Catholic Standard El Pregonero
Classifieds Buy Photos

Three Good Counsel graduating seniors earn appointments to West Point

From left to right, Claire Shioutakon, Christopher De Santos and Elle Kristo of the class of 2023 at Our Lady of Good Counsel High School in Olney, Maryland, have received appointments to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. (Courtesy photos)

During their commencement ceremonies this spring, graduating seniors from Catholic high schools in The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington will step forward to receive their diplomas and various honors. The class of 2023 from Our Lady of Good Counsel High School in Olney, Maryland, has the special distinction of three of its graduating seniors being accepted into the United States Military Academy at West Point – Claire Shioutakon, Christopher De Santos and Elle Kristo.

Although she doesn’t have close family members who served in the military, Claire Shioutakon said she was drawn to that life.

“I really wanted to be part of something bigger than myself, something that made a difference outside my immediate community, and I saw that in the military,” she said.

Christopher De Santos noted that his parents, David and Kim De Santos, both served in the U.S. Navy. His appointment to West Point, he said, helps him “continue on keeping the tradition, and serve my country.”

Elle Kristo, whose grandfather served in Vietnam, said she has been interested in serving in the military. “I love challenges,” she said, adding that at West Point, she is looking forward to the discipline, the academics and “the leadership they offer.”

Shioutakon noted that, “Elle and I are best friends. We basically did the whole process together. We got to meet Chris, and he’s really cool, so we’re really excited” to enter West Point together.

Sharing that honor with his two classmates “is pretty cool,” De Santos said. “It’s nice you’re not going there alone.”

Asked what she thought about being accepted into West Point with her fellow Good Counsel graduates and for their high school to have that distinction, Kristo said, “I think it’s incredible… It’s a testament to Good Counsel and to the quality of people in the building. It just shows the drive of people there to reach for their goals.”

Christopher De Santos, who is 18, attends St. Mary’s Parish in Rockville with his family and before attending Good Counsel, he graduated from St. Mary’s School, where his mother teaches fifth grade. He has two older sisters, Megan and Abby De Santos, and a younger sister, Sarah, who will be a freshman at Good Counsel next year.

At Good Counsel, his favorite classes included Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate literature. De Santos ran cross country and track for his school and was president of the Hiking Club there. He said the Catholic high school and its retreat program fostered the importance of “service over self and knowing that even alone, someone can make a difference.” Every two weeks, he goes with his dad to bring food donations from his parish to a local pantry.

Claire Shioutakon, a 17-year-old Rockville resident, is the daughter of Tom and Christina Shioutakon. Her older sister Emily graduated from Our Lady of Good Counsel in 2022 and her brother Matthew is currently a sophomore there. Her youngest brother Charlie is a fourth grader at St. Peter’s School in Olney, where she graduated from the eighth grade after earlier attending St. Elizabeth School in Rockville.

Her favorite class at Good Counsel was physics, and this year she was a co-captain on the school’s equestrian team, riding her thoroughbred horse, Sally. The team made it to zone competition in the upper East Coast.

“Definitely being on a team has helped me be a leader and work with everybody on my team,” Shioutakon said.

Like De Santos, she spoke about how service to others was emphasized at Good Counsel.

“This year, I was lucky enough to go on an El Salvador service trip. That was the best experience I had here,” she said.

About 25 Good Counsel students made the trip this past January to a rural part of that Central American nation, where they helped build houses and spent time with children at the community center there. “They were so happy to see us. They welcomed us in the community. I still have a friendship bracelet I wear all around,” she said.

Reflecting on the impact of her Catholic education at Our Lady of Good Counsel, Shioutakon said, “I think I have the Xaverian values rooted in my brain now, and they’re a part of me. I feel like they’re a part of who I am as a leader – (the values of) compassion, zeal, humility, trust and simplicity.”

Elle Kristo, an 18-year-old resident of Clarksville, Maryland, is the daughter of Erika and Dr. Blaine Kristo. Her mother was a lawyer and later owned a yoga studio, and her father is a doctor. She has an older brother, Aidan.

Noting that “my dad is an ultra-marathon runner,” Kristo said her parents have taught her the importance of being “driven, and give 100 percent to the things you’re passionate about… (and) give as much effort as you can to get the results you want.”

At Good Counsel, Kristo’s favorite classes included IB 20th century history and AP comparative government. Playing center and midfielder on the girls soccer team there and serving as the team’s captain for the past two years “gave me a taste of leadership opportunities, and I want to continue to develop that at the academy,” she said.

As the soccer team’s captain, Kristo said she learned some important aspects of leadership, like “getting people to listen to you when you’re leading, recognizing the strengths of the people around you, and realizing how you can use their strengths for the benefit of the entire group, the team.” 

As their May 25 graduation from Our Lady of Good Counsel was approaching, the three future West Point cadets reflected on what that milestone meant to them.

“I’m pretty excited,” De Santos said. “It’s been a long four years. I did a lot, and I learned a lot.”

For Shioutakon, thinking about graduating from Good Counsel was “bittersweet. I’m definitely excited about what’s to come,” she said. “The people here have given me so much, and when I look back on the last four years, I realize how incredibly lucky I’ve been to go to this school, so I’m definitely going to miss it.”

Reflecting on her dreams for the future, Kristo said, “I would like to go career military” and major in international affairs.

“I’m excited for the next four years, but I’m very lucky and grateful to have attended Good Counsel,” she said. “I definitely will miss the community and all the people in the building, and I hope to continue those relationships at West Point.”