The Graduating Class of 2023
Mercy High School's tag line is Faith In Her Future. This is what we mean. We have the faith that girls will come to Mercy and receive an educational experience inside and outside the classroom that will shape them into Women of Mercy. They will graduate from Mercy with a stronger sense of self to continue with their lives impacted by the five core values: Compelled by Mercy, Educational Courage, Inspired by Faith, Principled Leadership, and providing a Voice for Dignity and Respect. The graduating class of 2023 embodies these values and with the strongest voice, the faculty, staff, alumnae, and parents of these young women have the sincerest faith in their future. Congratulations to you, our newest Women of Mercy!
Five Mercy seniors were honored with the World Herald Nebraska All-Academic Program and earned Honorable Mention Award: Hailee Davis, Lucy Euteneuer, Riya Ketelsen, Mary Kate Nussrallah, Eleanore Slavik.
Each school could nominate up to five students. Nominees had to rank No. 1 or No. 2 in their senior class, or they had to have scores of at least 32 on the ACT or at least 1450 on the SAT college entrance exams.
This year's Honors Convocation was held on May 10th and celebrated the numerous accomplishments our Mercy community achieved this academic year. 290 names were read for various achievements and roles the students played in the life of the school.
Some of the highlights included 12 endowed scholarships that have been generously funded by members of the Mercy community.
Symone Sanders VOICE Scholarship – Saniah Swait
Jane M. Keller ‘66 Math Scholarship – Kaitlyn List
Jane M. Keller ‘66 Fine Arts Scholarship – Kayla Caniglia
Richard Chadek III Scholarship – Rosa Tripp
Renae Von Tersch Art Scholarship – Emily Caniglia
Phillip S. and Louise Battaglia Franco SM ‘50 Service Award – Catherine Krause, Lauren Schmidt
Kelly Ann Taylor ‘97 Memorial Award – Mara Trautman
Kevin Dunn Memorial Theatre Scholarship – Alexandria Huss
Kevin Dunn Memorial Music Scholarship – Clara Baumker
Jane Stultz McKernan ’63 Memorial Science Scholarship – Malanna Muse, Molly Pensick
Mercy Advantage Scholarship – Mary Euteneuer, Alyssa Daniels
Abby Verkuilen Spirit of Perseverance Scholarship – Emma Jungferman, Sally McClellan
Individual departmental awards were given, along with recognition to the National Honor Society Members, Perfect Attendance, Academic Letter Award recipients, and this years Salutatorian and Valedictorian, which were awarded to Mary Kat Nussrallah and Eleanore Slavik, respectively.
Finally, all of the many scholarships the graduating class were granted from colleges and university were named. Those totaled over $12 million!
Congratulations, to all of the recipients of these honors and to the tremendous work done by the Mercy Girls this year.
For a complete list of the award winners, please click HERE.
Katie Beran & Emily Browning Qualify for Nationals
Kate Beran ’25 and Emily Browning ’25 qualified for National History Day’s national competition in College Park, MD, in June. Kate and Emily’s senior group exhibit, Alan Turing and the First Artificial Intelligence, earned the second-place ribbon in the group exhibits category at the state NHD competition today. The two Mercy sophomores were part of a fourteen-student Mercy contingent that journeyed to the competition at Nebraska Wesleyan University in Lincoln to compete against high school students from all over the state. Kate and Emily had earlier won first place in the same category at the Douglas County NHD competition, held last month at Metropolitan Community College in south Omaha, to advance to the state competition. The top two entries at state qualify for the national competition.
Bella Earl wins Gold in Scholastic Art Awards
Congratulations to senior, Bella Earl, who won a Gold Key in photography for her piece titled, “Grabbing at Nothing.” For this honor she and Mrs. Langenfeld are invited to attend a reception at the Governor's residence. The piece will also be part of the My Life in Nebraska exhibit at the Governor's Residence this summer.
Walter Scott Jr. Scholarship Winner
Lucy Euteneuer has been named the Walter Scott, Jr. Scholarship winner for Creighton University. As a Scott Scholar, Lucy will receive full tuition, room & board, fees, and books coverage.
The Scott Scholarship is Creighton’s premier merit-based scholarship program, made possible through the generosity of the Suzanne and Walter Scott Foundation. The Scott Scholars program seeks to attract and equip future business leaders, who are entrepreneurial in spirit and strive for excellence, innovation and community impact.
