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Senior Jacques Sangwa shares how Gonzaga cultivated his academics, faith and sense of community

Gonzaga student Jacques Sangwa, who plays the violin, joins other student musicians for a performance at the Kennedy Center. (Courtesy photo)

When asked about his school, senior Jacques Sangwa asked, “What is there not to like about Gonzaga?”

Sangwa – who was the National Honor Society secretary for his chapter, was Onyx Club president, participated on the retreat team, and served as a student director of recruitment with the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Foundation in Washington – has kept busy in his four years at Gonzaga College High School in Washington, D.C., despite the challenges presented his freshman year in the fall of 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sangwa will be attending Columbia University in New York City next fall, with plans to major in political science with a concentration in international relations and a minor in public health. His professional sights are set on the State Department or the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. His interest in foreign policy and legislation peaked while a student at Gonzaga, taking classes in ethics, A.P. government, A.P. U.S. history, and a class on the history of Latin America.

“A big one was history of Latin America, which I took this semester. You kind of get to see the strings that America pulls and the impact that it has on Latin America,” Sangwa said.

Sangwa said one of his proudest achievements from the last four years happened during a Charter Day school celebration during his freshman year.

“They asked me to play a week before,” Sangwa said. “That kind of gave me the confidence, especially with not really going to Gonzaga my freshman year, it was the COVID year…that really pushed me out there.”

Sangwa, who plays the double bass and violin, filled in for a student who had to withdraw from the performance at the last minute. He also plays with the DC Youth Orchestra Program and won the 2024 Musicianship Award.

“I definitely hope to play violin [at Columbia]. I think they have a couple of different orchestras that you can be a part of, so I plan to audition for one of them just to play,” Sangwa said.

Another highlight from high school he named was organizing the Kairos retreat.

Being very involved in his community, academics, and extracurriculars has created a very busy schedule for Sangwa, who imparted his time management advice to those beginning high school next year, which includes a comprehensive Google document and calendar.

“Not overwhelming yourself with everything you have to do every day, just taking a day at a time,” Sangwa said. “Definitely planning in advance has really helped me not overextend myself and get confused with everything going on.”

Sangwa said Gonzaga has furthered his faith through its encouragement of service and the sentiment of “giving back.” Students there are “always thinking about how you can help your community or just giving back. Gonzaga does a lot for students and especially for me,” Sangwa said, adding that whenever he’s asked to do something, he feels that he is “doing this for God or doing this for the community, because of everything they have done for me.”

Sangwa is also an Eagle Scout, and through Gonzaga, he coordinated a shoe drive through the Double Eagles club, which is the Boy Scouts of Gonzaga.

“Gonzaga has definitely helped me a lot in terms of my development and just all the things I have to do or get to do,” Sangwa said.

The graduating senior said he has appreciated “the holistic education of Gonzaga, that there’s anything to do on campus, you have sports, you have the academics, you have the different extracurriculars… It’s not just for one type of student, anyone can belong here.”