Davis, a senior at Union Catholic, had just been presented with one of the most prestigious awards in the country, a Medal of Honor and Certificate by the National Catholic Educational Association as one of its recipients of a 2019 NCEA Youth Virtues, Valor and Vision Award.
Davis, one of just 10 students in the country to receive this award, was chosen from more than 1.8 million Catholic school students across the country, and she’s the first student ever from the Archdiocese of Newark to receive the award.
The Youth Virtues, Valor and Vision Award from the NCEA is given for selfless service, determination, innovation and ideals that are changing the world. It’s made possible, in part, through the generosity and support of Cross Catholic Outreach, a Catholic ministry organization whose generosity helps support the NCEA awards.
In addition to family members, friends, classmates, UC administrators and faculty, the special ceremony, emceed by Dr. Karen Piasecki, Union Catholic’s Associate Principal and a member of UC’s Class of 1988, featured several special guests and speakers.
They were Sister Percylee Hart, RSM, Union Catholic’s Principal, Dr. Margaret Dames, the Superintendent of the Archdiocese of Newark Catholic Schools, Father Michael Ward (UC Class of 1982), who is the Pastor at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, Mrs. Barbara Dellanno, Union Catholic’s Dean of Academics & Faith Formation, Mrs. Annette Jones, an Assistant Director for School Leadership at NCEA, Mrs. Leeanna Holmes, a Development Officer for Cross Catholic Outreach, Mr. Al Smith, the Mayor of Scotch Plains, Mrs. Margaret Heisey, the Deputy Township Manager for Scotch Plains, and Mrs. Nicole DeAugustine and Mr. Manuel Ramirez, who are with the Union County Office for Persons with Disability and Special Needs.
Davis has shown great initiative as she has excelled in her academic studies and many other aspects of her school life. For her project, Davis created the first special-needs walking club ever: the A.W.A.R.E. Club (Active Walking and Respite Exercise Club). She chose to create this project because she found that many special needs teens and young adults are less physically active than their typical peers. She also knew how hard it is for special needs teens to make friends with other teens in the same age group. A.W.A.R.E. held six very successful events at Oak Ridge Park in Clark and Echo Lake Park in Mountainside. Twenty individuals participated as walkers, and most came to every event.
Davis also helped organize a Special Needs Sports Day at Union Catholic, serves as the President of Union Catholic’s C.R.A.Y.O.N. Club (Community Raising Autism Yielding Opportunity Now), is a Eucharistic Minister, Student Ambassador, a member of PAC’s Executive Board and Students For Human Dignity, a Captain on the Forensics team, and a member of the UCTV staff.
Earlier this school year, Davis received the Youth Discipleship Award, which is presented to youths who respond to the call to discipleship through service or ministry to their parish or school community.
“I’m just so incredibly grateful to everyone who came out to support me and to the NCEA and Cross Catholic outreach for honoring me this way, and to Union Catholic for being so supportive throughout my whole entire four years,” said Davis. ” I’m just so lucky to have such an amazing support group with my family and friends. I never could have done this with the support of everyone. I’m just humbled and honored to receive this award. It’s really great to be recognized for what I’ve done because it shows that I should continue doing work for the special needs community. I really have found my passion and my calling, and I can’t wait to continue doing this for the rest of my life. I’ve always been working toward the same goal of promoting inclusion in the special needs community. So I’m really glad this award encapsulates all the different work and projects I’ve been doing.”
Davis thanked UC’s faith-based community for all its support.
“I’ve been so incredibly supported by every teacher and administrator here at Union Catholic, every club moderator,” said Davis. “They’ve given so many opportunities to succeed, and I’ve really feel like I’m the luckiest person alive to have such an amazing high school experience. It all comes down to a Catholic school, where you not just able to learn through an academic sense, but also you are able to learn through God and your commitment to God. I’m really so honored and excited to be recognized, because it’s not only me, it’s everyone who has helped me out with everything I’m involved with. I feel so blessed.”
Union Catholic Principal Sister Percylee Hart, RSM, praised Davis for all the work she’d done.
“Audrey has exhibited compassion, incorporated others into her community, treated all with respect and honesty, and owned her project with complete responsibility,” said Sister Percylee. “Truly, Audrey has become all God calls her to be in this initiative. For that, we are thankful and proud.”
Mrs. Barbara Dellanno, Union Catholic’s Dean of Academics and Faith-Formation, nominated Davis for the NCEA Youth Virtues, Valor and Vision Award.
“When I read the description for this award I thought we have so many gifted and talented students, but there was one student who fit the description perfectly,” said Mrs. Dellanno. “The NCEA Youth Virtues, Valor and Vision Award is awarded to a student who through personal witness and initiative in service learning or community outreach has become a hero to those who have been touched and nourished by his or her initiative. This describes Audrey’s project and Audrey’s impact to a T. Audrey brings Jesus to others through her words, which are eloquent, and but even more importantly through her actions. I can think of no one more deserving of this award.”
Davs is one of just 10 recipients of a 2019 NCEA Youth Virtues, Valor and Vision Award