As Lauren Gomes, a senior at Elizabeth Seton High School in Bladensburg, Maryland, reflects on her years in high school, she remembers how her Catholic education has shaped her character and helped prepare her to chase her dreams. 

“My private school education taught me that you shouldn’t be afraid to make your dreams a reality,” Gomes said. “Seize the opportunities.”

A graduate of St. Francis International School, an elementary and middle school in Silver Spring, Gomes said that when she entered Seton as a freshman, she was nervous after she placed in all honors courses. But she quickly excelled and got involved in numerous extra-curricular activities such as No Place for Hate, Model United Nations, economy club and art club, to name a few. 

And when Gomes saw a gap in the clubs at her school, she created her own community – a club named “It’s Academic” where “you didn’t have to be an athlete or have a 4.0,” she said. 

During her many activities both inside the classroom and out, Gomes said she learned to never quit and to manage her time effectively. The college-prep education she received at Seton, she said, has helped her become a well-rounded individual with the ability to “assess situations from all sides.” 

“They’re (Seton High School) not just college prep in the sense of academics, but also in work and service,” Gomes said. 

Gomes hasn’t stopped preparing for college even during her summer vacations from school, from working as an assistant manager at Parkinson Construction Company to helping tutor children in her neighborhood and at a local elementary school in the ESOL program. 

Attending a Catholic school, Gomes said, also has helped continue to cultivate her own personal faith life that had a strong foundation from her family at home. 

“In terms of my spiritual life, Catholic school education has definitely enhanced the previous spirituality I already had,” Gomes said, adding that her parents escaped religious persecution of Catholics in Bangladesh when they came to the United States. “They could finally be practicing Catholics without being afraid that their church might be demolished the next day or become invaded the next day,” she said.

Seton’s motto – “The Light to Know and the Grace to Do” – means a lot to her, Gomes said, adding that both light and grace “come from God.” 

“Without (His light and His grace) we probably wouldn’t get as far as we all are today,” Gomes said. 

One focal point of her attention throughout the past year has been human trafficking awareness outreach through a year-round community service project. Gomes has held numerous presentations at both St. Camillus Church in Silver Spring and at Elizabeth Seton High School. Through her educational and fundraising efforts, Gomes was amazed at the support she has received from her community. 

“I’m definitely going to do outreach in college about human trafficking,” she said, adding that she hopes to fight the organ trafficking arena with her work throughout her life. “I want to completely remove the black market for human trafficking.” 

Gomes also traveled to area schools to educate and share resources about human trafficking and sponsored a Blue Tag day at school where students could donate funds to Free for Life International for the opportunity to wear blue on a designated school day. Free for Life International is an organization that fights human trafficking around the world. 

This fall, Gomes plans to attend the University of Maryland, College Park with a bioengineering major and a potential neuroscience minor.