Two high school seniors with strong work ethics grounded in family and faith have been chosen as the winners of the 2020 Lila Grace Sullivan Amirault Scholarships, each receiving $4,500 to put towards their college tuition.
“It was immediate excitement, immediate. I read the email, and it was like, ‘Oh, my gosh,’” said Avery Greco, a student at Saint Dominic Academy in Auburn.
“I was very excited about it. It will make the financial burden a little bit easier to go to college and possibly grad school after that,” said Daniella Niedermeyer, a student at Cheverus High School in Portland. “I also feel honored because I know some of the other people who applied, and I have a lot of respect for them. I think they deserve it probably more than I do.”
Daniella and Avery are both deserving of the scholarships which were made possible through the Lila Grace Sullivan Amirault Scholarship Fund. The fund was established in 2013 by Patrick Amirault, now deceased, through the Catholic Foundation of Maine. Amirault established the fund to honor the memory of his wife, Lila, and to show gratitude for the care and quality education he received while attending a Catholic school in Malden, Massachusetts, where he grew up, one of nine children in a poor family. To be eligible for the scholarship, students must be accepted at an accredited college or university and must plan to work while attending college.
Avery and Daniella have displayed strong work ethics, leadership skills, and a commitment to serving others throughout their high school years.
“Avery is very thoughtful and respects fellow students and teachers,” wrote Anne Pontbriand, her religion teacher. “A knowledgeable student, Avery always put her best into whatever she is preparing for, both in and out of class.”
“Daniella is a deep thinker, an excellent student, leader, and communicator,” said Valerie Webster, her guidance counselor. “She ranks near the top of her class and is a kind, sincere, and caring young woman.”
“Trying to be a good person means a lot to me,” said Daniella. “I think if everyone did that, it would make the world a better place.”
“I want to be the best I can be,” said Avery. “I want to be thoughtful. I want to be giving.”
Avery has long displayed those qualities. She became an altar server at Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Sabattus at a young age and has also served as an extraordinary minister of holy Communion during school Masses.
Avery volunteered at the Good Shepherd Food Bank in Auburn and at St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center in Lewiston, and she helped decorate homemade wreaths for the Christmas by the Lake Fair held at St. Philip Church in Auburn. In addition, as a member of the St. Dom’s tennis team, she volunteered for Special Olympics, keeping score for matches.
“It was so fun to see them compete against each other and to see them get excited about getting a point,” she said. “I just felt so happy to be a part of such a great organization.”
Avery has been a captain of the tennis team for three years, and for the past two years, she has been a captain of the field hockey team. She and two friends also started a volleyball / spike ball club at the school.
“We would just play, and play, and play,” she said. “We would get people in my class involved. It was just so much fun.”
Daniella has also been active in sports, participating in cross-country, swimming, and track. Like Avery, she also helped to bring a new club to her school, a garden club. She and five other students built raised beds on the Cheverus grounds and even brainstormed ideas for keeping the garden watered when school was not in session. Their hope was to grow enough produce to donate to a soup kitchen.
“I really like gardening,” she said. “I really like the idea of farming in general. You know exactly where the food comes from, and I think it’s a life skill. You can learn a lot of character lessons from gardening, like success and failure and that hard work pays off. It’s just very simplistic in that way and very natural.”
Daniella has volunteered at one of the Preble Street Soup Kitchens, cooking meals, and she is the president of Cheverus' Key Club, which puts on a Turkey Drive every Thanksgiving, serving hundreds of area families.
“I find a lot of value in my experiences with Key Club and this idea of service and giving back and seeing other people as worthy of this service,” she said.
Daniella also volunteered at the Maine State Society for the Protection of Animals, a Windham-based non-profit that cares for horses that have been abused, and she has helped out at the Funshine Fair, held during the summer at St. Matthew Church in Limerick.
Daniella and Avery both say their desire to serve comes from the example set by their families and the values that are part of their faith.
“My Catholic values influence what I find important and what I think has value. Part of it is being a good person and making sure you are honest and true to yourself in all of your actions,” said Daniella.
“I think, most importantly, it’s just trying to embody how Jesus acted into our everyday lives,” said Avery. “Treat others as you would like to be treated.”
Avery and Daniella both excel academically, with grade point averages above 4.0, due to honors and AP courses. Both are members of the National Honor Society and both have been class leaders. Avery is her class vice president and a member of the student senate, while Daniella was her class vice president last year. Daniella is also on the debate team, and both are members of their schools’ math teams.
As they look to college, Avery and Daniella both said they feel prepared thanks to the excellent education they have received.
“I think St. Dom’s has done a great job preparing me for college. All my siblings (five) went through St. Dom’s, and they’ve been successful in college, and they’ve been so prepared,” said Avery.
“It’s a very challenging curriculum, and it makes you work hard to really learn the material, which helps you build character,” Daniella said about Cheverus High School.
Daniella and Avery say Cheverus and St. Dom’s provided them a supportive environment in which to learn and grow.
“One of the key things about St. Dom’s that I’ve always felt is the sense of community. I know they always talk about that in advertising, but it’s so much more. It actually is a community. All my teachers, I feel so comfortable talking to. I’ve grown up with probably 80% of the kids in our class. I’ve seen them grow up. I’ve seen them through their awkward stages, and I’ve seen them really thrive,” said Avery. “It’s almost like a brother-sister relationship, and I would never take that back.”
“It’s a very strong community,” said Daniella. “I think the classes are especially challenging, which kind of brings people together in a way, so I like that. There is a general community atmosphere. We all get together for things like the Turkey Drive, and we all go to Mass in the gym, so that just makes for one big community.”
That strong sense of community is one of the reasons why Daniella eyed Catholic colleges. She plans to attend Loyola University in Maryland, where she will likely major in psychiatry.
“I want to continue going to a Catholic or Jesuit school just because of the community and the different service aspects,” she said.
Avery plans to major in chemical engineering at the University of Maine in Orono.
The Amirault Scholarship Endowment is just one of many endowments established through the Catholic Foundation of Maine to support the work of the Church in Maine. If you would like to learn about creating or contributing to a charitable fund, contact Elizabeth Badger, executive director, at 207.321.7820 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also visit the Catholic Foundation’s website at www.catholicfoundationmaine.org.