Omaha History Day Success
Ellah Hoge and Elizabeth Troia won the Schwalb Center's History Day Award for the their entry, “The Golden Library” in the Senior Exhibit Group category. Their exhibit provided the historical context for the rise and fall of the famous library, The House of Wisdom in present day Baghdad. The library was constructed in the 8th century and destroyed by the Mongols in the 1258.
Ellah and Elizabeth with be honored at a lunch in late March where they will receive scholarships for their outstanding work.
Two State Runner-ups
Grace Swoboda and Sally McClellan competed in the State swimming and diving finals and both earned runner-up medals. Swoboda earned her in the 100 yard breaststroke and the 50 yard freestyle. McClellan earned hers in three meter diving.
CATHOLIC SCHOOLS WEEK
This week we celebrate Catholic Schools Week.
Our theme for the week is Mercy Education is Universal, so we are really focusing on Mercy's global connection. Each day is focused on a particular country where a Mercy school is located, and a few facts will be read about that country and/or that particular Mercy school over the morning announcements. In addition, throughout the week, we will be posting photos of a cardboard cutout of Catherine McAuley placed around Omaha, and it will be a competition for the girls to find out where the picture was taken. ("Where in Omaha is Catherine McAuley?" instead of "Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?")
Monday's country is Ireland. Students get a free dress down day in orange, white, and green: the colors of Ireland's flag. At the kickoff assembly - we play a trivia game. Then, we dance an Irish jig to the "Just Dance" Irish Meadow Dance together - student body and staff! We will hide pots of gold around the school and whoever finds them, gets to keep the candy.
Tuesday's country is Honduras. The free dress down day colors are blue and white. Students can visit the Media Center to color flags from the different countries where Mercy schools are located. Flags will be displayed, and each flag colored will earn the student their name in a drawing for a prize.
Wednesday will celebrate Jamaica. Students dress down in black, green, and yellow for free. We will play music during each passing period.
Thursday's country is Australia. Students dress down in red, white, and blue, but must bring in a donation to the Open Door Mission to participate in the dress down day. Socks, hats, gloves, underwear, etc. will be collected and donated.
Friday's focus will be on our favorite Mercy school right at 48th and Woolworth! Students dress in blue and gold (or other Mercy spirit wear) for free. Classes 1-8 will be held in the morning. Staff serve the students pancakes for lunch after 8th period. Then, students will participate in a special activity that will test their knowledge and international prowess.
Great times are sure to be had to celebrate our Catholic Mercy Schools around the world.
NATIONAL HONORS SOCIETY BLOOD DRIVE
NHS is hosting a blood drive on Saturday 1/28 with Holy Cross.
The blood banks around Omaha are still very low and could really use our help. Sign up today and save a life!
When: Saturday, 1/28 from 7 am - 12:30 pm
Where: Holy Cross School Cafeteria
How: Sign up at redcrossblood.org by searching MercyHolyCross
Dr. Kim Oliver Named New Assistant Principal
With great excitement, Dr. Kim Oliver has been named the Assistant Principal. She'll begin her post this summer. She is a member of the Class of 1998! She earned her doctorate in Education-Leadership and Transformation from Concordia University Portland. She is departing the beloved community at All Saints Catholic School. Congratulations and welcome back, Dr. Oliver!
ABRIENDO PUERTAS DONATES TO REFUGEE EMPOWERMENT CENTER
Abriendo Puertas donated nearly 75 gifts to the Refugee Empowerment Center. They raised money, bought, wrapped, and delivered the toys for refugees in the Omaha area. Check out the video to learn more.
ALL-STATE SCHOLAR ATHLETES
Congratulations to the following student-athletes for being named to the The Nebraska School Activities Association (NSAA) Fall 2022-2023 Nebraska Chiropractic Physicians Association (NCPA) Academic All-State Awards.
Molly Pensick (Golf)
Julia Batenhorst (Softball)
Clara Behounek (Softball)
Lucy Euteneuer (Volleyball)
Abby Mills (Volleyball)
Mary Kate Nussrallah (Cross Country)
Sophia Rau (Cross Country)
NSAA Awards Program recognizes students who meet the criteria for nomination by their school in the season of their activity.
FALL SPORTS RECAP
Volleyball finished the season with 18 wins. That's the most since 2007. Great start for new head coach Brittany Spekhals. Emily Lee and Abby Mills earned 1st team All-Conference and Lydia Boyce and Lucy Euteneuer were named to the Honorable Mention team.
