Meet SJND's 30 Under 30: Young. Smart. Committed. | Saint Joseph Notre Dame High School


Meet SJND's 30 Under 30: Young. Smart. Committed.

SJND's 30 Under 30

With a broad collection of talents in scientific research, the arts, athletics and technology, SJND’s young alumni on our listing of 30 Under 30 are becoming leaders of their generation, taking with them the values that represent our school so well.

This group of promising young alumni is a diverse and interesting set and includes a highly regarded foreign policy expert in Washington, D.C., a talented college golfer, and the creator of an original web-based comedy series on YouTube.

You’ll also meet an environmentalist who sees a way to use technology to solve the world’s energy problems, a professional basketball player who has traveled the world and a biomedical researcher who hopes to help develop a vaccine to halt the spread of meningitis.

Collectively, they represent the best of their generation. A common thread for many of these alumni is their desire to help others, whether it is helping to defend the rights of Boston’s poorest residents or teaching South Africa’s next generation to become their nation’s leaders.

Here, we invite you to get to know 30 SJND alums under 30 who are making a difference. And we start with the story of a brilliant young mathematician following in her mother’s footsteps.


Danielle Maddix ’08 graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of California, Berkeley, with highest honors in Applied Mathematics, after working as a calculus teaching assistant as an undergraduate. She is employed at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory as a Computational Researcher in the Applied Math Group, researching the application of mathematical and computational techniques to accurately model fluid flow and other physical phenomena.

This fall, Danielle begins her studies at Stanford University for a Ph.D. in Computational and Mathematical Engineering. She credits her mother’s passion for math with inspiring her to become a mathematician.

“The high school feels like a part of my family, since my mom, (Denise Cervelli Maddix '80), as well as several family members, also graduated from there. When I started at SJND, I remember my mom telling me how much she enjoyed Ms. Rod's algebra class. My mom loved mathematics and teaching math to others. My mom developed mathematical and computer models of the atmosphere at the Lawrence Livermore National Lab. As a young girl, I remember being fascinated by her computer codes and by how mathematics could be applied to a variety of scientific and engineering problems. She truly inspired me.”

After Denise Maddix’s untimely passing on the day after Danielle’s high school graduation in 2008, Danielle’s father, Daniel Maddix, and her uncle, Joe Cervelli Jr. '82, established the Denise Cervelli Maddix '80 Mathematics Scholarship. It is awarded annually to the top junior math student at SJND.

“I know it is important to both me and my mom to encourage mathematics education in high school,” said Danielle. “The scholarship carries on my mom's memory at SJND toward a subject that we both love.”


In the five years following his debut as a pianist for a new musical at New York’s Madison Square Garden, Jon Siapno ’06 has pioneered an innovative and energetic approach to music that bridges professional, cultural and educational worlds. A composer, he has degrees from New York University and Columbia University, as well as musical theater experience from working with a Broadway director while on the national tour of Wicked.

The first song Jon ever wrote was a short hymn, while he was a student at SJND.

“I don’t know what inspired me to write the hymn, but my friend Gabrielle Soria (see 30 Under 30 list) helped give it meaning,” he says. In the summer before their senior year, the pair created a story, with music and lyrics, about a family in the midst of crisis.

“We had no idea that over the course of nine months it would become SJND’s first student-written spring musical,” he said. The musical, Home Sweet Home, was performed over several nights and received strong reviews.

That first musical led to other compositions while Jon was at NYU, where he helped strengthen the Filipino American presence in theater through a series of three groundbreaking musicals produced by New York University.

Today, Jon has returned to his love of liturgical music and is music director at Messiah Lutheran Church in Redwood City. He continues to compose music and finds intellectual and creative delight in discovering a new hymn in an old decaying hymnal buried deep in the music archives of the church.

“Looking back, I was fortunate to have been surrounded by the guidance and mentorship of so many brilliant teachers and artists during my time at St. Joe’s,” he said. “They were vigilant in recognizing my creative potential and tireless in making real this outrageous artistic venture of mine.”


