Visitation student achieves award trifecta

Last spring, Catherine Link received the gold medal for the National Spanish Exam for Level 3. (Submitted photos)

Catherine Link, a student at Visitation School, is only a junior but is already the recipient of multiple awards. 

The Inver Grove Heights resident was selected as a 2016 Minnesota Affiliate winner of the National Center for Women and Information Award for Aspirations in Computing.

“I was really happy, obviously, but was a little surprised. I got an email and was like ‘Mom, I won!’ I don’t know if I was expecting that,” Link says.

She became interested in technology and computers when she joined the all-girl robotics team in high school. As part of the programming sub-team, Link learned how to write code to get the robot to perform tasks.

Link says she thinks it is important for girls to become interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) at an early age. This led to the inspiration for the work she did for the Gold Award she will receive in June from the Girl Scouts of Minnesota and Wisconsin River Valleys.

For her project, Link started a FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Lego League for middle school girls at St. Joseph’s Catholic School in West St. Paul. 

“When I was [a student] there, I participated in math club and there was some other science and math clubs, but there aren’t very many any more,” Link says. 

Link’s sister is in seventh grade at St. Joseph’s, and Link says she started thinking about her sister’s friends and all of the middle school girls who didn’t have the opportunity to get involved in STEM clubs like she did.

Link helped mentor the team, which competed in December and received the Innovative Design award. Link says she saw the middle-school girls having fun while still learning new disciplines like programming.

The second part of her project was a STEM night at St. Joseph’s. The evening included a biologist guest speaker, a question-and-answer session with a panel of STEM experts and over a dozen hands-on stations with a variety of STEM-related activities. 


Spanish-language whiz

Link is also one of 24 students across the country to receive the National Spanish Exam Junior Travel Award trip to Spain. Winning students must have taken the 2015 National Spanish exam. Link took the NSE level 3 test last spring and placed first among the Minnesota test-takers

“You can learn a language in a classroom, and there’s a lot to be said for that, but to actually go to a country and speak the language for 10 days will be a great way to actually know and learn the culture and language,” Link says.

Francie Cutter Sullivan, Link’s Spanish teacher at Visitation, says this is a highly competitive scholarship. Cutter Sullivan says she was very happy when she found out Link was receiving the award and trip. 

Cutter Sullivan says Link has achieved a balance between her involvement with math and science, and her involvement in humanities. 

While Link is only a junior, she is already looking ahead to college, with thoughts of possibly majoring in computer engineering and minoring in Spanish.

“I think it’s kind of inspiring to see I’ve done this work, and I’ve gotten recognition and it really drives me to keep pursuing that, to know I can accomplish this,” Link says. 


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