Ss. Simon & Jude School

Testimonials & Alumni Awards

Alumni Testimonials

Kelly McKone, SSJ Class of 1974

kelly collage

My experience as a student at SSJ was much more than what I learned in a text book. Being raised there and raising my children there were two of the greatest gifts I have received in my life. There is a quote, “it takes a village to raise a child”. What an incredible “village” we have been blessed to be a part of. We are all better for it. The most unique quality of our school community is that no matter how long you’ve been gone whenever you come back it feels like you never left.”

 Chris Tanner, SSJ Class of 1990

Chris Tanner then and now

“SSJ taught me many lessons as a student. Hard work, discipline and the importance of family are a few of the many great traits that I learned while attending SSJ. Sr. Raphael, the Loreto Sisters and the teachers truly did care for us as students. In 2007 when my wife Susanna and I were trying to decide where to send our son to school, we toured several different schools and hands down SSJ is where we belonged. Sr. Raphael was so excited to have our family back despite the fact that I spent so much time warming the chairs in her office for so many years! The whole community at SSJ is one of a kind. I’m so proud that all three of my children attend SSJ and it is a joy to see them grow academically and in their Catholic faith. Thank you Sr. Raphael and all of your incredible teachers. GO BOMBERS!”

Sal Guardiola, ’06

sal guardiola

“Saints Simon and Jude equipped me. I remember the third grade poem party, the presentation I did on Saint Juan Diego, and competing in the Honeywell/Fiesta Bowl Aerospace Challenge. Those projects prepared me for the task of delivering speeches in front of live audiences. I remember running for Commissioner of Publicity and later Student Body President. Those experiences gave me a foundation for leadership roles I would take on in high school and in college. I remember going to Mass, singing in the Christmas Pageant as the angel Gabriel, and taking on the role of Jesus in the Stations of the Cross. When I finally decided in college to become an intentional follower of Christ, those moments served to expand my understanding of just how much Jesus loves me. I remember the Fall Festival and Saint Patrick’s Day. Those celebrations showed me that there must always be a balance between work and play and that even if you are the principal, it is totally acceptable to break it down with an Irish jig. Finally I remember the teachers, the faculty, and the staff. Just as they inspired me to be the person that God calls me to be, I hope to inspire others to be the people God calls them to be.”

Isabelle Winjangco, ’04

Wijangco, Isabelle graduation

“Going to school takes on a meaning far beyond arithmetic and diagramming sentences when a student feels loved. I know I am loved every minute of every day. I know this not simply because Father Pat would look down at his watch at the end of every homily, exclaim the time, and all of the us sitting in the cathedral knew it was our turn to exclaim, “And you are loved!” And I know this not simply because Sr. Raphael remembers every student’s name from every class and every year. I know I am loved because I grew up at Ss. Simon and Jude. As consequence, I grew up with the nuns and priests, teachers, and staff as role models for living a life of faith in God, for cultivating kindness in our hearts, and for having love as the foundation for understanding the world. Learning to see the world through a lens of friendship, compassion, and discipleship at such a young age cannot be replaced.

My family has remarked many times how grateful we are to be part of SSJ. Now that I am a little older, I can see how those lessons about loving others that were taught to us since kindergarten make SSJ graduates the leaders who will go on to build communities of empathy. This is because students at SSJ are taught that living a life of faith is not a passive process. It is an active choice. It is about holding the hand of the person next to you in the Our Father no matter who he or she may be, just as Mrs. Manos taught us in first grade. It is about schools where you don’t need to look a certain way to have friends, just as my classmate wrote in our 8th grade yearbook. I remember an older graduate from SSJ telling me that her high school teacher said that he could always tell which students had come from SSJ because they made sure they became friends with everyone. These simple lessons on living a life in unity with others stay with us.

As a graduate of SSJ, I understand that as I go through the world today, I am never alone. Not simply am I part of the SSJ family. I am part of the world itself. God is the potter, and we are the clay, and the clarity that comes with understanding this has never let me down. To have learned so early on that I am loved and guided at all times has made all the difference in how I feel fulfilled and whole on a daily basis. And SSJ gave me the words to pray for this guidance. Whether in moments of calm or stress, I can close my eyes and breathe in Father O’Grady’s prayer, “Create in me a clean heart, O God.” To my whole Ss. Simon and Jude family, for the many prayers said together and for the daily love shown to all students, thank you.”

