Three Xavier Prep students have accrued prestigious honors that rewarded their artistic creativity, leadership abilities and writing skills.

Kathryn Nilssen was recognized as an outstanding artist, courtesy of the Congressional Art Contest sponsored by the House of Representatives. Her second-place win came with the opportunity to display her art at the Tempe Historical Museum and attend the exhibit and reception at the venue. 

This yearly contest recognizes and promotes high school artists nationwide and in each congressional district; in Kathryn’s case, CD-9, Representative Greg Stanton. First-place winners from each district get a chance to travel to Washington, DC, visit their representatives, partake in an awards ceremony and see their artwork displayed in the Halls of Congress.

Kathryn’s introspective pencil and graphite art (called School Daze) reflects a psychological portrait of her life after moving to Arizona from Florida. 

“I tried to stay open-minded, but it was hard for me emotionally to adapt to a new school and new state,” Kathryn said. 

“She has a wonderful ability to interpret strong emotions into her well-crafted renderings,” Art Teacher Alison Dunn said.

Claira Chong was one of two students who won the Outstanding Leadership Awards. Sponsored by the City of Phoenix Youth and Education Office, the award “recognizes and honors the outstanding achievements of young people, enhances the perception of youth, and raises community awareness of the positive contribution of youth.” 

Winners are selected from a committee featuring City of Phoenix Youth and Education commission members and representatives from SRP and Phoenix Rotary 100. Prerequisites include an essay and an interview alongside 36 other students. The city grants winners a $500 cash award for passing this high bar of excellence.

Claira’s essay question asked students to “name someone who helped get them where they are.” Claira chose attorney Jill Goldsmith, who helped create EmpowerherX, a club Claira formed at school with other young women (read more about the club in the June 2022 edition of Arcadia News!).

“The club’s goal is to empower high school girls with real-life skills in self-defense, finance, career preparation, cultural awareness and leadership,” Claira said. “Ms. Goldsmith guided us through the process of building and growing a community-wide club from the ground up. Her expansive knowledge and experience taught us how to be effective leaders.” 

Claira explained that the most significant thing she gained from winning is the connections she’s made with other recipients and learning the stories of other students.  

“It excites me that so many students in the Valley are working to make changes in their communities,” she said.

She is active in the Computer Honors Society, National Honors Society, and Spanish Honors Society and is also a Student Ambassador and school president for the 2022-2023 year.

Senior MaggieMae Dethlefsen was the second winner of the Outstanding Leadership Award.

“Service has been a huge part of my life, even since I was a little girl,” she said. “It’s something I dedicate my life to.”

MaggieMae has won various awards for service and sports and has been involved with clubs like the National History Club, Mock Trial, Student Ambassadors and Xavier Young Vincentians (a Catholic youth group). 

“I feel very honored to have won this award,” MaggieMae said. She hopes to major in political science or pre-law in college.