Andy Nguyen ’08 studied chemistry at Stanford University and, under the mentorship of one of his professors, wrote an honors thesis on the underlying, biochemical mechanisms of cell division, which is important in understanding why diseases like cancer and Down syndrome occur.

He continued his research last year, working at the National Institute of Health in Washington, D.C.

Today, as he begins his education at Harvard Medical School, with a goal of earning a medical degree and a joint master’s degree in public policy from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, Andy says his interest in medicine is multi-faceted and not just guided by science.

 “My high school education in its totality has guided my journey toward medicine,” he said. “AP Spanish prepared me to interpret in a local community clinic and to do health outreach in Nicaragua and Spain. Justice and Peace gave me a framework for understanding and negotiating issues of ethics and medicine, leading me to lobby for ‘Obamacare’ the summer of 2009.”

Andy also was inspired by the course Women in Scriptures, which introduced him to feminist theory, and he co-developed a course at Stanford called ‘For the Sake of Women: Exploring Health Disparities in Women’s Health and Health Policy’ that integrates issues of gender, sexuality, health and governance.

As he embarks on a future in medicine and public policy, Andy, a Hazelwood Scholar in high school, says a broad humanities education has helped him “understand the interdisciplinary and complex social context in which science and medicine take place.”


Crystal Faith Cajilog ‘07 juggled three jobs as a student at UC Santa Cruz, as well as a full load of classes. She was chosen as the speaker for her college graduation, because of her humanity, kindness and hard work on campus. Today, she works with low-income dual diagnosis patients, and every day is a challenge; however, she still looks to the leadership skills she developed in high school to assist her in setting her patients up for success.

“Learning how to facilitate meetings, how to communicate between different groups of people, how to recognize your audience, and learning how to set healthy and obtainable goals translates into the work that I currently do with mental health patients,” Crystal said.

“Whether I’m in case conferences with a patient and their treatment teams or developing a patient-centered treatment plan, I attribute my ability to do such things to the time I spent learning them in high school,” she added. “I did not know it at the time, but SJND taught me to speak the universal language of leadership, a language that is pertinent in life.”

In a talk last spring with the graduating Class of 2013, Crystal encouraged the students to continue to build on the foundation they had begun in high school.

“Being a graduate of SJND, you already have advantages going into the world,” she told them. “You’ve been given the skill sets to work through higher education, as well as the ability to use your experiences to grow into a better person. Recognize this privilege. Be grateful for this privilege, be humbled by it, but most importantly, share it. The world will benefit from more pieces of this community in it.”


Ron Lewis ’04, a successful graduate of the University of Southern California, quickly landed a job with Bain & Co., the global management consulting firm. Within a year, he had taken a leave and was headed to Africa to work with African Leadership Academy, an organization in Johannesburg that is dedicated to transforming Africa by educating its young people to be leaders.

After finishing up two years with ALA, Ron this fall began studying for his MBA at Stanford University.

“I’m interested in pursuing education entrepreneurship,” he said, explaining that he hopes to become involved in the online educational opportunities that are developing. He’s excited to study education efforts that enable learning but are not necessarily in the classroom.

Ron sees a direct link between education and leadership, and he is keen on sharing leadership lessons, whether it is in Africa or in the classroom at Stanford. He credits the year he spent as captain of the 2003-2004 state championship basketball team at SJND with teaching him a lot about leadership.

“Practicing leadership is like shooting three-pointers,” he said. “The more times you shoot, the more muscle memory you develop and the more shots you will make. You watch film, get feedback from coaches and make your shooting form better.”

Building basketball shooting skills is similar to developing leadership skills, he said. Both require you to practice resilience, ask for feedback and try again. To this day, Ron said he is motivated by the slogan the 2004 championship team adopted: “Refuse to lose.” He carries it with him every day—inscribed inside his basketball state championship ring.


John Nguyen ’07 researches the development of three-dimensional biomaterials to aid in bone regeneration at the UCLA School of Dentistry, where he is a third-year dental student. A Hazelwood scholar in high school, he has presented his research at several conferences, and he also volunteered at the Berkeley Free Clinic’s dental section while he was an undergraduate student at Cal. He graduated with a degree in Molecular Biology from UC Berkeley.