Joe (’82) and Michele (’81) Statt

michele and joe

“It’s hard to describe what my education meant to me at SS. Simon and Jude because, honestly, it has been my whole world. To be specific, I met my soul mate, Joe Statt, there. We sent our four kids to school there. Our oldest son met and is marrying his soul mate next month, also a graduate of SSJ. Our children continued their journeys after grade school by staying involved with youth group and, now, adult leadership. It is, and always has been, home to our family. The saying “home is where the heart is” also rings true because once you have joined the family that is SS. Simon & Jude, your heart forever belongs there and the hearts of the nuns and staff and families we share our lives with will always be an extension of our families as well. It’s like the Catholic equivalent of “Cheers”. This is a place where you can go and everyone, every nun, knows your name. This is God’s family, our family. What a wonderful world!”

Teresita Mercado Feix, ’89

teresita collage

“To me, SSJ is synonymous with my childhood, which was filled with many special memories.  SSJ is where I learned the values of love, friendship, charity, community and faith.  And these values are taught by example every day, through role models like the Loreto Sisters, parish priests, faculty/staff, and the student body.  SSJ is where I had amazing teachers, like Sr. Concepta who challenged me to excel in an accelerated math class decades before concepts like gender disparity or STEM became part of the academic vernacular. SSJ also had amazing priests, like Fr. Peter who taught us how to sing in Polish in case we ever met the Pope — and while I did not sing for the Pope, years later I did impress my Polish-born husband with the song.  SSJ is also where my amazing principal Sr. Raphael encouraged me to read at Mass, giving me confidence in public speaking and leading me toward my eventual career as an attorney.
I am eternally grateful to my parents for giving me the privilege of being an SSJ student.  And now — as a parent of SSJ students myself — I am grateful that my own children have the privilege of attending SSJ.  I am so proud of the values that they are developing and excited that they have begun to build their own SSJ memories, including traditions like the Christmas Pageant, Jets & Bombers (Go Bombers!), the St. Patrick’s Day Carnival, and, of course, being lucky enough to have Sr. Raphael as a principal.
So what can I say about my SSJ experience?  Two words: THANK YOU!”

Casey Upperman, ’05

casey upperman

Casey Upperman, ’05

Words cannot describe how blessed I feel, on a day to day basis, to have been provided the opportunity to go to SSJ from 1st to 8th grade. The way I was treated by all teachers and staff members truly exemplifies what it means to live your life through Christ, and treat others as you want to be treated. The knowledge I gained in the classroom certainly helped me adapt to higher education, but the experiences I had outside of the classroom at SSJ truly molded me into the person I am today. the memories I have from SSJ, whether it be competing for CYAA championships in sports, to the fall festival, or even just talking to Sister Raphael, will be ones that I will remember for the rest of my life. Sister Raphael is the kindest, most caring human being I’ve ever met in my life, not to mention a pretty good Irish dancer! I owe a lot of who I am today to her, seeing the way she treats people has made a huge impact on my life.  Although I am not a student at SSJ anymore, every time I walk on campus I feel like I am back to visit with family. I thank everyone there for everything they’ve done for me, and will continue to do for the rest of the SSJ community.

Gail Simpson Caretto, ’65

Mrs. Gail Caretto, '65

Mrs. Gail Caretto, ’65

What does SSJ mean to me?  It is a place where I have been accepted, encouraged, and challenged to be more than I thought I could be.  The Loreto Sisters have such a loving understanding of what is important in life.  God is first, your family next , and then your education.  I see the students grow in strength of character, being honest and strong.  You see Sister Raphael at the students’ ball games, graduations, weddings, and, now, even funerals.  Her quiet presence means so much to us all. (And not so quiet at some of the ball games!)   I came to school here in the 60’s, my children attended during the 80’s and 90’s, and now my grandchildren are at SSJ.  When I go to the assemblies, programs, masses, and see the devotion, and respect of these students, I feel so privileged to have been a graduate of SSJ, and that we have all been so very blessed to be a part of SSJ.

Ann Teslevich, ’67

Mrs. Ann Schmidt Teslevich, Class of '67 3rd Grade Teacher at SSJ

Mrs. Ann Schmidt Teslevich, Class of ’67

“Throughout all my elementary school years, the Loreto Sisters of SS. Simon and Jude School have shown me, by their example how to be a prayerful, responsible, kind, loving and  compassionate person. The Loreto Sisters passed their love of Jesus and how to follow in His ways on to me. This love of and trust in Jesus has served me well through many joyful, and some troubled times in my life’s journey. Because of my blessed and joyful experience  at St. Simon and Jude School, I chose to send all five of my children to school at SSJ also. All five of my children are successful in their chosen careers, but I am more proud of the fact that they put the needs of others before their own wishes. This has made them happy people with happy families. I would highly recommend that you consider sending your children to this school that molds “persons of character.” God bless you always.”

