Judge Memorial Catholic High School salutatorian is first-generation college student

Friday, May. 17, 2024
Judge Memorial Catholic High School salutatorian is first-generation college student + Enlarge
Judge Memorial Catholic High School Senior Anna James (right), pictured with Principal Patrick Lambert, has been named the salutatorian of the Bulldogs’ Class of 2024.
By Laura Vallejo
Intermountain Catholic

SALT LAKE CITY — Of the dozens of Judge Memorial Catholic High School seniors who will be headed off to college in the fall, one member of the Class of 2024 who is among the first in her family to attend university.

Anna James is this year’s salutatorian. Her school activities included being a student body officer, a member of the dance program and a member of the Black Student Union.

“My parents immigrated to the U.S. as refugees from South Sudan and always valued education,” James said. However, because her parents needed to work to sustain the family, they couldn’t continue with their own education, “so to be able to continue that legacy for them is everything to me,” she said.

Attending JMCHS was a way to honor her parents’ love for education.

At Judge, she “discovered my passion for math and dance, which led to me finding lifelong friends. … I learned the true definition of perseverance, which is something that I will carry with me for the rest of my life,” James said.

Among her contributions to the school, she led the effort to institute an annual diversity fair.

 “When I first got there, I realized a lot of other schools had a week dedicated to appreciating the diversity of the student body,” she said. “I wanted Judge students to feel that as well, so a couple of my peers and I worked with the administration and made it so that we always have this fair.”

Pursuing dreams, no matter how big they might be, relies on the fact that everyone has a call, she said.

“I think that it’s important to pursue my dream no matter what because it’s what I’m meant to do,” she said. “I believe that we all have callings, and these dreams are just reflections of that. … Even if the road gets a little bumpy, this dream of mine is my purpose, so I have to keep going. And if I need a little reminder of why perseverance works, I look to my parents, who faced all types of adversity and still made it here.”

James has a calming presence, said Patrick Lambert, JMCHS principal.  

“She gracefully navigates the challenges of high school while instilling confidence in those around her,” Lambert said. “Anna has always challenged herself by taking the most rigorous courses. It has been a joy to watch her thrive in high school.”

“It is an honor to be at a school that opens so many doors of opportunity,” Lambert said, adding that for him it is a blessing to be at a school where “we can help our students become empowered with knowledge. We do not take this responsibility and opportunity lightly.”

Seeing James grow during her years at Judge was a joy, he said. “She has been supported by a loving family and caring school community.  Through her hard work and the steady guidance of the faculty and staff, Anna is leaving Judge Memorial prepared for the next steps of her journey. … It will be wonderful to see where her path takes her.”

In the fall, James will attend Columbia University in New York City, where she will pursue a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering.

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