By Gia Myers
When 16-year-old Carleigh Palmieri isn’t on the golf course or busy with schoolwork, you can find her in the kitchen cooking family dinners with her father Joseph, an executive chef at Geisinger St. Luke’s Hospital in Orwigsburg.
“My dad makes really good pasta sauce and meatballs,” she said. “We’re an Italian family. Family dinners are fun times.”
Palmieri and her dad are joined at the dinner table by her mother Melissa and 14-year-old sister Sophia.
A junior at Nativity BVM High School in Pottsville, Palmieri is one of the students, along with Sophia, who’s been a recipient of the Bishop’s Catholic Scholar Society Award, which recognizes outstanding Catholic school students in the Diocese of Allentown. This scholarship program is made possible through the Because We Are Catholic Appeal.
Students are selected because they exemplify the value of Catholic education and represent the Catholic school tradition of academic excellence.
“I’m grateful and thankful to the people who contribute [to the appeal],” said Palmieri. “It helps students start their Catholic school journey, build their Christian beliefs, and get connected with the Catholic Church.”
Of her high school, Palmieri said, “I love how everyone is a family there. Teachers care about how you’re learning and your needs. Kids going there really care about learning, and that inspires me.”
The Palmieri family took their love of Catholic education even farther last school year by sponsoring Patricio, an international student from Mexico, so that he could also attend Nativity for a year.
In addition to academics, Palmieri is also a member of many student activities at Nativity.
She was elected to Student Council this year, and she’s been a member of Interact, a community service-based club, since her freshman year. Palmieri has helped with club-sponsored blood drives, and clothing and toy drives.
As a student athlete, Palmieri can be found on the golf course for the girls’ varsity golf team in the fall and playing outfield on the girls’ varsity softball team in the spring.
She led her golf team, the Nativity Green Wave, in scoring last year. She helped them to twice win the Schuylkill League Championship and in 2022, the District 11 Championship.
Local sportswriter David Mika Jr. called Palmieri a team leader, saying that she’s always “working on her game, but still offers advice and coaching to her teammates.”
Palmieri additionally works in the Pro Shop at Schuylkill Country Club, where she said she’s “the only female employed there, so I bring diversity.”
Doing unexpected things seems not unusual for Palmieri. She’s also the youngest lector at her parish, St. John the Baptist in Pottsville.
She gained greater insight during her theology classes at school and said, “I feel like as I read to the people in my parish, it has a new meaning to me. I connect with [the readings] more.”
Of her first time reading at Mass, she said, “I was definitely nervous, but my deacon helped me through the steps, and my priest, too. It’s helped me with my public speaking, and that’ll help as I go into college and into professional life.”
Last June, Palmieri built on her leadership and public speaking skills by attending the Central PA HOBY Youth Leadership conference. The four-day seminar is designed for high school sophomores to recognize their leadership talents in becoming effective, ethical leaders in their homes, schools, and communities.
Last May, 118 students from diocesan elementary and high schools and special learning centers were presented with $112,000 in scholarships as part of the Bishop’s Catholic Scholar Society Awards program, funded by the Because We Are Catholic Appeal.
This year’s Annual Appeal goal is $4 million, which helps to fund students like Palmieri, as well as projects, programs, and ministries serving children, adults, and families in the Diocese of Allentown.