Get Started

January 23, 2024

Angels Apply for Simons Program

Alessandra Boncaldo of Stony Point, New York, and Yeon “Elizabeth” Choe of Nutley, New Jersey, have been nominated to apply for the 2024 Simons Summer Research Program. Both are members of the Class of 2025 at the Academy of the Holy Angels.


Boncaldo and Choe will now submit their applications for this highly selective, national science exploration, which will be held at Stony Brook University from July 1 through August 9. Simons Fellows team up with faculty mentors, work with a team, and produce a written research abstract and poster that are presented at a symposium. Each attendee also takes part in workshops, tours, and discussions, and receives a stipend. Applicants will be notified of admissions decisions in early April.

Alessandra Boncaldo
Yeon “Elizabeth” Choe


Boncaldo, who has a deep interest in physics and general scientific research, is optimistic about her candidacy.


“I enjoy taking the knowledge I have learned and applying it practically to discover new things, and this program would give me the opportunity to do exactly that,” Boncaldo said. “I participated in the FRONTIERS program at Worcester Polytechnic Institute last summer and, as part of my chosen major, I got the chance to explore a photonics lab at WPI. I loved seeing the practical work the students and professors were doing with different concepts that we had learned in class, which inspired me to apply to this program to study physics.”


She said the Simons Summer Research Program would allow her to prepare for college by providing her with experience in an actual research lab and opportunities to build connections with professors.


“Holy Angels has prepared me for this type of immersive study by promoting the values of hard work and dedication,” she added. “The courses I take at AHA are anything but easy, and it take a lot of extra effort in order to achieve good results. Of course, putting in that effort is difficult, but the work I have done at AHA has made me try my absolute best in everything that I do. If I am accepted into this immersive study program, it will certainly require a great amount of effort to complete, but I feel that my education at AHA has prepared me well for this challenge.”


Boncaldo received AHA’s Mother Caroline Scholarship, Sister Mary Donna Dunphy Scholarship, and Sister Catherine Greene Kindness Award. She has studied piano for the past 10 years, and is principal percussionist for the AHA Orchestra. In November 2023, she was inducted into Tri-M, the national honor society for accomplished musicians who demonstrate scholarship, character, service, and leadership.


She earned two gold medals for her work on the National Italian Exam, and is now a member of the Italian National Honor Society. Boncaldo is also fluent in German, and received a 5 (top score) on the Advanced Placement German Exam. She has been studying at GISNY German Language School for 11 years, and has received four gold medals for her performance on the National German Exam. Her poetry entry garnered first prize in the ZFA National Creative Contest.


This Angel established AHA’s Germanic Cultural Society, which she serves as president. Her activities at AHA also include serving as promotions director and editorial assistant for “Blueprint,” the Academy’s literary magazine. She served as Robotics Club treasurer and a member of the programming team. As an Angel Ambassador, Boncaldo interacts with prospective Angels and their families, providing campus tours and answering questions about AHA. She is also involved in Angels in Sound. Boncaldo has been skiing for 12 years, and excels in fencing. During her sophomore year, she earned Second Team All-League honors in sabre.


Her volunteer work has included lending a hand at Cropsey Community Farm. Her responsibilities included transplanting flowers and other plants, harvesting crops, and assisting at the farmers market.


Boncaldo has completed the Manhattan College School of Science’s online physics labs. She also participated in the Stevens Institute of Technology: Engineering Boot Camp, where she learned about eight engineering fields and completed a LEGO robotics research project. At the Worcester Polytechnic Institute: Frontiers, she majored in advanced modern physics and minored in an introductory course in electronic composition. Boncaldo also earned a merit-based full scholarship to attend the Advanced Space Academy in Huntsville, Alabama.


Elizabeth Choe said, “I believe that I am a good candidate for the Simons Summer Research Program due to my interest and experience in computer science, a field in STEM which is now, more than ever, continually shaping the world and how we interact with it.”


Choe continually develops her knowledge of computer science and coding through classes at AHA, independent learning, competitions, game design, and volunteer teaching. Choe expresses her interest in computer science by learning programming languages, using online resources, and applying them by coding her own games and applications. She also participates in programming competitions such as the USACO HPE Code Wars and Code Quest, for which she has gained national-level awards. Choe also received certification as a Microsoft Technology Associate in Java and Python.


In 2022, Choe earned the Presidential Volunteer Service Award (Gold) for her work with Voice of Calling, a California-based organization. As a volunteer programming teacher for VOC, Choe develops and teaches online coding lessons, provides homework assistance, and shares tips with other coding teachers. She also created and uploaded YouTube videos that cover topics and programming problems.

She also volunteers as an introductory programming teacher via Future of Tanzania NPO. Her work with this organization facilitates the mission of democratizing computer education in developing countries. She provides her students with the tools they need to thrive in a digital age through online coding lessons on Python. She prepares lesson plans and live instruction during online lessons, and answers questions and assists students with homework and projects.


At Hilltop Haven in Paterson, Choe prepares and serves food to shelter residents and visitors, and assists with child care by playing games and making crafts with children.


“I hope to participate in this (Simons) program for the amazing opportunity to delve into advanced topics in a practical, hands-on way,” Choe said. “As I realize that there is so much more to learn and develop my knowledge and skills in this field, I wish to do so alongside like-minded peers and experienced professionals. Being able to participate in the Simons Research Program would be an invaluable time to not only learn and evolve my process, but also to network with others who share a similar passion for STEM.”


She said AHA has allowed her to connect with other STEM-minded peers in class and during extracurricular activities. Choe is founder and president of AHA’s ACSL Club, which introduces Angels to competitive programming and fundamental computer science topics.


She currently takes AP Computer Science, and is an active member of the Math Club. She participated in the 2021, 2022, and 2023 AMC 10 Competitions, and recently entered Mu Alpha Theta, the national math honor society. In addition to being proficient in Java, Python, and C++, Choe is fluent in English, Korean, and Japanese.


In 2023, Choe finished second in the Advanced Division of the Lockheed Martin Code Quest, and earned the Gold Award in the International Competition (Intermediate) of the American Computer Science League. She also received the 2022 Gold Award in the league’s international competition (beginner).


Recently, she attended a Rhode Island School of Design Pre-College course, where she produced three-dimensional sculptures, two-dimensional designs, charcoal drawings, and abstract images. Her work was critiqued by peers and professors. She continues to study art close to home. At Holy Angels, Choe shares her artistry as a member of the AHA Stage Crew and Sound Crew.