A love of airplanes

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"Ever since I was little, I loved airplanes," said Dominic Olivera, a senior at Saint John Paul the Great Catholic High School in Dumfries.

The 16-year-old senior will get his chance to study ways to build airplanes when he attends Princeton University in New Jersey this fall.

He had his choice of school acceptance offers, including the University of Pennsylvania, The University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., University of Virginia in Charlottesville, and Catholic University in Washington. All came with scholarship and grant awards.

Although his father was in the military, and he applied for, and received, two ROTC scholarships from the Air Force and Navy, he declined both when he accepted Princeton's offer. The logistics of attending Princeton made it difficult to fulfill the ROTC obligation. And going to Princeton was important to him.

"Princeton was my dream school," said Olivera.

Olivera is the oldest of four siblings. Along with parents, Mario and Gina, the family belongs to Holy Trinity Church in Gainesville, where he is an altar server. Olivera attended Holy Family Academy in Manassas before enrolling at Saint John Paul the Great, which gave him the skills needed to meet the rigors of college academic life. He said it prepared him for the real world. The school's bioethics program was especially helpful to him, and he said it was something important no matter what career path he took.

In addition to academic success, Olivera was involved in school sports and clubs. In the fall he played football, and in the spring he ran track.

With everything else going on in his life, Olivera is an Eagle Scout. His Scout project was helping move food from the House of Mercy Food Pantry and Thrift Store in Manassas from its old location to its new one.

Four years ago, when he was in the eighth grade, Olivera was a contestant on "Jeopardy for Kids." He took an online test and was selected for a live audition in Philadelphia. Fifteen students were selected and flown to Los Angeles for the show. There were five shows with three contestants each. Olivera came in second on his day.

He is looking forward to attending Princeton, but has bittersweet feelings about moving on.

"I had the best four years here (at Saint John Paul the Great)," said Olivera. "The faculty and students are great."

Those sentiments are reciprocated by school administration and staff.

"During his four years at Saint John Paul the Great, Dominic Olivera has always been an active participant in the school community. Dominic has taken a rigorous course load and has achieved academic success while enjoying high school," said Dominican Sister Mary Jordan Hoover, principal. "He is a great example of a student who pursues academic, spiritual and personal growth."

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015