St. Sebastian graduate named Cardinal Wuerl Scholar

| Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013, 9:02 p.m.

High school freshman Anna Rutkowski is part of an elite group of five students who recently were named Cardinal Wuerl Scholars.

As she moves from St. Sebastian School in Ross Township to Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School on Pittsburgh's Troy Hill this month, she'll bring with her $26,000 in scholarship money over four years. Annual tuition is $9,700 for Catholics and $10,300 for non-Catholics.

In a year, when the new Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School opens in Cranberry, she'll continue to take on additional leadership roles inside the school and within the community. Progress on the $71 million project is steadily advancing toward completion.

The selection was based on academic performance, an essay, an interview, demonstrated leadership and service to the Lord, according to the application. Approximately 40 students throughout the diocese were invited to apply for the scholarships via the recommendation of their principals.

“As we begin our life as Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School, we wanted to offer this to the best and the brightest,” said Beth Pawlowicz, director of admissions at the school. “We wanted the scholarship program to be as competitive and as ambitious as the students we wish to attract.”

In four years, the program will sponsor 20 scholars.

It was Joe Wilson's dream to create a merit-based scholarship. As the school's business manager for more than 10 years, he worked to develop a way for more teens to afford a Catholic high school education. Through diocesan programs and careful budgeting, money was in place this spring, he said.

Wilson, Class of 1991 North Catholic graduate, said he couldn't be more pleased with the caliber of students who were selected.

“These are exactly the kind of kids we want to represent us,” said Wilson, 40, of McCandless, describing the 10 finalists as mature and composed during their interviews. “We're investing in the right kind of people.”

Anna, the daughter of Patricia and Richard Rutkowski of Pittsburgh, had planned to attend the school but applied for the scholarship program on a whim. She was surprised — and honored — to be in the first group of scholars.

“It's pretty exciting,” the 14-year-old said about her selection. “I feel very responsible. I feel almost grown up.”

Her Silver Award Girl Scout project was the focus of her essay on the accomplishment that had made her most proud.

“It was four and one half pages, and it felt like it took a year (to write),” she said.

She wrote about the five months when she prepared nutritious breakfasts each Saturday for students being tutored at the former Northview PreK-8 school in Pittsburgh. The school provided the ingredients. She cooked the simple meals, such as bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches; oatmeal; and waffles at home for 10 to 20 children.

Her winning essay took her to the interview stage, where she sat in the principal's office at the Troy Hill high school — in the principal's chair.

“I know my face was red the whole time,” she said.

But the congratulatory call came just two hours later.

Anna said she is looking forward to the high school's new science, technology, engineering and math curriculum this fall and then the move to the new school in a year.

“I'm honored that my principal recommended me,” Anna said. “I couldn't be in the position without Dr. (Kathleen) Roppa's help.”

Dona S. Dreeland is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6353 or

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