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California high school brings large pool of students to WVU

Photo of Grant Doohen, Joey Ceglia, Nick Spinello, Tom Nichols, Frank Ceglia, Magdalena Langdon

From Left to right: Grant Doohen, Joey Ceglia, Nicholas Spinello, Thomas Nichols, Frank Ceglia and Magdalena Langdon.

Morgantown is 2,449 miles from Valencia, California, but that hasn’t stopped Trinity Classical Academy alumni from attending West Virginia University.


The Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources has the largest number of alumni from the small private school to attend an out-of-state college with six students currently enrolled, one committed to attend in the fall and countless others visiting throughout the year for visitation days and campus tours.

“The Statler College has built a great relationship with this group of students, which is important because their high school classmates hear about all the opportunities at WVU, and it makes them consider attending,” said Cate Schlobohm, outreach coordinator. “We are always trying to recruit more non-resident students to help enrich the culture of our college by having students from diverse backgrounds.”

“We have been encouraged by the successes our students have been able to achieve at WVU,” said Liz Caddow, Head of School. “The fact that our first alum to attend was invited to participate in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon and offered the opportunity to study abroad among other opportunities has created an interest for other Trinity students. These opportunities have encouraged and excited our students to apply to WVU. Trinity students are taught to work diligently and WVU is an environment where they can thrive.” 

The academy’s legacy at WVU started with senior industrial engineering student Frank Ceglia, who visited WVU under the recommendation of his uncle and aunt, Jed and Nancy DiPaolo. Jed is a 1976 engineering alumnus, a member of the Statler College’s advisory committee and a 2013 honorary degree recipient. Nancy is a 1976 College of Business and Economics alumna and the past chair of WVU’s Alumni Association. In 2009, the DiPaolo’s were honored as the “Most Loyal Alumni Mountaineers” during Mountaineer Week.

“I originally planned on attending college back home, but when I heard about WVU’s engineering program, I had to visit,” said Ceglia. “That visit sold me on the school because of how hands-on the program is. Statler was the only school I visited where undergraduates can participate in research and design projects from day one.”

Ceglia is a resident assistant, participated on WVU’s 2015 Solar Decathlon team, is vice president of the club golf team and has founded two student organizations at WVU, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and Young Americans for Freedom. He has held co-op and internship positions with Altec and FOX TV. Before moving to Philadelphia to intern in technical sales at NALCO after graduation in May, he’ll finish an undergraduate research position at WVU’s Center for Alternative Fuels, Engines and Emissions.

“WVU is such a great engineering school that gives student’s autonomy in their time here,” said Ceglia. “It’s a difficult program, but it’s built for anyone with passion and motivation to be successful.”

The next two to make the trek to Morgantown were Grant Doohen and Nicholas Spinello. A sophomore computer science major, Doohen was impressed with the Statler College’s Lane Department of Computer Science and Engineering and knowing someone at WVU made him more confident in moving so far from home.

“Knowing others that have taken the plunge to attend WVU and really like it made me more comfortable making the decision to come,” said Doohen. “It also didn’t hurt that the fundamentals of engineering staff were all really welcoming.”

Doohen, who interns for Leidos year-round, enjoys keeping in contact with students from his high school to encourage them to attend WVU.

“When I hear about students that are thinking about attending WVU, I pressure them to visit,” said Doohen. “Once they’re here, I really try to show them just how much better WVU is than all their other options.”

Spinello swears he isn’t crazy for leaving sunny California for cold winters in the Mountain State.

“People always tell me I’m crazy for leaving California, but they don’t understand just how much opportunity WVU gives its students compared to other engineering programs,” said Spinello, a sophomore mechanical engineering major.

As a freshman, Spinello was involved with the Solar Decathlon team, an opportunity he says wasn’t available until junior year at other schools he visited. He joins Ceglia as a resident assistant and is the project manager for WVU’s 2017 Solar House. An avid snowboarder, Spinello has welcomed the change in geography.

“You really can’t understand what it’s like moving across the country until you do it,” said Spinello. “It’s a whole new world, but it’s great. Everyone is welcoming and the professors care and want to see you succeed.”

Three freshmen round out the California contingent.

Frank’s younger brother, Joseph Ceglia plans to major in industrial engineering and was eager to become a Mountaineer for the hands-on opportunities it provides.

“My favorite thing about WVU is the fact that everyone – professors and staff – truly care about your success, not just in college but for your future,” said Joseph. “Everyone that I have personally talked to has been very informative and helpful.”

Joseph helped his brother in co-founding Young Americans for Freedom and is also a member of the club golf team. Over the next three years, he hopes to be involved with the Solar Decathlon team and other groups around campus.

Thomas Nichols, who plans to major in computer science, was drawn to WVU after a recommendation from the Ceglia family. After doing his own research on the engineering program, he was sold.

“When deciding on a school, I made sure to research the academic accomplishments of the faculty,” said Nichols. “I found that WVU’s engineering faculty had degrees in a variety of engineering disciplines rather than hard science majors. That was really important to me.”

Nichols is a part of WVU’s Experimental Rocketry Club and Amateur Radio Club. He thinks the best aspect of attending WVU is the atmosphere.

“Living on the Evansdale campus where the engineering buildings are located puts you in close proximity with many other engineering students,” said Nichols. “There’s a community that is built around being an engineering major.”

Magdalena Langdon hopes to major in electrical engineering and says having former classmates at WVU is an added bonus to WVU’s comprehensive engineering program.

“Coming to WVU not only gives us an opportunity to receive a great engineering education, but is an opportunity to experience new places and new people,” said Langdon.

She often gets phone calls from high school classmates or their parents asking questions about WVU. Langdon gives her best advice on what classes to take, what dormitory to live in and which dining halls serve the best food.

Langdon is a member of WVU’s Experimental Rocketry Club and the Bennett Hall Council and works for dining services. On life at WVU, Langdon says the best part is the people she has met.

“To the girl from Maryland I sit next to in French, to my chemistry laboratory partner from Minnesota or the student from Guam that I sit next to on the bus, I’ve met so many new people and have learned from their different backgrounds and life experiences,” said Langdon. “Through these types of encounters, I’ve developed so much as a person while at WVU.”

“Jed and I are thrilled that our ‘California cousins’ trusted family recommendations that their son, Frankie, attend WVU,” said Nancy DiPaolo. “As crazy as it seemed for Frankie to travel across the country to achieve his dream of becoming an engineer, WVU seemed to be a perfect fit. While Mountaineer Spirit is highly contagious, we could have never anticipated that, based on Frankie’s experience, Frankie, his brother Joey and their parents would become actively involved in convincing Trinity students and their families that WVU is a special ‘old gold and blue’ treasure. 

“How humbling and unexpected to see so many students join the Mountaineer family as a result of true teamwork: West Virginia family roots, WVU alumni recommendations, WVU’s great academic programming and support for students and the Ceglia family’s strong ties to Trinity,” DiPaolo continued.  “We are proud of these new Mountaineers and very thankful for the Ceglia family!”



For more information on news and events in the West Virginia University Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, contact our Marketing and Communications office:

Phone: 304-293-4135