Students who have made significant contributions to the Academy of the Holy Angels’ fine and performing arts programs were recognized at the mid-May Angels in the Arts Awards Dinner.
The evening included honors for the charter members of the National Honor Society for Dance Arts. Head Dance Coach Jenny Sweet launched AHA’s chapter to recognize dancers’ outstanding artistic merit, leadership, and academic achievement. AHA’s first inductees are: Karis Cho of Harrington Park; Alexandra Nicholas and Noelle Wacker of Emerson; Juliet Gelineau of New Milford; Maggie Yu of Tenafly; Maggie Danahy of Oradell; Olivia Leys of Tappan, New York; Katie Fragola of Bergenfield; and Isabella McMahon of West Orange.
Violinist/violist Faith Youn of Closter received the Jessica DeSanta Scholarship, and five Angels earned AITA scholarships. AITA awards were presented to AHA Varsity Dance Captain Noelle Wacker of Emerson; fine artist Natalia González of Paterson; AHA Choir member/pianist Zaharah Fiorentinos of Palisades Park; instrumental musician Annalise Olsen of Stony Point, New York; and theater program member and fine artist Shivani Sahu of Paramus.
Faith Youn’s award includes $2,500 for her undergraduate studies. This scholarship, which was established in memory of AHA alumna Dr. Jessica DeSanta, is presented to a Tri-M (Music) Honor Society member who demonstrates excellence in instrumental music and commitment to AHA’s music program.
Youn is an accomplished musician who earned induction to Tri-M as a ninth grader. She finished her senior year as chapter president. As leader of Tri-M, Youn organized this year’s Music in Our Schools Month® observance. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, she used her tech skills to provide virtual outreach and performances for Lunar New Year, and helped raise funds for the Paterson Music Project. Most recently, Youn and her ensemble from AHA performed at the 39th Annual Young Musicians Concert at Alice Tully Hall.
She previously appeared at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, and performed with the Hawaii Youth Symphony and at Italy’s Narnia Festival. In addition to serving as concertmaster for the AHA Orchestra and a member of the Chamber Ensemble, Youn has played for the VioLit Quartet and Vivo Trio. She has earned multiple prizes in international competition, and has studied with pros from Juilliard and The Met Opera.
During the 2022-23 season, she was principal second violinist for the New York Youth Symphony’s fall concert cycle and assistant principal second violinist for winter/spring. She has earned multiple President’s Volunteer Service Awards for her service work, which includes instructing underprivileged children through Love Violin. Youn is also an award-winning fine artist, and a varsity golfer who helped her team reach the 2023 state championship. She will continue her education at New York University, where she intends to major in violin/viola performance and music business.
AHA Varsity Dance Team Captain Noelle Wacker received her AITA scholarship for her contributions to her team, AHA’s five-time national champions and New Jersey’s reigning state champs. Wacker has used her time at AHA to develop her leadership skills. She and her team persevered through the pandemic lockdown, when Coach Sweet kept the team active via Zoom practices and meetings. In 2021, Wacker and her teammates earned AHA’s fifth national title in small varsity hip-hop. That win was the squad’s fifth in a six-year period. Wacker’s work ethic is not reserved for dancing: She also maintains an excellent average.
Natalia González is president of the National Art Honor Society. She spent four years pursuing art at AHA, and took Advanced Placement Studio Art and Advanced Placement Art History as a senior. She was arts editor for the “AHA Voice,” the school newspaper, and has contributed her artwork to the “AHA Voice” and “Blueprint,” the Academy’s literary magazine. She studied art at the Fashion Institute of Technology and Marymount College, and earned three Honorable Mentions for her submissions to the Scholastic Art & Writing Competition. González has been accepted to multiple renowned art schools, including the School of Visual Arts, Rhode Island School of Design, and Pratt Institute.
Zaharah Fiorentinos logged seven years of experience singing and playing the piano by the time she entered AHA. She joined the AHA Choir and successfully auditioned for Seraphima, the Academy’s select a cappella group. She also shares her talents through Joining Old and Young (JOY, for short), an organization that sings at senior centers/nursing homes. She finished her senior year as JOY’s secretary/treasurer. As a member of Tri-M, Fiorentinos performed during Music in Our Schools Month® and the Fall Open House. She was also proud to play the alma mater at school assemblies.
Shivani Sahu is involved in the fine and performing arts. Her contributions have included playing cello for the AHA Orchestra, sharing her Hindu Indian heritage by performing Bollywood music during Music in Our Schools Month®, and choreographing classical Indian dance performances for International Night. She has been involved in AHA’s theater program for the past four years, and is vice president of the Thespian Honor Society. Sahu is a professional SAG-AFTRA actor and model, and served as Tri-M’s director of communications. She was also active with the National Art Honor Society. She has served as an AHA Theater Camp counselor, where she devised and taught theater games. Sahu is also an award-winning member of the AHA DECA Team. She will soon be studying public policy/economics at Princeton, and aspires to lead her own diversity-focused talent agency.
Annalise Olsen is a talented saxophonist who was part of a concert band, jazz band, and a marching band prior to attending AHA. She soon found a place in the AHA Orchestra and Jazz Ensemble, and earned membership in Tri-M, where she served on the executive board. She ran the Tri-M Instagram and organized archives for the honor society. Olsen also organized photos and videos of Music in Our Schools Month® performances. This fall, she will play her saxophone at the University of Connecticut.