Scholastic success at high school level

After receiving scholarships, Port Richmond native and MDG alumna Renee Peterman continues to excel

A home away from home: Renee Peterman volunteers during the MDG Italian Festival, an event at which she has spent countless hours. PHOTO COUTERSY OF PATRICIA ELLIS

By Melissa Komar

When Renee Peterman, 16, was recognized by the St. John Vianney Scholars program her eighth-grade year at Mother of Divine Grace, it was a testament not only to her academic achievements up until that point, but an indication of her potential for success in high school.

The Port Richmond native has done anything but disappoint.

Peterman took the $12,000 scholarship award to Little Flower Catholic High School for Girls, where she was awarded the St. Therese Scholarship, which totalled $7,000 for four years recognizing her “for being well-rounded in community service in grade school.”

Peterman volunteered countless hours at MDG, and still does, when she’s not hitting the books.

She was a server during the Italian Festival, supervised kids’ games in the yard, was an altar server for five years and volunteered in the after-school CARES program.

For each scholarship, there are certain benchmarks that must be maintained, but Peterman has been on the track to scholastic success for years.

“My parents are very motivating people,” she said. “They are really hard workers. And around fifth grade, I realized education was more important for me because I would be the first generation to go on and graduate from college.”

Although she “breezed through” elementary school, high school “is a different ball game.”

“I was a fast learner so, I didn’t have to study much,” she said. “But when I got to high school, I went from putting in maybe an hour of homework to four hours. And, it’s more challenging when you’re in classes with people who have always been the best of the best.”

Peterman is taking one Advanced Placement class and her remaining classes are first track.

Currently a junior, she was inducted into the National Honor Society in November and she is a representative for Student Government.

She’d run to be an officer, but isn’t allowed because she will be an Diocesan Scholar next year, a citywide opportunity available to the top 30 students in the class in archdiocesan high schools.

Peterman is ranked ninth in her class, and her favorite subject is biology.

“I can apply it to my life. I know how my body works and how it connects to the outside and the environment,” she said “I love knowing that it all fits together and if there’s a problem, there’s a way to fix it.”

She hopes to apply that passion to a career as a genetic counselor or occupational therapist.

“I really want to help people while doing something I enjoy,” Peterman said.

She also was selected to participate in the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership State Leadership Seminar her sophomore year based on her essay and community service.

“At first, I was so scared to go away for the weekend with 200 people I never met before,” Peterman said. “But there are so many different ways to lead is what I took away from the experience. But being charismatic, determined and selfless are part of that.”

Outside of school, Peterman has worked at Stock’s Bakery since the end of her freshman year.

Each week, she puts in about 15 hours.

“I work with such interesting people, and everyone is such a hard worker and is dedicated to what they do,” she said. “I take orders and sell the products.”

And, she still finds time to volunteer at MDG.

“I usually volunteer during the festival,” she said. “I help with the games and give kids their prizes. It’s been my home away from home for such a long time. And, it really cultivates in me that drive for success.”

With the school year winding down, Peterman plans on practicing for the SATs and hopes to attend the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership World Leadership Congress.

With grades and college scholarships on the line, there’s no time for slacking.

“My mom always said to me, ‘Failure is not an option,’ so I took that and use it as my motivation,” Peterman said.