Mercy softball tied the mark for most wins for a season with 17 wins and a trip to the District finals. That's the most wins for the program since 2001. First year head coach, Maren Angus has to be very pleased with her first campaign. Victoria Placzek and Adrienne Pruss were named to the All-State Honorable Mention Team.
The golf team had two state qualifiers, Addy Powers and Molly Pensick.
Finally, every member of the cross country team set a personal record during the district meet.
LIZETTE CABRERA WINS ARTSONIA'S ARTIST OF THE WEEK
Congratulations to freshman artist, Lizette Cabrera! Artsonia's online voting ended on Saturday and Lizette's artwork came in 1st in the 7 - 9 grade division with 691 votes! She had close to 200 more votes than the 2nd place finisher and edged out a 7th grader from Holy Cross! She will be getting a plaque from Artsonia and a gift certificate from Dick Blick
NATIONAL HONOR SOCIETY INDUCTS NEW CLASS
The McAuley Chapter of the National Honor Society inducted its latest class on Tuesday, November 1st. The latest members are:
Ahok Apayo Landry Lehan
Julia Batenhorst Kaitlyn List
Clara Baumker Sydney Malesker
Clara Behounek Malanna Muse
Aislinn Bilgere Mia Norton
Alyssa Daniels Hannah Peatrowsky
Kaylee Epp Rylee Rempe
Karol Franco-Barrios Hanna Riha
Isabella Hajek-Jones Amaya Sims
Savannah Hemsley Grace Swoboda
Maren Hollinger Delani Wiedel
They join the ranks of current members:
Kailey Anson, Gabrielle Brock, Hailee Davis, Sarah Day, Therese Drake, Isabella Earl, Lucy Euteneuer, Valeria Figueroa Garcia, Charlotte Hearn, Danielle Hoer, Reece Keenan, Riya Ketelsen, Abigail Mills, Mary Kate Nussrallah, Sophia Rau, Megan Riesberg, Eleanore Slavik, Grace Weber, Claire Wichita
The ceremony included short remarks by four current members of the chapter on each of the four pillars of the National Honors Society: Scholarship, Leadership, Service, and Character. The key note address was presented by alumna Erin Whiteside '07 on how her life has been impacted by those same four pillars since graduating from Mercy.
Congratulations to all the members of the National Honor Society of Mercy High School, especially our newest inductees, for your tremendous hard work and dedication to scholarship and character.
FRESHMEN UNITY DAY
On Friday, October 28th, the Class of 2026 participated in Mercy’s annual Freshmen Unity Day. The goal behind the day is to assist the acclamation of the freshmen class and build community among them. Throughout the day, the students participated in small and large group activities to promote unity. They learned about each others’ strengths and completed challenges working with students who share similar personalities and were grouped with individuals who had different personalities from their own. One activity even required them to create a “human machine” – where everyone in the group had to have an active part in the machine.
At the end of the day students exchanged bracelets that they created and the final challenge activity was to successfully complete a “human chair sit” with all of the attendees. Check out some of the photos.
Valentina Arriola Tirado Wins inSpire Scholarship
On Wednesday, October 26th, Valentina Arriola Tirado was awarded the Inspire Scholarship. It was a part of a larger ceremony put on by inSpire Celebrating Women's Leadership sponsored by Union Bank & Trust. This honor recognizes “An Omaha metro-area female high school or college student who has contributed to her community, excels in the classroom, and has great career aspirations.”
At that same lunch, Class of ‘66 Sr. Maryann Stevens, RSM received the Woman of the Year Award for her tireless dedication to the College of St. Mary’s. Read more at Omaha.com. We're so proud of each of our women of Mercy. Thank you for all that you do!
WILLEY DWYER '03 NEW VP FOR ADVANCEMENT
Anna Willey Dwyer has been named Mercy High School new Vice President of Advancement. She will begin her new role on Monday, November 7, 2022.
Willey Dwyer is an alumna of Mercy High School’s class of 2003. She is very excited about returning to Mercy. “Mercy has taught me so much. At the forefront has been service and giving back. It’s been my hope that I would have the opportunity to return and continue this school’s important work of educating young women.” She’s most excited about promoting its sense of community and hospitality. “To me, Mercy’s hallmark has been its sense of welcoming. Once a Mercy girl, always a Mercy girl. I want to make sure that this mission continues for several more generations.”
