Graduations

File photo by Rachel Shapiro

By Jill Webb

Ryan Bloom and Leo Chen have been announced as Newfield High School Class of 2017 respective valedictorian and salutatorian.

Bloom has managed to handle a full plate of academics, extracurricular clubs and a top student government position while amassing a 101.9 GPA to be named valedictorian.

Ryan Bloom

The senior graduates with 42 college credits and was fully engaged outside of the classroom with his extracurricular activities. Not only was he the president of his senior class, but also held positions as  secretary of the Thespian Honor Society,  co-president and editor of the newspaper club, and  PSTA council delegate. He was also a member of the Tri-M Music Honor Society and World Language Honor Society.

Community service efforts Bloom has been a part of include serving as a religion education catechist at St. Gerard’s Majella Church in Port Jefferson Station for five years, and volunteering for a special needs bowling program during the summer.

He believes his personal goals along with his family’s support has driven him to attaining top-of-the-class status.

“The combination of those two has really pushed me towards success and has made me want to always go one step further than I already have,” he said.

Theresa Bloom, the valedictorian’s mother, recalls the perseverance he demonstrated from as early as 3 years old.

“He was always a child that was very organized and very detail-oriented in the way he actually did anything,” she said.

Bloom credits his time as class president as having a huge influence on learning useful skills for his future.

“You’re working with over 350 students and trying to have those communication skills and also leadership skills,” he said. “It’s taught me a lot [about] the virtue of patience”

Leo Chen

He notes his leadership positions and involvement with clubs during high school have led him to  explore career options in law or government. He will be majoring in political science at Northeastern University.

Like Bloom, Leo Chen has cultivated an impressive resume, which includes a GPA of 100.2 with 45 college credits.

The senior has been recognized as an AP Scholar with Distinction due to his performance on multiple AP exams. Outside of academics, Chen was a very active member at Newfield, as a member of the book club, Tri-M Music Honor Society, National Honor Society, select jazz band and  chamber orchestra.

Chen also is a promising athlete, and captained  the varsity track and field and cross-country teams.

One of his proudest accomplishments was achieving a personal best in the mile, with a time of 4 minutes, 32 seconds. Chen grew up with asthma, saying it was a “good achievement to feel like I overcame that.”

He said for students looking to be at the top of their class in the future, they shouldn’t think about it too hard.

“I don’t think your goal should be to achieve the ranking,” he said. “You should just find yourself — do what you like to do.”

In the fall, Chen will be a computer science major at Yale University.

Scenes from Centereach's Class of 2017 commencement ceremony June 25. Photo by Greg Catalano

By Jill Webb

Leading Centereach High School Class of 2017 are valedictorian Demi Lambadis and salutatorian Kelly McLaughlin.

Lambadis divided her time between a busy academic schedule, student government involvement and extracurricular activities.

Since seventh grade, Lambadis has had it in the back of her mind that becoming valedictorian was “more of a personal goal as opposed to anything external.”

Demi Lambadis

She  graduates with 10 AP classes under her belt, along with three additional college-level courses. Her extensive AP course load has earned her recognition from the College Board as an AP Scholar with Honors.

In addition to academic success, Lambadis has served  as both the president and vice president for her class. She was also acting vice president of the school’s Leaders’ Club.

Agnieszka Taciak, an AP Environmental teacher at Centereach  whom Lambadis was close with, said she’s proud of the dedication her student continued to give to her curriculum.

“There’s no secret to it — she simply does work, and is very proud of the quality of the work,” Taciak said. “And she’s very humble about the approach to work.”

Dance is one of Lambadis’ favorite hobbies, and this year she’s once again on the road to nationals. She noted she also placed at every regional and national dance competition she entered.

Taciak recalls one instance where Lambadis’ work ethic stood out to her. The teacher had given an assignment over the same weekend her student had to travel to a dance competition.

“I was reasonably expecting that she would have to be asking for a time extension,” Taciak said, but was surprised when instead, Lambadis came into school that Monday smiling with the assignment ready in hand.

For students looking to be a future valedictorian, Lambadis said, “the main thing to focus on is to not worry about everyone else, and to worry about yourself.”

Come September, Lambadis will be a freshman at Lehigh University, studying biomechanical engineering.

Kelly McLaughlin

Salutatorian Kelly McLaughlin, like Lambadis, has completed an extensive amount of AP courses, finishing with 11, and adding four college-level classes onto that list.

Outside of academics, McLaughlin had a busy schedule. She balanced her time between serving as  president of her school’s National Spanish Honor Society and as an active member of the National Junior Honor Society.

