St. Thomas Aquinas Scholars Program

The St. Thomas Aquinas Scholars Program is a highly competitive, integrated program of study that provides a challenging, well-rounded education to select students at Notre Dame Preparatory. The program is designed to challenge Notre Dame Prep’s most gifted and motivated students in a demanding course of study.  The program of study stimulates academic and personal development through rigorous courses, unique cultural and academic field experiences, and advanced research opportunities. Scholars are required to engage in the accelerated content of Honors and Advanced Placement courses in English, Social Studies, Mathematics and the Sciences. Aquinas Scholars are also required to take additional courses in World Languages and specific electives to develop their critical thinking skills. All Aquinas Scholars receive a St. Thomas Aquinas Scholarship. 

The St. Thomas Aquinas Scholars Program is named in honor of the saint Catholics believe to be the Church’s greatest theologian and philosopher. Students who complete this program will emerge as well-rounded young men and women, ready to face the challenges of today’s society, armed with the strength of their faith and an exemplary academic program. They will live the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas – “Three things are necessary for the salvation of man: to know what he ought to believe, to know what he ought to desire, and to know what he ought to do.”

 During their time at Notre Dame Prep, Aquinas Scholars must maintain a 3.9 grade point average (weighted); complete a minimum of seven AP courses, eight credits of honors courses, and four credits of World Language. In addition, certain electives will be required for each year. The Aquinas Scholars program will not deter a student from participating in the athletic, music, or extra-curricular programs. An additional goal (but not a requirement) for these students is achieving National Merit Finalist and AP Scholar status. The St. Thomas Aquinas Scholars Program culminates with the Aquinas Capstone Experience, an independent, research-based project within a discipline of deep personal interest to the scholar to reflect the personal, spiritual, and academic growth students experience throughout their time at NDP. Mentorship within the Capstone Experience includes personal contact with professional experts in their field, individualized support during the university discernment and application process, and analysis of potential career interests. During their final semester at Notre Dame Prep, scholars offer an oral and visual presentation of their Capstone to a large audience.

To achieve the program’s objectives, scholars are expected to meet the following requirements:

  • Maintain an Honors or Advanced Placement level of study in at least four subject areas during each academic year
  • Complete seven AP courses, two in each of the following disciplines: English, Science, and Social Studies; one in Math
  • Complete four years of consecutive study in the same World Language (Rising seniors are considered to have met this language requirement if they have completed a fourth level of world language at NDP. For example, if a current junior successfully completes Spanish IV, that student need not take another Spanish class to fulfill the requirement.)
  • Complete the following electives: Honors World Geography and Cultures - STA, Honors Philosophy, Focus Seminar/AP Capstone, Aquinas Capstone Experience 
  • Participate in an assigned number of field experiences and cultural enrichment opportunities in each academic year
  • Regular participation in mentoring meetings and program lunches
  • Plan and execute the Aquinas Capstone Experience in a subject area of the scholar’s choosing

The Benefits:
Scholars enjoy the following benefits from participation in the program:

  • A team of dedicated faculty members who act as mentors and advisers to the scholars on an ongoing individual basis
  • A curriculum that prepares scholars to succeed in the most rigorous institutions of higher learning
  • Opportunities for field experiences and cultural enrichment during each academic year
  • The substantial support of a peer group committed to similar goals of personal excellence and intellectual growth
  • Designation as an Aquinas Scholar at Commencement and identification of the program and its requirements on all college applications

Becoming a Scholar:
Enrollment in The St. Thomas Aquinas Scholars Program is limited.

After completing the standard admission requirements, candidates with a strong admissions portfolio (middle school grades, test scores, and recommendations) will be considered for the next round of interviews. Candidates must demonstrate high general intellectual ability as well as specific high-level ability in the verbal, mathematical, and language skills areas on the Archdiocesan High School Placement test. Once selected for the next round, candidates will be interviewed by the Assistant Principal for Academics and the Admissions Director. Invitations to enter The St. Thomas Aquinas Scholars Program are based on the above criteria and the interview.

