SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- Andrew Palacio had a remarkable run of success during his four years at Union Catholic, making an indelible mark inside and outside the classroom as he built a very impressive resume and made memories that will last a lifetime during his unforgettable journey.
It’s a journey that became even more memorable when Palacio recently qualified for the National AP Scholar Award by receiving an average score of at least 4 on all AP Exams, and scores of four or higher on eight or more of the exams. He also qualified for the AP Scholar with Distinction Award.
Palacio is honored by the awards, and grateful to Union Catholic for helping him achieve them.
“I am very excited to qualify for these awards,’’ said Palacio. “It makes me proud of my hard work, but also extremely grateful for all of the amazing teachers that I’ve had during my time at Union Catholic. I would not have been able to qualify for these awards without my teachers pushing me and supporting me. There are simply too many teachers to name.’’
Palacio’s very impressive resume also includes Salutatorian of the Class of 2020, the Michael Marotti Award, the Eldon M. Hammeke Scholarship, the National Honor Society, the National Language Honor Society, and he was a Medalist in both Math and Instrumental Fine Arts.
‘I am thrilled to have concluded my four years at UC with these awards,’’ said Palacio. “I believe that the awards are reflective of how much I loved my time at UC and resonated with the community. I simply would not have received many of these rewards without my positive relationships with my teachers, faculty, friends, coaches, and teammates. UC was a fantastic place for me to develop these relationships.’’
As a result of his high marks on the AP exams, Palacio will carry 20 credits with him into Johns Hopkins University.
“It’s very relieving to have a head start on some core requirements, such as calculus and chemistry,’’ said Palacio. “Because I do not have to take some introductory courses, I have been able to sign up for some interesting electives for this fall, such as a music class about Beethoven, and a writing seminar that focuses on the influences of pop music in our world today.’’
Palacio feels that Union Catholic prepared him extremely well for college, and he’s thankful for all the guidance and support that he received from the staff and faculty at the school.
“Academically, Union Catholic offered many course offerings and resources needed to prepare for college,’’ said Palacio. Unfortunately, many high schools do not offer enough AP courses for their students to take AP exams and earn recognition from the College Board, and I am very grateful that Union Catholic had plenty of AP courses and electives for me to choose from. Mrs. Jakubik, my guidance counselor, was an amazing mentor throughout the college application process. I would not be attending Johns Hopkins without her advice and support.’’
The same sense of community that Palacio felt and experienced at Union Catholic is a big reason why he chose to attend Johns Hopkins.
“The main reason I chose Johns Hopkins was for the community,’’ said Palacio, who is majoring in mechanical engineering, and plans to minor in space systems engineering. “When I toured JHU in the spring of my junior year, I could tell that the campus was filled with very driven and interesting people, and I really felt at home there. After college, I’d like to work in the aerospace industry, whether that’s for a government program like NASA or a private company.’’
Palacio was very involved at Union Catholic, and maintained a great balance between academics and activities.
He competed on the track and field and cross-country teams, was a Student Ambassador, played the trumpet in the concert band, and played the piano at several school events.
“Balancing my various experiences at UC, ranging from academics to extracurricular activities to my social life, was important and very challenging,’’ said Palacio, who lives in Cranford. “Although I admit that I did not always handle that balance perfectly, it helped me learn to make the most of my time. I was interested in many different things, and I believe that high school was the perfect time for me to pursue all of those things.’’
Palacio always wanted to attend UC and follow in the footsteps of his mother, Deborah (UC Class of 1990), and his sister, Emma (UC Class of 2017).
“I had known that I wanted to be a student at UC for a very long time,’’ said Palacio, whose brother, Michael, is a rising junior at UC. My mom and sister had attended before me, and had amazing experiences. Long before I entered UC as a freshman, I perceived UC as a very fun place to go to school, get involved in many activities, and make friends. I was certainly not disappointed!’’
Palacio has been very busy this summer. He did some tutoring, and worked for his mom and a delivery company. But he's also found time to grow closer with his friends and family, and reflect on his four years at UC.
“It’s difficult to pinpoint a single thing that I loved the most about being a student at UC,’’ said Palacio. “I’d say I loved the experiences I’ve had with my friends, in the classroom, and on the track the most. The memories I’ve made, and the lessons I’ve learned at UC will remain with me for a long time. I’m going to miss the community at Union Catholic the most. The teachers, the faculty, and the students made UC such a welcoming place. I think that many people at UC would agree with me that UC truly feels like a family. It would be difficult to find such a friendly and energetic environment anywhere else.’’
Palacio has some advice for younger students who are considering attending UC.
“I would advise younger students that there is no better place than UC to explore your interests and become involved with your community,’’ said Palacio. “The students and faculty at UC simply love the school and their experience there. Once they attend UC, I would advise them to take advantage of every opportunity and try new things.