Willey Dwyer comes to Mercy with a wealth of experience helping to lead the development efforts for the Child Saving Institute. She’s been with that organization since 2016, exceeding annual fundraising objectives five years in a row. President of Mercy High School, Sister Delores Hannon, RSM believes that Willey Dwyer will be most successful at connecting with the various community members that support Mercy High. “She is a dynamo at making people feel welcome. Her joy is infectious and by the time the conversation ends you feel like you have known Anna for several years, regardless of having just met. She’s a welcomed addition to the Advancement Office at Mercy.”
Willey Dwyer is married to her husband Scott Dwyer and has two children: Rex, who is three, and Stella, who is one.
Valeria Figueroa Garcia Wins Scholarship
VALERIA FIGUEROA GARCIA WINS SCHOLARSHIP!
Valeria was one of 10 Latino Nebraska Students to win the Jesusita and Santos Courage and Fortitude Scholarship. She earned this by presenting an essay highlighting her leadership skills and how they will apply to her future plans after high school. She wants to become an elementary school teacher. She was awarded $1,000 to put towards any college of her choosing. Well done, Valeria!
Riya Ketelsen named National Merit Scholar Semi-Finalist
This fall Riya Ketelsen was honored with the distinction of National Merit Scholar Semi-Finalist. In the video below you'll see the surprise and pride from Riya, her parents, and the Mercy school community. We couldn't be prouder of the dedication and accomplishment of Riya. This make 3 National Merit Scholar Semi-Finalists in the past two years.
Congratulations to Ahok and Mary Kate!
First, congratulations to our own Ahok Apayo, who was recognized in the National African American Recognition Program. She is one of 62,000 students from across the country to earn academic honors from the College Board’sNational Recognition Programs! Ahok earned this recognition by excelling on her PSAT and AP Exams and in her classes. These National Recognition Programs grant underrepresented students with academic honors that can be included on college and scholarship applications and connects students with universities across the country, helping them stand out during the admissions process. Colleges and scholarship programs use these honors to identify students from underrepresented groups through College Board’s Student Search Service.
Congratulations, also, to Mary Kate Nussrallah, who was named a Commended Student based on her outstanding performance on the PSAT test last year. She is one of the top 50,000 students nationwide and one of only 60 Nebraska students from 36 high schools to achieve this honor.
Congratulations, Ahok and Mary Kate! We are so very proud of both of you!
Sr. Dee Leaving at the End of the School Year
On Wednesday, September 7th, Sr. Delores Hannon announced her resignation as president of Mercy High School to the Board of Directors effective June 30th, 2023. She has served as president since 2009, having served for 14 years.
Sr. Dee, as she is affectionately known to students, faculty and parents, has overseen many changes at the school. The school facilities have experienced improvements with The Hannon Center for Academic Success, heating and cooling systems, new lockers, bathrooms, a dramatic facelift to the front offices and entryway, to name a few. By the time Sr. steps down, most of the school will have gone through some sort of renovation. Mercy High School has also experienced growth in their academic reputation. “One of the things I’m most proud of is the expectation that our students will be readily prepared for college” Sr. Delores explains. “We’ve expanded our counseling and SAT/ACT preparation, while faculty and staff have increased the expectations of what our students are capable of accomplishing. I have a very strong faith that the Mercy spirit continues to thrive through our students as they serve in their respective communities.”
Sr. Delores has been an educator for more than 40 years. She grew up in North English, Iowa on a mixed livestock farm, the only child of William and Mary Hannon. She joined the Sisters of Mercy in 1969 and quickly was tapped for leadership in schools. She became a principal at St. Matthew’s Grade School in Kalispell, Montana, in 1978 followed by a short stint at Our Lady of Grace School in Edina, Minnesota, from 1981-1983. From 1983-1995 Sr. Dee was the principal at several grade schools in Iowa. She moved on to serve as the Vice President of the Sisters of Mercy in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and the President of St. Edmond Catholic School in Fort Dodge, Iowa before ultimately coming to Mercy High School in 2009.
The Board of Directors will form a search committee to begin the search process in the near
Mercy Welcomes Two New Faculty
Jim Mayberger is our new business and technology teacher. He comes to us from OPS where he was a curriculum specialist.
He managed the Business Marketing and Information Technology, Family and Consumer Science, Skilled and Technical Science, and Robotics departments.
“I am excited to teach in a faith-based school. I really enjoy being in the classroom and I look forward to being part of the Mercy community.”
Jenna Saraka joins our math department. She comes to us from Omaha Central, where she taught for five years.
“I am most excited about joining a staff and community that offers strong educational opportunities and many extracurricular activities for students that are centered around faith.
