Mount’s top three students ready to take flight

Mount’s top three students ready to take flight

From left, Katarina DaSilva of Burrillville, salutatorian; Brendan Donahue of Wrentham, Mass., master of ceremonies; and Samira Lakhiani of Cumberland, valedictorian, are the top three students at Mount Saint Charles Academy. (Breeze photo by Lauren Clem)

WOONSOCKET – The top three students at Mount Saint Charles Academy said they’re grateful to their teachers and mentors and feel they’ve been given all the skills they need for success as they get ready to graduate in June.

However, all three are also eager to start their next chapters and told The Breeze they look forward to the freedom and opportunities of college after a year marked by COVID-19 and the challenges of high school life.

Samira Lakhiani of Cumberland, valedictorian; Katarina DaSilva of Burrillville, salutatorian; and Brendan Donahue of Wrentham, Mass., who will serve as master of ceremonies at the commencement ceremony, have been named the top three students of the Class of 2021. The three learned of their status during a surprise announcement by Principal Julie Beauvais earlier this month.

Lakhiani, the daughter of Harshita and Chandan Lakhiani, has been active in various leadership roles during her time at Mount, serving as student body president and co-editor of The Hilltopper newspaper. She is a tri-sport athlete, running cross country in addition to indoor and outdoor track, and a member of the National Honor Society, campus ministry, the math team and the world language club. She has also played the piano outside of her school activities for the past 11 years.

Lakhiani plans to attend Brown University to pursue a pre-med track with a major in health and human biology. She said she was inspired to go into medicine by her father, who works as a pediatrician.

“I used to go with him to work a lot, and I always loved the idea of helping people and puzzling diagnoses together,” she said.

Lakhiani has received the Geraldine Ferry Memorial Biology Scholarship, the Young Leaders Award, the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Award, the University of Virginia Jefferson Book Award, and was named Word Voyager of the Year. She said visiting Italy on a class trip during her sophomore year was one of her favorite experiences at the school.

DaSilva, the daughter of Gretchen and Antonio DaSilva, said she was surprised when she was called down to the principal’s office for the announcement and worried she was about to learn she’d been in contact with someone with COVID-19. During her time at Mount, she has served as student body vice president and participated in the math team, world language club, National Honor Society and The Hilltopper newspaper. She serves as a captain at the Carolyn Dutra Dance Studio, where she’s danced for the past 11 years.

“It’s definitely a big part of who I am. It’s definitely formed me into the person I am today,” she said.

She has received the Excellence in Writing Award, Excellence in Math Award, Cahill Memorial Chemistry Scholarship, George Eastman Young Leaders Award and the University of Rochester Book Award.

DaSilva, who has a huge passion for the sciences, said she plans to attend Western New England University in Springfield, Mass., where she will participate in the pre-optometry program.

Donahue, the son of Michael and Joanne Donahue, has excelled in both the classroom and the hockey arena during his time at Mount. A captain and four-year member of the both the hockey and baseball teams, Donahue said he has the distinction of being a two-time co-champion in hockey after the finals were canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19. He has also served as co-editor of The Hilltopper and a member of the National Honor Society, participated in the school’s diversity and equity student working group and volunteered as a coach for the SCORE Boston youth hockey program.

He has received the Notre Dame Book Award and the Excellence in Writing Award. His opinion piece about reciting the Pledge of Allegiance received an honorable mention in the Yale Newspaper Symposium. He plans to attend Villanova University in Villanova, Pa., and has not yet declared a major.

Donahue said his highlights at the school included competing in hockey games against Bishop Hendricken and La Salle, and enjoying the support of his coaches and friends.

“Unfortunately, we couldn’t have fans at most of our games this year, but we still had support from our classmates,” he said.

All three students said the past year was difficult as they adapted to a hybrid learning schedule that kept them from many of the traditional senior year experiences. Though they still participated in in-person learning two days per week, college visits, class events and sometimes extracurricular activities took place at home.

“We were so fortunate to be able to come in person, but mixing it with virtual learning was taxing on all of us,” Lakhiani said.

“Winter felt like an eternity,” Donahue added.

Since returning to a full-time schedule in April, the students said the senior class has had a chance to reconnect with teachers and friends. Both Lakhiani and DaSilva named English teacher Pamela Desaulniers among their most impactful teachers, and said they look forward to participating in end-of-year events.

“These last few months since we’ve come back, we’ve definitely grown closer as a class,” DaSilva said.

The three students will lead their class during graduation ceremonies on Sunday, June 13, at the school. Contrary to school tradition, the event will take place outside before noon.