|Best of the Class Choose UST|
The University of St. Thomas continues to attract graduating seniors at the top of their class. In the 2008-2009 academic year, nine valedictorians and three salutatorians chose to attend UST. These students set high academic standards for themselves, and sought a university that holds the same reputation.
Toni Cervantes graduated as valedictorian of Ross Shaw Sterling High School in southeast Houston. She applied to four other Texas universities, but she was attracted to UST’s small class size and she is grateful for the St. Thomas Aquinas scholarship she received. As the first person in her family to attend college, Cervantes plans to major in Communication focusing on radio broadcasting.
“UST has upheld its reputation for academic rigor.” Cervantes said. “The classes and the professors are very challenging, but the hard work and this investment in education is worth it.
Cervantes went on to say, “The entire liberal arts education has opened my eyes and I have started asking questions that I never thought about before. I’m growing as a person, and I am looking forward to the next three years.”
Jonathan Zalamea considered numerous universities, but he was ultimately was drawn to UST’s Catholic intellectual heritage. With a desire to pursue a career in medicine, Zalamea wanted a values-based education that encouraged the simultaneous pursuit of knowledge and spirituality – the harmony of faith and reason.
“I was going to public schools and then going to church, and I felt like my life was sort of split in half,” he said. “I wanted to be able to incorporate both my love of science and my faith, and I can do that here at St. Thomas.”
As he adjusts to the transition from high school to college, he says he finds comfort in having the Chapel of St. Basil on campus.
“After a long day, it’s really nice to be able to go to Chapel. I’ve also really enjoyed talking with University Chaplain Fr. Mike Buentello, CSB. It’s his first year here too, so it’s like we’re both freshman. In my biology classes, we have recently been studying how science and religion can coexist.”
He is currently taking courses within the pre-med program and plans to major in biology. He was inspired to become a doctor after his grandfather’s declining health worsened due to understaffed and antiquated health care in the Philippines. Zalamea hopes to someday practice medicine part-time in the Philippines.
Adeel Faruki is also studying biology and hopes to become a doctor. This Clear Brook High School graduate was tied for valedictorian and chose UST because of the University's connections with the Texas Medical Center, small class sizes and the liberal arts focus.
Though Faruki is not a liberal arts major, he said, “A liberal arts education is so amazing because it educates the student holistically. What you learn can be applied to everything in life to help you accomplish your goals and help you lead a more fulfilled life.”
As a commuter student, Faruki said it would be easy to come to class and leave, but he has made an effort get involved in campus. He has made friends by serving as a Presidential Ambassador, participating in Tri Beta, the biology honor society, the Health Professions Society, he participates in Student Government Association events and he plays intramural ping pong. Faruki has also been asked to participate in a biology research project with two senior biology students, a rare opportunity for a freshman, he said.