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Draper Journal

Juan Diego garners ‘best of the best’ this year

Sep 21, 2020 11:57AM ● By Julie Slama

Juan Diego Catholic High School’s Dave Brunetti, director of campus life; Galey Colosimo, principal; and Drew Trost, head boys’ basketball coach; pose with the school’s best of state awards. (Mickelle Marston/JDCHS)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

When Juan Diego Catholic High School students return to school wearing face coverings this fall, they’ll have reason to celebrate.

For the third straight year, Juan Diego Catholic High School was named Best of State for private schools K-12, but with a surprise.

While the July 15 Best of State awards gala was canceled in response to social distancing guidelines with the COVID-19 pandemic, the committee came to give the award to the school.

“We knew we won, but receiving the Best of State Statue was a surprise,” said April van der Sluys, school advancement director.

The Best of State Statue honors essentially the “best of the best” with a 20-lb. solid bronze statue that is a 24-karat gold-plated sculpture standing atop a black granite pedestal on a gold-plated bronze base.

In addition to receiving those awards, Juan Diego’s Drew Trost was honored as the best of state high school coach, and the school’s senior service project, where seniors spend a week in January engrossed in community service to one of 30 nonprofit area agencies, as the best special interest education program. This past year, 12,500 service hours were given.

Juan Diego Catholic High School, which opened in 1999 and is affiliated with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake, is known for its drive for excellence in academics, extracurricular clubs and activities and athletics. Ten months ago, the school was honored with the National Blue Ribbon School Award, the first Utah high school to receive the award since 1997.

Juan Diego’s 750 students achieve in the top 15% of all schools in the nation in English and math and more than 98% of school’s students graduate, with 94% enrolling in colleges and universities nationwide. This past year, Juan Diego had 187 seniors graduate and earned $19 million in renewable four-year scholarships.

Juan Diego was the first high school in Utah to offer the Advanced Placement Capstone program, introducing it in 2016. Since then, more than 30 students have received their AP Capstone diplomas.

The school also boasts the Academy of Fine Arts, which incorporates advanced placement classes intertwined with those in the performing arts. An internship as well as a final project with in-depth research are included the program. 

It was molded after the school’s Academy of Sciences, where student take science-related advanced placement classes, participate in their own research, perform community service in the science area and participate in an extra-curricular activity. Many students find research and internship opportunities at the University of Utah and annually, the school partners with the U’s College of Pharmacy to provide selected students with scientific summer research experiences. Some students have gone on to publish or co-author papers in their subject areas.

Several clubs and activities, such as its robotics and debate and forensics team, compete in regional, state and national competitions. This past spring, the school journalism program won several awards in the Utah Futures Award contest and junior Anthony Tibolla won best supporting actor at the Utah High School Musical Theatre awards. 

Juan Diego’s football team won four 3A state championships in the past dozen years, boys soccer went undefeated in 2016 with its state title and consistently several other athletes compete in the state tournaments, including last fall’s tennis, volleyball and girls soccer teams. Students also are regularly named to the academic all-state Utah High School Activities Association team.