Amy Kline Morreale, ’82Morreale, Amy

I am truly blessed that I have the opportunity to work at SS. Simon and Jude School. As an alumni and a parent of three children, I wanted my children to experience the loving environment that I did growing up at SSJ. The thing that has stayed constant over the years is the loving, caring, nurturing, spiritual guidance, and top notch teaching; but there have also been some changes to the school like the improved technology, a new gym, state of the art science lab, and new classrooms with a/c (which is a plus). What has never wavered, however, is the teachers/teacher’s aids who always take interest in their kids, and the compassion from the teachers, office staff, nurse’s office, maintenance  staff and bus drivers and all who work at SSJ.  Of course, this school would not be what it is with out our very own Sr. Raphael.

Mrs. Mary Bowerman Smith, ’82

Mrs. Mary Bowerman-Smith, '82 5th Grade Teacher at SSJ

Mrs. Mary Bowerman-Smith, ’82
5th Grade Teacher at SSJ

“It is said that we cannot choose our family. Those who say this have not been a part of the SS. Simon and Jude School community. This family was chosen years ago by my parents. It was a decision that would affect me for the rest of my life. I am always amazed at how the Loreto Sisters know everyone’s name and remember stories and events from our childhood, perhaps ones we hoped would be long forgotten. In spite of their memories, the Sisters love and support all of us in all that we do. They celebrate our successes and pick us up when we fail. I am honored to call SSJ my home. I may have graduated long ago, but I always knew this was the place I would send my children to school. Even though my children have since graduated, the SSJ community remains an important part of my life and theirs. Teaching at SSJ sends new family members my way each year. It is these relationships with the Loreto Sisters and the school families that have made me who I am. There is no tighter bond than family, and I am grateful for my SS. Simon and Jude family.”

 Alumni Awards

Each year at 8th Grade Graduation we recognize two alums for their accomplishments since graduating from SS. Simon & Jude.

Spirit Award

The Alumni Spirit Award recognizes the accomplishments, commitment and leadership of an individual whose actions and activities strive to carry on the spirit and generosity which were a vital part of the training and spirituality they received at SSJ.

Visionary Award

The Visionary Award acknowledges the accomplishments, commitment and leadership of an individual whose life and actions indicate a clear vision which strives to secure the values and ideals of a Catholic upbringing for future generations. It is a special individual who takes such a vision and actually carries it out.

Would you like to nominate an alum of SSJ? You can!

Email your nomination to: alumni@simonjude.org

Please include a list of their accomplishments and/or awards and your thoughts on why you feel they are deserving of this honor. A one-page summary is fine! Please include your name and phone number so we can contact you should we have any questions!

Past Alumni Award Winners…

Year Spirit Award Visionary Award
1994 Maureen McCabe Fyan, ’61 The Collins Brothers
1995 Mark Caretto, ’65 Rev. Don Kline, ’80
1996 Kathy Conditt Zach, ’66 Diane Androjna Stein, ’73
1997 Kelly McKone, ’74 James Pompe, ’64
1998 Antoinette Travers Klein, ’59 Roger Bloom, ’65
1999 Michael Bailey, ’86 Gene D’Adamo, ’75
2000 Ann Schmidt Teslevich, ’67 Matthew Ostland, ’84
2001 Lori Irwin Sellers, ’73 Kim Levenda, ’93
2002 Jeanne Olson Behrendt, ’76 Alisa Damico, ’87
2003 Michele Calderone Statt, ’81 Shannon Lundy, ’89
2004 Beth Giovannini, ’78 Pat Lavin, ’59
2005 Jay Groft, ’86 Patricia Lanigan, ’68
2006 Lisa Stoutenburg, ’85 Rev. Christopher Collins, ’85
2007 Doug Small, ’86 Sister Terri Stafford, I.B.V.M., ’69
2008 Krista Murphy, ’86 Josh Billar, ’95
2009 Stacia Statt, ’85 Thomas Peterson, ’75
2010 Amy Morreale, ’82 Kelly McKone, ’74
2011 Nick Velasquez, ’97 Thomas McCabe, ’62
2012 Chris Herman, ’89 Lizzie Manos, ’00
2013 Patsy Herman, ’85 Joseph Novotny, ’99
2014 Teresita Mercado Feix, ’89 Dr. Marie Grill, ’94
2015 Mike Krigbaum, ’82 Joe Yahner, ’77
2016 Gail Simpson Caretto ’65 Isabelle Wijangco, ’06