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 | By Nicole Fader in collaboration with the editor

Catholic School Alumni Circle Home to Serve

Giang Pham, Naomi Islas-Lozano, and Renzo Silvera 

As Cristo Rey San José Jesuit High School alumni Giang Pham, Renzo Silvera, and Naomi Islas-Lozano embark on their second year as young professionals, they look back on their formation in Catholic school as a large part of why, every day, they adopt positive mindsets, practice staying present in the moment, and commit to never allowing a rough start to overshadow the day’s potential. “We are now blessed to see many full-circle moments where our alumni are now giving back to their communities,” stated President Silvia Mahan. Today, Giang, Naomi, and Renzo are taking their Catholic education and making a difference in the community.


Giang Pham

Giang now teaches mathematics and computer science at his high school alma mater and credits his Catholic school experience with his subsequent success at University of California San Diego and Santa Clara University’s Excellence in Catholic Education and Leadership (ExCEL). He is expressly grateful to his instructors at Cristo Rey. “Every teacher brought a passion to not only serve others but their own personal passion that connected with students on a deeper level." 

Having been where his students once were, Giang shared how relating to his student greatly enhances his teaching experience now. “I vividly recall sitting in the same classrooms, traveling in the same vans for work study, volunteering, and sharing in the transformative experiences of retreats. This builds a strong connection with my students, drawn from my personal experiences, which helps me to guide them.” The values formed along the way he now applies in his classroom. “My teachers would always connect their teaching to a form of social justice, which inspired a teaching strategy I now employ to promote justice and open-mindedness in the classroom. I am deeply committed to nurturing an environment where students not only learn academically but also grow intellectually, spiritually, and ethically.”

Naomi Islas-Lozano

Naomi Islas-Lozano is currently pursuing a master’s degree in education at Santa Clara University while working for the Diocese of San José. As part of the Catholic Master of Arts in Teaching Program (CatMAT), her instructors encouraged her to apply to teach kindergarten at a Catholic elementary school in east San José. “This is my community where I can make a difference!” she stated, crediting her Catholic education as filled with role models who did not give up on her. It is that personalized sense of love and encouragement that she hopes to bring to her students, “I will always appreciate the people who helped me get here. With their support, I was able to seek a career where I can uplift students like me.”

Renzo Silvera

Renzo Silvera attended Marquette University and now works at Cape Analytics, a Cristo Rey work study partner where he now mentors and supervises current Cristo Rey interns. He credits his goal of pursuing higher education to his own Catholic education. "The most important part of my time at Cristo Rey was the idea that we were all going to go to college." He spoke to how his education formation pervades every aspect of his data analyst career. “The cornerstone of my education was critical thinking, a skill that has become indispensable. Catholic education taught me to examine the nuances of our projects, engage deeply with complex challenges, and collaborate effectively to find solutions.”

In supervising Cristo Rey interns, a role he also once filled, ‘giving back’ is part of his professional work. “I find immense fulfillment in making a positive impact. This ethos of service, deeply rooted in my experiences at Catholic institutions, has seamlessly woven itself into my professional life.”  These experiences included his instructors identifying talents they recognized even before he did. He shared, “Catholic education played a critical role in my journey. My time there allowed me to discover and foster my passion for numbers and science, abilities I had not recognized in myself.” He summarized his experience with Catholic education: “It set me on a path filled with confidence and enthusiasm.”

The transition from being served to serving

Giang’s, Naomi’s, and Renzo’s paths typify those of tens of thousands of graduates of Catholic high schools in the Diocese of San José. While not everyone returns to work into their former schools or neighborhoods, the overall sentiment of giving back and becoming ‘people for others’ is a universal aim of all diocesan Catholic schools. Giang commented on what this means to him personally. “My transition from being the one served to the one serving others has been incredibly gratifying, as it allows me to pass on the invaluable service I received, empowering the students I now serve to navigate their own paths with confidence and purpose.”  Renzo echoed this sentiment.  “It has deepened my understanding and heightened my gratitude for the commitment and effort that goes into serving others.” For Naomi, the transition from being served and serving is the same as being loved, and loving others. “We have to remember that within serving and being served, we both gain love and experience the beauty of it.”

Nicole Fader is the marketing manager at Cristo Rey San José Jesuit High School. She attends Mass at Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church. She serves the youth and young adult programs as a volunteer and has been a dedicated confirmation leader for over 10 years. She enjoys spending time with her family during her free time.

Marissa Nichols is the managing editor and lead writer for The Valley Catholic, the magazine for the Catholic Diocese of San José. She attends mass with her family at the Santa Clara Carmelite Monastery. She loves gardening, anything yarn-related, and the outdoors.

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