WINDSOR TERRACE — In late May, three students from across the Diocese of Brooklyn were crowned the top subscription-selling winners in The Tablet’s COVID Relief Fundraiser.
Students in Catholic academies and parish schools were tasked to sell subscriptions and renewals to the diocese’s newspaper. More than $30,000 was raised from the campaign, funds that could help cover the costs of tuition or alleviate some of the hardships schools continue to face in the wake of unexpected expenses associated with COVID pandemic-related restrictions.
The hard work and earnest sales pitching performed by St. Athanasius Catholic Academy fifth-grader Noelle Pianoforte, St. Elizabeth Catholic Academy eighth-grader Jias Jordan, and St. Sebastian Catholic Academy third-grader Santiago Diniz, over the course of four weeks, made all the difference — bringing cash both into their pockets and their schools’ coffers. Noelle, Jias, and Santiago finished in first, second, and third place respectively.
While they were still basking in the glow of their victories, The Tablet caught up with each winner for a round of quick-fire questions and answers.
Noelle Pianoforte, St. Athanasius Catholic Academy
Noelle took home the first-place prize of $3,000 after selling 48 subscriptions for the fundraiser.
Despite an unusual school year that included one temporary shutdown in the fall due to a spike in COVID-19 cases, Noelle is grateful to be back in her Bensonhurst school.
“What I like best about school is that I am with all of my friends every day and we all get to be together,” Noelle said.
When she’s not learning the fifth-grade fundamentals — including learning about the solar system and weather as part of her favorite subject, science — Noelle can be found making and editing videos for fun. She aspires to become a chef when she grows up, so she can feed her family, and perhaps own a restaurant one day.
“I want to cook for my family and have them come eat there,” she explained. “I love spending time with my family. I’m happy when we are all together.”
“Even though I can make a few things right now and can bake,” Noelle continued, “I want to learn more new recipes and cook more.”
The fifth-grader also loves the fantasy genre, with its elements of magic, witchcraft, and wizardry. She has read all seven books in the Harry Potter series — her favorite — and has watched all eight movies of the franchise. Her favorite non-Harry Potter movie is “Hocus Pocus,” the 1993 Disney Halloween film starring Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker.
Jias Jordan, St. Elizabeth Catholic Academy
Jias was awarded $2,000 after selling 40 subscriptions for the fundraiser. He graduated from St. Elizabeth’s on June 12 and will be attending Archbishop Molloy High School this fall.
Reflecting on what his journey at St. Elizabeth’s has meant to him over the last nine years, Jias said he will miss his friends and teachers the most. “St. Elizabeth has a very friendly community,” he said, “which I enjoy.”
Jias’ favorite subject at St. Elizabeth’s was religion because he “learned about the world and God, while also socializing with my peers and teacher.”
Looking ahead, Jias is excited to meet new people at Archbishop Molloy, in addition to participating in its afterschool programming and facing the academic challenges he will encounter in his honors classes. He plans to become an accountant when he grows up because he also excels in mathematics.
Outside of the classroom, Jias enjoys hanging out with his friends and family — whether that be going to the beach, playing billiards, bowling, swimming, or traveling. His favorite place in the world to visit is Canada’s smallest and only island province, Prince Edward Island.
“It’s my favorite because of the serenity and tranquility,” Jias explained. “There was also less pollution and the people were friendly there.”
Santiago Diniz, St. Sebastian Catholic Academy
Santiago walked away with $1,000 after selling 22 subscriptions for the fundraiser. He enrolled at St. Sebastian’s at the beginning of the school year and is enjoying gym class, where he has been learning how to play new sports under new health and safety guidelines.
Santiago also likes learning about math with his teacher, Tina Frodella. “Numbers are a lot of fun,” he said.
The third-grader is currently making his way through the Harry Potter book series — reading it in both English and Spanish — and is in the middle of the third book, “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.”
Santiago wants to be a scientist when he grows up because “it would be fun to conduct experiments.” But, he would also like to learn more about different species of animals and the ways they adapt in their environments to survive and thrive.
Santiago’s hidden talent: He can solve a Rubik’s Cube, without any help from others, in a short amount of time.
When not in school, Santiago enjoys spending time with his parents in the kitchen. “I love cooking with my dad and baking with my mom,” he said. “I like that I can do it with my parents.”