First Graduates of Diploma with Distinction Program Present Work at Inaugural Capstone Symposium

Launched in fall 2023, Merion Mercy Academy’s signature program, the Diploma with Distinction, supports and recognizes transformative, personalized learning by scaffolding and coordinating the skills students develop in core courses into specific, interdisciplinary concentrations: Arts and Culture, Leadership and Communication, Law and Justice, or Sustainability. An optional program for juniors and seniors, participants complete a selection of specific courses, co-curricular activities, and service requirements, followed by a capstone project, internship, or shadowing experience. Students then curate a digital portfolio showcasing examples of their growth in the education values of a Mercy school: compelled by mercy, educational courage, inspired by faith, principled leadership, and a voice for dignity and respect. Finally, they share their journeys with parents, faculty, staff  and mentors in a capstone symposium—the first of which was held on May 2, 2024, with 18 members of the Class of 2024 displaying their year’s work. 

The inaugural symposium began with an introduction from Philip Vinogradov, Director of Innovation and Strategic Initiatives, who led the seven month effort to establish the Diploma with Distinction. What followed was an open poster session as well as a series of presentations in each of the four concentration areas. Participants and their topics included:

Arts & Culture Poster Sessions

Erin Lewis -  The Architecture of Libraries

Maria Shapson - Music as Therapy: Relating to Dementia


Leadership and Communication Poster Sessions

Kylie Angelina - EmpowerHer

Ashley Gomes - Entrepreneurship: Reality vs. Expectation

Christine Link - From Furry Friends to Family: Animal Therapy’s Healing Touch in Disability Communities

Jennifer McMonagle - HEADing in the Right Direction

Mackenzie Williamson - Successful Book Launch for a New Author

Brynn Wisniewski - Pages of Possibility: Creating a Community of Readers


Leadership and Communication Presentations

Brianna Marandola - The Lessons of Dance: Inside and Outside of the Classroom

Sophia Taberne - Exploring the Impact of Journalism


Law and Justice Poster Session

Kiera Everly - Realities of the Justice System


Law and Justice Presentations

Jada Boose - Reforming Our Criminal Justice System - How to Achieve Justice in an Unjust Society

Mia Longo - Women in Law


Sustainability Poster Session

Sameeha Ershad - Exploring Reforestation through Stormwater Management

Gurvanshjot Kaur - Watering the Seed to Preservation

Leila Sadoulet - Sustainable Aquaponics

Julia Scarpato - Cultivating Sustainable Futures


Sustainability Presentation

Carolyn Pham - Swap ‘Til You Drop: Clothing Swap for Change


Following the poster sessions and presentations, participants received a special Diploma with Distinction pin blessed by Sister Danielle Gagnon, RSM, and presented by their concentration moderators and Capstone Coordinator Mrs. Marianne Rule. 

The evening concluded with the seniors acknowledging “the essential role of our mentors during the capstone project,” and thanking them for their time and support and for inspiring the students with their professionalism and dedication to their work. They also thanked their moderators for “guiding us through the first year of the program.”

Diploma with Distinction moderators are:

Ms. Patricia Nowlan, Arts and Culture

Ms. Caitlin Mattera, Leadership and Communication 

Mr. Paul Clementi, Law and Justice

Ms. Arielle Chard, Sustainability

To learn more about the Diploma with Distinction, visit our website


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