From Pieces to Portrait: Crafting My Life’s Formation at a Newman Guide College

Editor’s Note: The Cardinal Newman Society, a nonprofit organization based in Virginia that promotes and defends faithful Catholic education, recently announced that Dominic Kalpakgian from California is the winner of the Society’s 2024 Essay Scholarship Contest for Catholic college-bound students. Kalpakgian’s $5,000 scholarship will be applied toward his first year at Franciscan University of Steubenville in Steubenville, Ohio, which has agreed to another $15,000 in scholarships over the next three years if he meets the University’s requirements. Below is the full text of his winning essay. More information about the contest can be found here, and rising high school seniors who would like to compete in next year’s contest can sign up for our Recruit Me program here.  

As a child, my fascination with puzzles knew no bounds. Starting from humble 20-piece challenges, I eagerly progressed to conquering 50, 100, and even 1000-piece behemoths! Each puzzle posed a unique challenge, enticing me with the promise of revealing a breathtaking scene once assembled. Yet, the pinnacle of satisfaction came with placing that final piece, completing the intricate picture. Yet, in those moments, I understood a fundamental truth: a puzzle, like life itself, remains incomplete until every piece is seamlessly integrated, forming a harmonious whole.

In much the same vein, our journey in Catholic formation mirrors the complexity of a puzzle coming together. Each stage of our upbringing adds a vital piece to the mosaic of our faith: the foundational teachings of our parents, the structured catechesis of grade school, the camaraderie of youth groups during middle school, and the enriching experiences of high school conferences and Bible studies. Yet, akin to that elusive final piece, attending an authentically Catholic college often emerges as the crowning touch, the culmination of years of spiritual nurturing. It is here that the myriad fragments of our formation seamlessly merge, unveiling a life deeply rooted in Christ, where every piece finds its rightful place in the grand design.

As I stand on the precipice of adulthood, in a world increasingly defined by division and uncertainty, the pillars of education, faith, and community have never been more vital. Embarking on the journey of higher education, I am acutely aware of the prevalent cultural challenges, including the erosion of virtue, ideological influences, the absence of genuine community, and the fading significance of faith. Amidst my exploration, universities listed in the Newman Guide, such as Ave Maria, the University of Dallas, or Franciscan University, stand out as beacons aligned with Catholic values and best positioned to train students to push back against these worrying trends.

A dynamic Catholic college is pivotal to me. A recent study by the Pew Research Center found that almost 40% of students at secular colleges experience a decline in religious affiliation. I yearn for a community that actively celebrates and reinforces my Catholic values, while providing opportunities for spiritual growth. In particular, I seek a college that prioritizes a robust presence of priests and religious, supportive faith-based student organizations, and courses exploring the intersection of faith and contemporary culture.

Amidst rising concerns about knowledge silos and career-focused curricula, I aspire for an educational experience that transcends mere technical skills. I seek a holistic formation that nourishes the mind, soul, and spirit. While some institutions prioritize trendy topics over timeless truths, offering classes on ‘deconstructing reality’, a Catholic education should cultivate not just intellectual prowess but also ethical reasoning, and a deep and abiding love of Jesus and his Church. The Newman Guide Schools are best suited to achieve this mission. The friendships forged in the crucible of a Newman Guide community are not merely casual acquaintances; they are the anchors that will steady me as I navigate the choppy waters of adulthood. Surrounded by peers who share Catholic values, I can step into the future with confidence, knowing that I am tethered to others and not alone.

I eagerly anticipate a college experience characterized by intellectual growth, spiritual enrichment, and a vibrant community. This will be the final piece in my puzzle to reveal a completed icon of my life’s formation. Regardless of my eventual career path—whether in medicine, business, or criminal justice—my aspiration to deepen my Catholic faith while receiving an exceptional education and fostering enduring friendships fuels my desire to enroll in a Newman Guide school.

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