I am also excited to work with students who are eager to learn in and out of the classroom!”
Two New Hires for the Advancement Team
Sammie Emsick Becker ’05 has accepted the Director of Events position at Mercy High School and began her new role on June 13, 2022.
Since graduating from Mercy, Sammie earned a bachelor in elementary education, a certificate in Catholic School leadership, and most recently, a Master of Science in educational leadership. Outside classroom teaching, she has served as the athletic director for St. James for the past three years where, in conjunction with supervising all things athletics, annually planned the “Spring Fling” fundraiser where dollars raised went straight to the athletic program. Her most recent “Spring Fling” event set a record for money raised for St. James. She further has event planning experience by way of her time at Dundee Bank, where she was the community involvement coordinator and worked closely with various Omaha businesses to promote and grow relationships with key stakeholders of the bank via special events.
She’s married to Tyler Becker and has two boys Ty (12) and Drew (10).
Welcome back to Mercy Sammie!
Brian Altenhofen began his new position as Director of Marketing and Communications on July 5th.
He comes to Mercy with a wealth of knowledge having earned a doctorate degree in communication and technology studies from Texas A&M University and teaching at Truman State University for the past five years. He also served as the Director of the Truman Leadership Scholars, mentoring and programming leadership experiences for Truman Scholars. Prior to his academic career he spent five years as a Jesuit Scholastic.
He is married to Michaela Cullan Altenhofen who will return to Mary Our Queen Catholic School teaching 3rd grade. They have four children Dylan (16), Lily (9), Dominic (7), and Clara (3).
Mercy Saved Her
Dara Green ’94 described herself as a scared and fragile teen when she came to Mercy, who felt misunderstood, threatened, and often challenged authority. She left knowing who she was, confident, and ready for the journey ahead of her.
“Mercy, hands down, saved my life - from my mother’s decision to send me to Mercy, to the school tolerating me for my first two years, to embracing me my last two years,” she said.
Dara had gone to public school before attending Mercy. Her transition to Catholic school was rocky not only because of assimilation issues, but because she had a non-diagnosed anxiety disorder. Luckily in her final two years at school, she was able to receive outside medical help and the administration and faculty at Mercy worked with her on her anxiety.
After graduation, she attended The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) where she double majored in Ceramics and Art Education.
“Being an artist has been my calling for as long as I can remember. Being an educator was realized as a junior in high school because I wanted to become the type of teacher who strived to understand the misunderstood,” she added.
She taught in the Chicago public schools for seven years at the Vaughn Occupational High School, serving students with mild to severe cognitive delays. She started the art education program there.
“I believe that every student should have the highest quality of art education, despite available funding. I organized and hosted an annual silent auction of student work to fund the program,” she added.
While at Vaughn, Dara earned a National Board of Professional Teaching Certificate.
In December 2002 she moved to Des Moines, Iowa, where she taught at a couple of public schools before joining the faculty at Central Academy in 2006. The school provides additional programming for gifted and highly motivated high school students. Again, there was no art program prior to Dara’s arrival.
“Our mission at the Central Academy studio is to inspire passion in our high school students to observe, envision, engage, persist, and reflect on themselves as creators, innovators, and community members through the ceramic arts. In the studio, we use the ceramic arts to teach students the essential skills to be successful in life,” she said.
Her pottery program started with a handful of students and has grown to over 100. More students are trying to get in, so Dara is spearheading a fundraising effort that has raised more than $400,000 to build a larger studio.
As a teacher, Dara embraces differentiated learning styles. Her studio is a flipped classroom, where the instruction is recorded by the teacher and students can access lessons via YouTube.
“In a flipped classroom, instruction is switched. Students do their passive learning outside of the classroom and homework or active learning is done in concert with the teacher, allowing more time for me to work one-on-one to meet individual needs,” she explained.
She has presented at two national conferences about flipped classrooms and the way social media has supported her student’s learning experience through YouTube and celebrating student’s work on Instagram and Snapchat.
“My goal as an art educator is for the studio to be student-centered and student-run. Today and tomorrow’s students need to learn and be able to fail, persist, think outside the box, and triumph over questions we don’t even know exist yet,” she said.
Having lived her own experience of struggle and misunderstanding that was mitigated at Mercy, Dara tries to approach each student knowing they all wish to succeed, no matter how compliant they may appear.
“I strive to get to know the whole person, so I have a better understanding of how to be my best self for each one of them,” she said.
Photography by Jami Milne
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