Alice Malou Innocent ’01 is a foreign policy analyst at the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C. Her primary research interests are Middle East and Persian Gulf security issues and U.S. foreign policy toward Pakistan, Afghanistan, and China. She has appeared as a guest analyst on CNN, BBC News, Fox News Channel, Al Jazeera, Voice of America, CNBC Asia, and Reuters. Innocent has published reviews and articles on national security and international affairs.

Alex Harris ’04 signed to play professional basketball in Germany this season with Walter Tigers Tübingen, after playing professionally previously in Poland and Germany and starting his own summer clinics and coaching program in the U.S. He graduated from UC Santa Barbara as the all-time scoring leader with 1,696 points and was chosen as the 2008 co-Big West Conference Player of the Year.

Nkeiruka Umeh ’10 spent the summer interning at the Stanford Prevention Research Center in the Stanford University School of Medicine, researching the connection between neighborhood features and physical activity in older adult populations. She is a senior at Duke University and is a pre-medical student pursing a major in International Comparative Studies (with an African concentration) and a minor in Chemistry. Upon graduation in May, she hopes to take a year off before medical school to work on a fellowship abroad.

Katelyn Lucas ‘08 is a popular poet and spoken word artist in the Bay Area and beyond, competing in poetry slams across the country with her honest commentary on relationships and culture. She practices her poetry with Bay Area Unified, a performance group that competes nationally.

Allison Meins ’09 graduated from UC Santa Barbara in June, after spending her junior year studying in Granada, Spain, where she became fluent in Spanish while working with a professor on psychological research and translating research articles. This fall, she begins her four-year doctorate in psychology program at Alliant International University’s California School of Professional Psychology in San Francisco.

Ari Warmerdam ’02, associate director of business development for United Way of the Bay Area, manages the organization’s sports partnerships with the pro teams in the area, and it’s not uncommon for him to rub shoulders with former Raider and 49er Nnamdi Asomugha or have a photo snapped with Barry Bonds. His experience as a college athlete, playing basketball at UC Davis after playing at SJND, and his master’s degree in sport management from Columbia University and MBA from University of San Francisco prepared him well for his work. Today, he works with top corporate leaders to raise millions of dollars for the United Way’s Community Schools program.

Natalya Caraballo '07 graduated from the University of Chicago and plans to practice international law. It is a career she has imagined for herself since her days at SJND, when she worked as a Youth Defense Attorney for the McCullum Youth Court in Oakland. She has a degree in political science and has been teaching abroad in Madrid before heading to law school.

Emily Braga ’05 worked at the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute, researching immunobiology and vaccine development, in particular the bacterium that can cause meningococcal disease and meningitis, after graduating form UCLA with a degree in biology. She focused on developing a vaccine that would prevent disease in the U.S. and address the meningitis epidemic in regions of Africa. After co-authoring two scientific publications and presenting at symposiums on the topic, her interest was solidified, and she is pursuing a master’s degree in public health, with a concentration in infectious disease and vaccinology, at UC Berkeley.

John McCord ‘12 was honored this year with the Phil Mickelson Award, presented to the most outstanding freshman golfer in the NCAA Division III. The rookie University of Redlands golfer from Oakland didn’t pick up a golf club until sophomore year at SJND. He received a host of accolades during the 2013 season, including a spot on the All-West Region First Team and selections as the Ken Sherman Freshman of the Year for the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

Zak Loring ’03 is a physician at UCSF, after graduating from Duke University Medical School and having published seven peer-reviewed articles. A UCLA grad, he has had two papers published by the Journal of Electrocardiology, and he conducted research at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in Washington, D.C. He also worked at a pediatric hospital in London. He plans to specialize in cardiology.

Robyn DeGuzman ’02 works as an actress, most recently in the Kansas City Firelight Theatre production of Miss Saigon and the Broadway production of Beauty and the Beast. Before taking to the stage professionally, the UC Irvine dance major took some time to travel the world, working on a medical mission to the Philippines and also teaching in Africa.

Teresa Mooney ‘09 graduated magna cum laude in June from UCLA, after completing an internship at the Heritage Foundation in D.C. She is an educator with Teach for America in San Antonio, Texas, this fall.

