Photo caption by Sierra Guenst: Esperanza Academy co-valedictorians Reilly Colon (left) and Alex Jaquez-Peralta (right) celebrate their achievement during the Senior Awards Ceremony along with Director of Student Success, Lori Walinsky (middle).

For the first time in Esperanza Academy’s history, this year’s graduating class had not one but two valedictorians. Seniors Reilly Colon and Alex Jaquez-Peralta finished their high school careers with incredibly close grade point averages (GPAs) and made the admirable decision to share the title of valedictorian. They both studied in Esperanza Academy’s engineering major, one of twelve majors available for students to explore during their high school years. They also both took a hefty load of Advanced Placement (AP) classes, which provide students with access to college-level study and may allow them to earn college credits upon passing AP exams. Alex will be attending Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) this fall for computer science; you can read his story here. Reilly is navigating a change in plans as he switches his ambitions toward nuclear engineering at Penn State University.

Reilly had his eyes set on the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland; it was something he had been planning for and dreaming about for quite some time. After his initial acceptance into the Naval Academy Preparatory School, his acceptance was later revoked due to medical reasons. Despite this upsetting news, Reilly dreamed a new dream and made plans to study nuclear engineering at Penn State. Reilly explained, “I am choosing this plan because even if I failed one of my main goals in life, I need to move forward and focus on what I can do, rather than what is in the past. The ocean never stops flowing for an overturned boat. Moving forward is the key to life.”

Throughout his time at Esperanza Academy, Reilly consistently demonstrated that persistent attitude. His academic pursuits, enthusiasm, hard work, and involvement in school activities are evidence of his care for others and commitment to excellence. Speaking of the support he received during his school years, Riley said, “I had plenty of teachers always willing to help and give their advice with their experience, and it has helped plenty. Senior Seminar helped me figure out the process of getting the college process done and how to start on scholarships.”

Reilly shared his goals for his new pursuit: “Nuclear engineering has been my second goal in life, right behind serving in the military. To me, nuclear engineering is not just a job, but something of the future. A world of cleaner energy, one with few drawbacks, and the safest statistically speaking compared to almost all other energy types. To not do something about our current state of climate will lead to nothing other than the suffering of everything on Earth. By being a nuclear engineer, I hope to at best change the entire field and advance it to a whole new stage, or at minimum create a cleaner future for not just humans, but every living creature on God’s earth.”

Esperanza Academy is proud of Reilly’s leadership and persistence, and we are grateful for his contributions to our school family. We are excited to see all that our graduates will accomplish, and are rooting them on as they take the next steps in their journey.


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