SCOTCH PLAINS, N.J. -- Gathering to establish new friendships and strengthen organizational skills, the Union Catholic SUCCESS Leadership team traveled to the John Paul II Youth Retreat Center in Kearny last week for team building challenges that included a spider web ropes exercise, team skiing, and a rock climbing wall.

The SUCCESS Leadership team is comprised of rising juniors and seniors who have participated in UC's SUCCESS program for their first two years and now aspire to lead incoming freshman as they begin their UC journey.

This year's SUCCESS Leadership team includes rising juniors Alex Cain, Isabella Dacosta, Isabel Fernandez, Chris Hnatowski, Scott Kernen, Ben Korb, Micaela Lee, Jennifer Meija, Addison Montemayor, Liam Robb, Gabriella Rodriguez, Jalynne Rodriguez and Zach Turner, and rising seniors Kai Chiang, Isabella Gray, Christopher Lassiter, Isabel Magistro and Allison Temo.

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Faculty members who attended were Ms. Cindy Scott, the SUCCESS Program coordinator, Mr. Charlie Wischusen, Ms. Megan Sciammarella, and Ms. Ashley Whittemore.

"My favorite part of the day was just being around people and getting to know them better," said Korb.

"SUCCESS leadership has taught me how to be a good role model," Gray said. "I'm looking forward to next year."

Members were selected after an application process that included an essay, submission of their service resumes and evaluation by the team's advisers.  All members will participate in mentorship opportunities next year as they welcome new students to the UC family.

"My favorite part of meeting the new freshmen is seeing their distinct personalities," said Chiang. "My freshmen this year were all so different and that made being a leader super interesting."

This year's Leadership Team took the opportunity during lunch to give thanks for the example provided by this year's graduating seniors Claudia Aljian, Molly Bonner, Kennedy Caffrey, Natalie Colon, and Giulia Goggi.

"Being in SUCCESS gave me the opportunity to excel at my own pace," said Colon. "I had a great support system and always felt I could accomplish any task assigned." Colon will be attending Fairleigh Dickinson University this fall.  

"Without SUCCESS, I wouldn't be prepared for college," said Goggi, who will be attending Temple University this fall.

Leaders know that high school life can be a roller coaster, but they pride themselves on showing others how to navigate.

"SUCCESS Leadership has really shown me the true value and importance of being a leader; not only the ups, but also the downs," Aljian said.  Aljian will be attending Moore College of Art & Design in Philadelphia this fall.

After helping one another tackle a gangplank over 40 feet in the air, it was apparent that next year's leaders have what it takes to inspire.

"Climbing up was both scary and fun but it helped me get over my fear of heights. Tackling that fear will help me help others tackle their fears," Dacosta said.