers and producers who have written for artists such as Beyoncé, Whitney Houston, Dolly Parton, John Legend, Elton John, Usher, Kelly Clarkson and many others,” Ellen said of the upcoming summer workshop. “We will work together in order to perfect the songs I submitted in my application, and I will also get to collaborate with other participants in the program to write new music.”


Ellen’s passion for music and songwriting was initially sparked after joining her middle school’s theatre program. She recently began researching various careers in music and aspires to pursue her passion in a city like New York, Los Angeles, Boston or Nashville.


“I am very open-minded and would love the opportunity to study any part of the music industry, such as music management, production, business or songwriting, and hopefully get to work in such an incredible industry one day,” Ellen said.


Mount St. Mary Academy, sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, develops young women with a moral and intellectual foundation rooted in Catholic tradition. Mercy-minded and college-prepared, our students meet the future with wisdom, compassion and integrity.

Senior filmmaker awarded $2,500 Thea Scholarship

Another Mount St. Mary Academy senior has been named a winner in one of this year’s Thea Foundation Scholarship Competitions. Sophie Mammarelli was awarded the $2,500 Editing Scholarship in the 2020 Film Scholarship Competition.


High school seniors from across the state were invited to submit films to this year’s competition in one of the following categories: screenwriting, directing, cinematography and editing. Entries were judged by the Arkansas Cinema Society, and only four $2,500 scholarships were awarded.


Sophie’s scholarship-winning short film, starring classmate America Alejandri ’20, represented her interpretation of this year’s competition theme: “Brilliant, radiant, overcoming the senses.” View Sophie’s film online:


News of Sophie’s award didn’t come as a surprise for those who’ve worked with the budding filmmaker during her time at Mount St. Mary, where she’s assisted in producing numerous videos for the school.


“Sophie always goes above and beyond my expectations for our school and its news station, Belle TV,” said Carrie Burkhead, technology and media specialist at Mount. “Her talent, creativity and capacity to manage several projects continue to amaze me. I am very proud to have had Sophie as a student the past two years, and I will miss her dearly. I look forward to seeing what the future holds for her in the film industry.”


Sophie will attend the University of Central Arkansas in Conway this fall where she plans on majoring in film production.


Congratulations, Sophie!


Mount St. Mary Academy, sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, develops young women with a moral and intellectual foundation rooted in Catholic tradition. Mercy-minded and college-prepared, our students meet the future with wisdom, compassion and integrity.