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Engineering and chemistry classes at Holy Cross spur student to major in chemical engineering

Catherine Della Rocca, a member of the class of 2024 at the Academy of the Holy Cross in Kensington, will be attending the University of Maryland this fall and study chemical engineering. (Photo courtesy of the Academy of the Holy Cross)

After enjoying her engineering, science and math classes at the Academy of the Holy Cross in Kensington, Catherine Della Rocca – the valedictorian of the class of 2024 there – will be attending the University of Maryland in College Park, where she plans to study chemical engineering.

“I’ve always been interested in engineering since I was young,” said Della Rocca. After taking a chemistry class at Holy Cross, she decided to combine those two interests as her college major.

Her favorite classes at Holy Cross were in the school’s Project Lead the Way Engineering Program, which includes opportunities for students to solve engineering problems. “I liked that I was able to build things” and the hands-on learning in those classes, she said.

In addition to being in the National Honor Society at Holy Cross, Della Rocca was also a member of the Science National Honor Society and the Science Alliance. She also served as co-president of the Math Honors Society and the Science Honors Society there. Explaining her love for science, Della Rocca said she likes “to learn about the world around me.” And she added that she loves math because “it’s like a puzzle you’re trying to solve to get a solution.”

Asked about what she would like to do as a chemical engineer, Della Rocca said, “I want to help people under-represented in chemical engineering… so the research we do applies to a wider group of people.

The Holy Cross senior is the daughter of Maria and Brian Della Rocca and she has a younger sister, Chelsea, who is an eighth grader at St. Elizabeth School in Rockville, which Catherine earlier graduated from. The family attends St. Elizabeth Parish.

At her Catholic high school, Catherine Della Rocca was a leader in the school’s Kairos retreat program, and in recent summers, she has volunteered as a camp counselor for a Girl Scouts camp.

“I went there as a camper,” she said. “I teach the girls camping skills… It’s just time in the woods with your friends.”

At Holy Cross, Della Rocca also experienced time in the woods with her friends while running cross country for two years, and she competed in indoor and outdoor track and played on her school’s soccer team. Her athletic experience at Holy Cross taught her the importance of being motivated, she said, adding, “If you want to do well, you have to put in the effort.”

As her graduation approached, Della Rocca said she appreciated her time at the Academy of the Holy Cross, which is sponsored by the Holy Cross Sisters. “The friendships I’ve made here have taught me about people from different backgrounds and perspectives in life. I’ll definitely go forward learning from people,” she said.