The Academy Program at Juan Diego Catholic High School




The purpose of the Juan Diego Academy (JDA) at Juan Diego Catholic High School is to provide a challenging academic curriculum that inspires the best from top students by:

  • providing a rigorous program of advanced courses (Honors and AP courses)
  • offering a variety of learning experiences that include seminars, internships, and study trips outside the school
  • allowing a flexible curriculum for students whose interest might be concentrated in a specific discipline



Students who enter the JDA can choose between four courses of study (also referred to as Academies), each led by a faculty coordinator. They include the following:

  • Academies Coordinator – Mrs. Vanessa Jacobs
  • Academy of Sciences – Dr. Christine Celestino
  • Academy of Fine Arts – Ms. Denisse Vallecillos
  • Academy of Liberal Arts – Ms. Stephanie Sawyer and Mrs. Kirsten McHugh
  • AP Capstone – Mr. Dave Hausser & Mrs. Vanessa Jacobs


Student participation:

Not counting underclassmen who are in the process of the various academy programs, last year’s senior class of 184 students (class of 2018) boasted 80 Academy students (42% of the class).


Average ACT Scores:


Basic academic experiences common across all four of the Academies

Although each of the Academies offer distinct experiences, they all have several key objectives in common. These include: Advanced coursework, community collaboration, service and research. For more information visit the Course Catalog.

Follow JD Academies on Instagram @jd_academies

AP Capstone™ at Juan Diego Catholic High School

The AP Capstone™ is an innovative new College Board Diploma program, designed in collaboration with leading colleges and universities, that equips students with the independent research, collaborative teamwork, and communication skills they will need to succeed in higher education.

AP Capstone™ is built on the foundations of two AP® courses – AP® Seminar and AP® Research – and is designed to complement and enhance in-depth, discipline-specific work in four (4) other AP® courses. In AP® Seminar, students investigate both scholarly and contemporary issues from multiple perspectives, gathering and analyzing information from various sources in order to develop credible and valid evidence-based arguments.

In AP® Research, students cultivate the skills and discipline necessary to conduct independent research in order to produce and defend a scholarly academic thesis.

The AP Capstone™program aims to empower students by:

  • Engaging them with rigorous college-level curricula focused on the skills necessary for successful college completion
  • Extending their abilities to synthesize information from multiple perspectives and apply skills in new situations and cross-curricular contexts
  • Enabling students to collect and analyze information with accuracy and precision
  • Cultivating their abilities to craft, communicate, and defend evidence-based arguments
  • Providing opportunities for students to practice disciplined and scholarly research skills while exploring relevant topics that appeal to their interest and curiosity

How it works:

• Students who earn scores of 3 or higher in AP® Seminar and AP® Research and on four (4) additional AP® Exams of their choosing will receive the AP Capstone Diploma™.

• Students who earn scores of 3 or higher in AP® Seminar and AP® Research but not on four additional AP® Exams will receive the AP® Seminar and Research Certificate™.

Juan Diego students (including Freshmen) qualify to enroll in AP® courses based on their College Board Accuplacer Diagnostic® scores in Reading Comprehension and Sentence Skills and an advanced Lexile (reading level) score. Juan Diego administers the Accuplacer Diagnostic® exams & Lexile exam to all incoming students as their Educational Assessment Exam. Students take these exams each succeeding year.

Students pursuing the Capstone course track typically take AP® Art History their freshman year. Sophomore year they take AP® World History and AP® Seminar, two separate courses joined by a theme of in-depth writing, research, and oral presentations. Sophomores frequently take additional AP® Courses, such as Biology, Environmental Science, or Psychology. In their Junior year, students continue to hone their analytical reading, writing, and presentation skills in Capstone Theology, while pursuing additional AP® courses. Students round out their Capstone experience with an independent research project culminating in a research paper and an oral defense.

AP® courses offered at Juan Diego Catholic High School include:

AP Art History AP Biology AP Calculus AB AP Calculus BC AP Chemistry AP Comparative Government/Politics
AP Computer Science A


AP Computer Science Principles AP English Language and Composition AP English Literature AP Environmental Science AP European History
AP French AP Government/Politics: US AP Music Theory AP Physics 1 AP Physics C AP Psychology
AP Research AP Seminar AP Spanish AP Statistics AP Studio Art: 2-D Design AP US History
AP World History


    What Juan Diego Students Are Saying:

AP Capstone helped me build the reading, writing, oral performance, and research skills that I have found to be essential for continuing to pursue academic success at an academically rigorous institution of higher education. Yet, before AP Capstone was the foundation of my foremost academic abilities, it was the foundation of my confidence. The AP Capstone community, with its insightful and generous students and faculty, gave me the confidence to showcase all the scholastic skills it taught me. I consider AP Capstone to be an incrediblyformative, unique Juan Diego experience, even outside of the classroom– I recommend it to every prospective Juan Diego student.

I am proud to write that I owe nearly all of my academic achievements to the AP Capstone community at Juan Diego.

— Sophia Berrocal, Class of 2022, current student at Columbia University

    What Juan Diego Parents Are Saying:

“We want to commend Juan Diego not just for offering AP courses, which all high schools do, and are, in themselves, wonderful academic opportunities, but for staffing almost all the AP courses with quality educators. Our expectations have been exceeded by the quality educational opportunities that Juan Diego offers. . . . That being said, the AP Capstone program is icing on Juan Diego’s academic cake!”

— Tina and Rich Whittington