Arriving on a new campus without long-standing friendships is a situation most students will never experience, until possibly leaving home to attend college. With a freshman class of students from over 25 public, private and Catholic schools, for many admitted students at St. Vincent de Paul High School they are the only representative from their middle school. In the fall of 2018, Wambui Munene of Marin Christian Academy in Novato shared this challenge with many of her new classmates.
However, for the daughter of Isaac and Ann Munene, there were even higher expectations. Wambui was the first recipient, and only member of her class, to be admitted as a Vincentian Scholar. To be considered for the most prestigious admittance, the applicant is required to have straight A’s in every discipline throughout 7th and 8th grade, to perform in the top 10% of the high school placement test and to meet other qualitative factors. You can learn more about the Vincentian Scholarship and other scholarship opportunities here.
“I have learned meaningful life lessons each year at St. Vincent de Paul High School. Whether it was through discovering new interests such as community service, through different activities or having a genuine relationship with my teachers.”
UNCOMMON ACADEMIC RIGOR + SERVICE
Wambui has a full slate of AP classes, has consistently earned top marks, served in student government for all four years and as a Mentor on campus for two years. At St. Vincent’s, each subject area awards Highest Honors or Honors to just two students. In her first three years, Wambui has received this distinction in Algebra, Geometry, Technology, Spanish, World Literature, Chemistry and Physics. What many may not know is that she also stays fit and challenges herself on the competitive Novato gymnastics team 12-hours a week.
Wambui’s efforts have extended beyond the campus into a unique set of summer opportunities, all of which she learned about through St. Vincent’s. They included Healthcare careers exploration at The College of Marin, HOBY Leadership Seminars, Mock Trial Camps and the NYLF Medicine Program. She also creates time to volunteer with Relay for Life, Petaluma Bounty, United Cerebral Palsy of the North Bay and children’s programs at her church.
“I have always loved serving others to have an impact on other people’s lives. St. Vincent’s has nurtured that desire. As a freshman, I really took the school motto to heart — Enter to Learn, Leave to Serve.”
GENUINE STUDENT-TEACHER RELATIONSHIPS
“After looking at many options in the Northbay, we chose St. Vincent’s because of its size, academic excellence, leadership opportunities and Christian values,” Wambui’s mother Ann shared. “We knew she would have more access to quality teachers who would really get to know our child.”
Deborah Crosby has had the opportunity to have Wambui in three science and math classes. She shared that her student “exhibits a unique attention to detail, has a keen curiosity in biology and is meticulous in everything she does.” She added, “What I appreciate most is her presence in the classroom, it brings integrity and responsibility.”
“Wambui is a hard worker; gives 110% and takes full responsibility for every part of her learning.” Mrs. Crosby continued. “It is truly inspiring to have a student like her in class, it motivates me to work harder as a teacher because biology is such an important subject for Wambui’s ambitions.”
Wambui was excited to share that “Mrs. Crosby has been her most impactful teacher at St. Vincent’s. She pours time and effort into her students and truly cares about making sure everyone achieves comprehension and success.” She added, “Mrs. Crosby is an exceptional model of a teacher where her impact will last into our future.”
Wambui has made it known that she intends for biology to be her primary area of study in college and has aspirations to go into pediatrics. Her parents confirmed this has been a lifelong ambition for their daughter that has been increasingly nurtured at St. Vincent’s. While the nationally-ranked debate team, emerging athletics program, notable alumni and unusually strong college acceptances attract the most attention to the school, the real draw has been the generations of exceptional teachers. The current team of math and science teachers may be the strongest in the history of the school including Dr. John Svitak, Mick O’Meara, Deborah Crosby and Louis Morton. Of special note in 2021, after many years at Cardinal Newman High School, Tony Greco, one of the most recognized math teachers in the Northbay joined the St. Vincent’s faculty. For students interested in the STEM subjects of science, technology, engineering and math, St. Vincent de Paul High School is now among the top programs in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Wambui’s teacher Aaron Vela added, “In my Honors Spanish II class, where she achieved Highest Honors, I was blown away by her attention to detail in every assignment that she did. She was meticulous about her writing and she was determined to learn from every correction that I made on her papers.”
He continued, “Wambui is extremely kind and one of the most respectful students I have ever met. She was tasked with making a how-to video entirely in Spanish without using notecards. She made a video about how to be a good friend; which was not only exceptional but consistent with who she is as a person.”
MAKING A DIFFERENCE
As one of the top students in the school, she will certainly have the opportunity to attend some of the most selective universities in the nation. While most St. Vincent’s graduates do attend a four-year college, the underlying intention of our program, as stated by Fr. William P. Donahue, Pastor & President, is for “our students to acquire all the tools they need to be successful in whatever endeavor in life they choose.”
It is difficult not to be impressed with Wambui’s academic ability, efforts outside the classroom, work ethic and desire to make a difference in her community. But maybe more admirable is her ability to connect with her peers and willingness to help other students. Upon reflecting on her time as an 8th grader, deciding where she would attend high school, she encouraged middle school students to “make the choice based on your unique aspirations, not just where your friends may be going. Think about the type of high school experience you want to have and take control of the direction you want for your life.”
Wambui Munene, our first Vincentian Scholar, will be missed next year. The school community appreciates the path she has shown for others to emulate during their time at St. Vincent’s. We are proud to share her story as one of our exceptional students from the Class of 2022.