Lorenzo Hutton ’03 is a commercial mortgage credit analyst at Wells Fargo in San Francisco, after working at Ernst & Young following his graduation from UC Santa Cruz, where he played basketball.

Mia Bernardino'11 worked at DOER Marine, in Alameda, which provides equipment and engineering services for deep-ocean and other jobs that are either underwater or in harsh environments. She worked on Tules, a suite of system sensors that look at infrastructure strengths and weaknesses, such as levies and dams. She is studying engineering at Seattle University, and she is pursuing a singing career she established while at SJND.

Joseph Vacca ’09 is entering the field of stem cell research, pursuing a graduate degree in the biomedical sciences at the engineering school at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, after graduating in June with a degree in biochemistry.  

Gabrielle Soria '06 is pursuing a career in advertising “to create materials for the public that not only reflective of the public and their uniqueness, but is celebratory of it as well.” She was one of nine finalists out of thousands of exceptional applicants for the DiversityJobs Scholarship Award, a scholarship for college and graduate students who represent diversity. She said her transition from the Bay Area to going to college in Boston inspired her career choice. “I did my undergraduate studies at Emerson College. Experiencing Emerson, and the city of Boston itself, was a hearty dose of culture shock for a girl who’d grown up in the California Bay Area, surrounded by diversity.”

Jesse Swatling Holcomb ’09 has launched an original comedy web series on YouTube called “Friends Without Benefits” that he also stars in. He’s been compared to Conan O’Brien, and the series just wrapped up its first season to positive reviews.

Terryck Carter '12 joined the drumline at Benedict College, a historically black college in Columbia, South Carolina, with a strong marching band and performance tradition. After leading many of SJND's performances from his seat at the drums, Carter enjoys his new role and is also an honor student studying music.

Danielle Campbell ’06 is with the architecture firm Wiss Janney Elstner Associates, Inc. She also is active with Habitat for Humanity, volunteering at build sites and organizing Build Days. She graduated from the University of Oregon with a bachelor’s degree in architecture and minors in historic preservation and Italian. She worked at an historic preservation internship with the National Park Service in Alaska, helping to document a Klondike gold-rush building. A member of the University of Oregon equestrian team, she also competed in western equitation competitions.

Nicholas Tubbs ’09 is a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army, after graduating from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in June. He is with the Medical Service Corps and will attend flight school to begin his career as a Medivac pilot for the Army.

Diego Flores ’06 graduated in the spring from Harvard Law School, where he was an editor of the Harvard Law and Policy Review and worked for the law school’s housing clinic, representing Boston’s poor. He also worked for the school’s sports law clinic, learning about the intersection of sports, business and law. He is moving to New York City this fall to work for the highly regarded firm of Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton. He also volunteered on countless political campaigns as an undergraduate at Yale University and  worked for the California Supreme Court and interned at think tanks in Washington, D.C.

Sarah Lewis ’02 has innovative ideas about combining environmental science and tech and creating a renewable energy source from the hardy agave—yes, the succulent from which tequila is made. She just received her Ph.D. from UC Berkeley in Environmental Science, Policy and Management with a focus on Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and satellite remote sensing, after working for URS Corp. in Oakland, the engineering and tech services firm, where she created geospatial databases. A UCLA grad, with an undergraduate degree in geography and environmental science, she wants to develop applied geospacial technologies, with a focus on the environment.

Victor Republicano '09 was the 2012 Panetta Congressional intern, working in Washington, D.C. and at the Panetta Institute for Public Policy in Monterey. At his graduation from Santa Clara University in June, he was chosen to introduce former U.S. Secretary of Defense and CIA Director Leon Panetta, the 2013 commencement speaker at Santa Clara. A classics major, he intends to pursue a career in law.

Julian DeGuzman ’05 performs on Broadway, most recently dancing and singing in the popular show Newsies and currently performing in The King and I at Walnut Street Theater in Philadelphia. He also performed in Arizona Broadway Theatre’s Tarzan and will be seen in Starlight Kansas City's Aida. He has a BFA in Dance Performance and a BA in Sociology from University of California, Irvine.