Faith and good works

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In Luke's Gospel, Jesus tells His disciples to give without hesitation - that if they see a need, they should try to meet that need: "If a man borrows your coat, give him your shirt as well," (Lk 6:30). Jordan Kijewski, a senior at Paul VI Catholic High School in Fairfax, lives the example Jesus described by recognizing the needs of others and trying to meet them - all while attaining excellence in academics, sports and extracurriculars.

The list of her senior year responsibilities is staggering: editor-in-chief of the yearbook; president of both Big Brothers/Big Sisters and model judiciary; executive board of student ambassadors. During her freshman year, Kijewski took first place in microbiology at the school science fair. In the following years, her high grades earned her membership in the National Honor Society and the National Association of High School Scholars.

When she arrives on the grounds of the University of Virginia in the fall, she will continue her family's legacy of learning and is considering pre-law. Her older sister, Lindsey, graduated from UVA, and sister, Danielle, studied at Harvard and Oxford.

"At home, my parents were constantly encouraging my sisters and me to do our best," said Kijewski. "That's what I tried to do during my time at Paul VI."

A true scholar-athlete, Kijewski made her mark in track and field. "During my sophomore and first year on the team, I only ran," she said. "However, Coach Hutson wanted me to try jumping. … I began competing in both long and triple jumps. The technique was difficult to learn and still challenges me today."

In only her second year of jumping, Kijewski hit 35 feet in the triple jump - not only a personal best but also enough to win the gold medal at the Virginia Catholic Schools State Championships.

Beyond her personal accomplishments, Kijewski has made it a point to try to meet the needs of others.

"I have always heard around my home that I should always try to 'give back' whenever I am able," she said.

As a freshman, she joined Student Ambassadors and Big Brothers/Big Sisters, both of which aim to welcome students new to the school. But Kijewski wanted to reach out even more.

"At the end of my sophomore year, (Paul VI pastoral counselor) Mrs. (Denyse) Kline and I, among others, discussed the possibility of helping students who were faced with adversity," she said. "By the beginning of my junior year, FISH - Friends Inviting Sharing Healing - was born and soon snowballed."

Through regular lunch meetings and prayer services, FISH provides a place for students who feel left out or are going through difficult times.

"Until this group came along, I had no idea how many friends at school needed someone to talk to," Kijewski said. "Having such a channel through which teenagers can communicate has been a win-win situation for everyone involved.

"We are not counselors - just friends who provide an extra layer of support wherever it is needed," she said.

Kijewski is sentimental about leaving Paul VI but feels well-prepared for college. She said she has just begun to appreciate "what being a member of the Catholic community really means."

"My faith has become more than going to church with my family every Sunday," she said. "It has become incorporated into every aspect of my life and something I truly believe I could not live without."

Witko can be reached at mwitko@catholicherald.com.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015