Sophia Buono, Valedictorian of the Class of 2014, graduated in May 2018 from the University of Notre Dame with the highest Latin honors, summa cum laude. That same weekend, she was also inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa, the prestigious honor society that recognizes high academic achievement in the liberal arts and sciences.
“I am so grateful for all the opportunities, challenges, and joys my Notre Dame experience has brought me,” said Sophia. “I know they will all push me to keep growing intellectually, professionally, and personally.”
Sophia majored in the Program of Liberal Studies (PLS), Notre Dame’s Great Books program, and minored in education. In her junior year, she received the PLS Cronin Award, which recognizes the best student essay of the year.
While deeply grateful for these distinctions, Sophia points to her senior thesis as her favorite accomplishment of her collegiate career. “I had never written an essay of that length (55 pages) before,” she said. “To spend a whole year thinking about and digging into one topic really exposed me to a whole new world of research writing, and I really value the whole process.”
Sophia’s thesis is entitled “Education in Virtue Through Friendship: How the Teacher-Student Relationship can Fuel Holistic Education.” It connects the Aristotelian understanding of friendship with teaching methods to help students grow in virtue. One section includes interviews with faculty and staff at Oakcrest and one of its sister schools, The Willows Academy.
At Notre Dame, Sophia also applied her love for writing to journalism. During her freshman year, she began writing for The Irish Rover, the school’s independent student newspaper. The Rover’s mission is to defend Notre Dame’s Catholic identity through reporting about campus events and administrative decisions, as well as through editorial writing.
“I found out about the Rover through Alexandra DeSanctis,” Sophia said. Alexandra (’12) was the managing editor of the paper at the time, and the following year she worked as executive editor. “It was great to have an Oakcrest buddy, almost like a big sister, looking out for me and encouraging me to get involved in a cause I cared about,” Sophia added.
Throughout her four years at Notre Dame, Sophia wrote 43 Rover articles
and edited many more. She succeeded Alexandra as managing editor during her sophomore year and worked as editor-in-chief during her junior year.
“Being a part of the Rover taught me a wealth of important lessons, from writing and editing to managing our website and contacting donors,” said Sophia. “It was a lot of work, but very much worth it. Our team is fantastic, and I made some wonderful friends through that work.” After completing her year as editor-in-chief, Sophia handed the reins to Sarah Ortiz (’15), who had also been heavily involved in the newspaper as the Religion & Ethics editor.
“The Rover stood for values that really resonated with us Oakies, so a lot of us naturally dove in,” said Sophia. “And our united commitment to the paper brought us even closer together.”
Working for the Rover
led Sophia to explore journalism opportunities outside of Notre Dame. After working for two summers at the Program for Academic and Leadership Skills (PALS) in Washington, D.C., she obtained a summer internship at the USA TODAY editorial page. There she published two articles
, which are still available online. Her second piece was featured on USA TODAY’S homepage the day it was published, and it received over 300 online comments.
Sophia participated in several other activities at Notre Dame. She was an active member of the Love and Fidelity Network’s Notre Dame affiliate, the Students for Child-Oriented Policy. She also took part in the Notre Dame Chorale and the University Concert Band for several semesters. And during her senior year, she attended an Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) conference in Fort Lauderdale, FL about free speech on college campuses.
“I attended the ISI conference not only to learn more about free speech,” said Sophia, “but also to be with Sarah Ortiz as she received an award there. I’m so grateful I got to celebrate that special accomplishment with her.”
Sophia continues to pursue journalism at The Weekly Standard, where she currently works as Editorial Assistant. She often looks back on her time at Oakcrest in relation to her college and professional career.
“Without a doubt, Oakcrest helped shape me into who I am today,” said Sophia. “I learned to study hard, think deeply about a range of subjects, and write very well.”
She added that her Oakcrest education impacted her personal growth as well. “On top of the academic instruction, Oakcrest taught me a great deal about how to be a good friend, a confident young women, and a joyful daughter of God.” Since graduating from Oakcrest, Sophia has visited several times to give talks in classes, attend events, and conduct research for her senior thesis. She also worked as a summer intern in the administration in 2016.
“For me, it is only fitting to give back to the school that has done and continues to do so much for me,” said Sophia. “I know I will be thanking Oakcrest for the rest of my life.”