St. Thomas Aquinas Scholars Program
candidates must follow all procedures for regular admission:

  • Take the HSPT Exam on January 11, 2020 or January 25, 2020
  • Submit a completed application for admission to Notre Dame Preparatory by December 20, 2019
  • Complete an admissions interview in January 2020

Standard admissions letters will be sent on February 14, 2020. Once admission decisions have been mailed, St. Thomas Aquinas Scholars Program candidates will be invited to an additional interview with the Assistant Principal for Academics and the Admissions Director in late February 2020. Final acceptances to the St. Thomas Aquinas Scholars Program will be notified by March 1, 2020

Program Goals and Experiences:


Goal and Focus: 
How will your child develop as a scholar?

Potential Field Experiences: 
How will your child develop beyond academics?

9th Grade

The goal for freshman year is to expand students’ worldview. This will begin in the summer school course, Honors World Geography and Cultures - STA. Students will complete their first credit of Social Studies courses and will delve deep into the geography and cultures of the various world civilizations. 

  • MIM Field Experience
  • ASU STEM Field Experience
  • Local Reservation Immersion Trip 

10th Grade


The goal for sophomore year is for students to develop a critical and personalized lens with which to view the world. The Honors Philosophy class develops students’ ability to think logically, analyze and solve problems, craft and assess arguments, and develop a personal moral and ethical compass. 


  • Book Talks at Local Universities
  • Phoenix Symphony Orchestra Field Experience 
  • Oxford University Immersion Trip

11th Grade

The goal for junior year is to form students’ research and critical thinking skills. Students will enroll in a research-focused class to learn how to systematically gather information to help answer a question or solve a problem. Students will also further develop their written and oral communication skills to prepare for the Capstone Experience. 


  • College Visit Trips 
  • State Capitol Field Experience
  • Southwest Shakespeare Field Experience 

12th Grade

The goal for senior year is for students to pursue a research project of their choosing, called the Aquinas Capstone Experience. This is the culminating work of a student’s studies and it represents their ability to conduct research and write effectively. This is a “passion project” that provides students with the opportunity to showcase all of the skills they’ve built in their time at NDP. 

  • To be determined by student Capstone topics. 

Suggested Course of Study:





Social Studies


World Language

General Electives

STA Scholars Program Requirements

9th Grade

Honors English 9

Honors Geometry

Honors Biology

Completed during Summer School 

Theology 1

Spanish 1/French 1

Personal Health and Wellness; Innovation and Design Based Thinking

Summer School:
Honors World Geography and Cultures - STA 

10th Grade

Honors English 10

Honors Algebra 2

Honors Chemistry

AP European History or AP World History 

Theology 2

Spanish 2/French 2

See course description guide. 

All students are required to complete 2 credits of Fine Arts classes and one additional ½ credit of PE.

Honors Philosophy 

11th Grade

AP English Lang. and Comp.

Honors PreCalc

AP Science* (see options below)

AP US History

Theology 3

Spanish 3/French 3

Focus: Seminar or AP Capstone 

12th Grade

AP English Lit. and Comp.

AP Calculus or AP Stats

AP Science* (see options below)

AP. Government or AP Economics

Theology 4

Spanish 4/French 4

Aquinas Capstone Experience - STA

STA Scholars Program Requirements

4 years; 2 AP courses

4 years; 1 AP course

4 years; 2 AP courses

4 years; 2 AP courses

4 years

4 years (must be consecutive and in the same language)

See course description guide


*Options for AP Science: Students must enroll in two of the following - AP Biology, AP Chemistry, AP Environmental Science, AP Physics 



Lisa McMorrow
Director of Counseling 
Class of 2021, 2022, 2023                    Last Names A-D

Elizabeth Barnes
Class of 2021   S-Z
Class of 2022-2023   R-Z   

Deanna Duermit
Class of 2021   E-L
Class of 2022-2023   E-J
St. Thomas Aquinas Scholars Cohort 2024

Kristin Garcia
Class of 2021   M-R
Class of 2022-2023   K-Q  

Lisa Lopez
Class of 2024 A-Z

Kelly Jean
Administrative Assistant/College Visit Coordinator