How One Student Found Faith in The Classroom and Became a Valedictorian


by Emily Drooby

MANHATTAN — Like many children across the country, Samantha Chan has been dealing with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic — having to learn from home and missing out on typical school events — but with one added hurdle. The St. Peter Catholic Academy student’s mother is a nurse working on the frontline of the outbreak.

Yet, she still managed to accomplished something many students only dream of being: She was named valedictorian of her Catholic Academy.

“I feel pretty excited because I like school a lot and I feel like studying is a very important part of my life,” Samantha said of her accomplishment.

St. Peter’s principal Danielle Alfeo, told The Tablet that she first learned of the family’s extra struggles while visiting their home to deliver a graduation sign.

“[Her] mom came out first and said, ‘Samantha hasn’t been out of the house at all’ … because she was so afraid that she was already exposed to so many germs,” Alfeo explained. “She didn’t want her children to be exposed, either.”

Her mom’s job wasn’t the only reason Samantha’s family was extra cautious — they also live with her grandparents.

“I don’t want to risk anything,” Samantha explained, “I’m paranoid something could happen to them.”
Despite the additional worries, Samantha didn’t let it affect her school work and attributes some of her success to her love of studying.

“She’s such a phenomenal student but very quiet, very reserved, very polite, and well mannered,” Alfeo said.

Samantha’s Catholic faith, which she found while in Alfeo’s fourth-grade religion class, has also helped during this time.

“I wanted to become closer and understand more about the faith,” Samantha recalled.

That’s when she decided she wanted to be Catholic. Now, Alfeo is her godmother and confirmation sponsor.

“She always looked out for us in the classroom and she understood our interests,” Samantha said. “I felt like she was a good candidate for my godmother.”

Samantha has a deep and ever-growing connection with God on top of her strong work ethic. Despite having to deal with more than many kids her age, she has never let it affect her work.

Now, Samantha is both a valedictorian and a role model.