Laura Melfi speaks very fondly of McLaughlin’s presence in her AP calculus class, regarding her as sometimes being a secondary teacher.

“Kids would ask her questions ‘Kelly, how’d you do this? What’d you do?’ if I was busy helping someone else,” Melfi said.

In the future, McLaughlin hopes to become a math teacher, citing her teachers, including Melfi, as inspiring her to take that career path. Melfi said she feels McLaughlin possesses the traits needed to be an effective math teacher.

“She doesn’t let her intelligence make her feel like she’s better than anybody else,” Melfi said. “She will help everybody and anybody.”

McLaughlin also sets aside time to give back to her community by volunteering as a tutor for students at the Middle Country Public Library. Her volunteer experience has landed her some tutoring jobs, usually in math and science.

McLaughlin said she enjoys being able to help out.

“For me to make someone understand it — that feels really good that I have that impact on them,” she said.

This experience will be handy as McLaughlin goes off to study mathematics and education SUNY Geneseo.

Ward Melville valedictorian Kirti Nath and salutatorian Isabelle Scott before the graduation ceremony. Photo from Three Village Central School District

For Ward Melville’s valedictorian Kirti Nath, the importance of failure has been her biggest lesson during high school.

“The thing I can take away most, more than anything, is failure is progress, and you have to go with the flow,” she said in a phone interview. “When things happen to you, they may be a blessing in disguise, or they’re just part of the whole process.”

While Nath may recognize the value of failure in life, her high school career has been filled with many successes. In addition to taking advanced placement classes and a 106.52 average, she was involved in the school’s Science Olympiad program and was captain her senior year.  She was editor-in-chief of the school newspaper and also  a member of the Spanish Honor Society and National Honor Society.

She said some of her best memories from Ward Melville are her times with the Science Olympiad team, especially when they qualified for nationals in 2016 after not expecting to. She said there was a point this year where they thought they were behind, so the members put in extra time working on the competition. They scheduled seven practices, some as long as three hours, in a span of eight days.

“The team became more of a family than a team,” she said.

Gary Vorwald, Nath’s Science Olympiad coach when she attended P.J. Gelinas Junior High School, said he saw how driven she was even in her younger years.

Kiri Nath. Photo from Three Village school district

“The future is so bright for her,” he said. “She is such a high achiever.”

While in the junior high school, he said she came in first at a Science Olympiad competition in the category of Disease Detective. For the category, students need to identify the source of a disease and how it spreads. He said while in high school, she came back to Gelinas to coach the junior high team in the same category, and she has the work ethic and people skills needed to succeed in the future.

“Everything she does, she does with passion, with enthusiasm,” Vorwald said.

Nath said science happens to be one of her biggest interests. Earlier in high school, entomology, the science of insects, intrigued her, and then in her sophomore and junior years, she began working at the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University as a research assistant in a lab, which led to her senior year project.

“My senior year project involved studying the effects of pharmaceutical pollution on fish at the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences,” she said. “So I got to work a lot with fish — which was very challenging but super fun.”

Working with zebra fish embryos, and common antidepressants such as Prozac and Wellbutrin, the valedictorian said she discovered that when found in water, the drugs affect the respiration rate of the fish depending on the concentration of the prescription.

This fall Nath will enroll in the dual degree Life Sciences and Management program at the University of Pennsylvania, which the college’s arts and sciences department and the Wharton School of Business administer jointly.

“I really like the way the program is structured,” she said. “It offers a breadth of study that doesn’t pigeonhole you into looking into a specific thing right out of high school.”

Nath said she’s excited to see what areas she becomes passionate about while studying at the University of Pennsylvania.

“In college I’ll figure out what I’m most interested in, right now it’s probably more science related but it could change as I move forward,” the valedictorian said.

Ward Melville High School’s salutatorian Isabelle Scott dreams of traveling all over the world one day, and if the budding journalist gets her way, readers will be experiencing her adventures with her in print.

Scott will attend Brown University this fall and major in journalism — a field she said she believes will satisfy her love for travel.

“I didn’t want to get in the position of being at a desk job from nine to five,” she said. “I appreciate routine, but I don’t think I can stick with something like that for my whole life. I write a lot and it wasn’t something I wanted to give up, so I figured journalism was the best way to mix those two interests.”

Isabelle Scott. Photo from Three Village school district

Scott said her education at Ward Melville has prepared her for her future endeavors. Originally a student at The Laurel Hill School, she started her studies in the Three Village  school district at P.J. Gelinas Junior High School and  graduates from Ward Melville with a 105.1 grade point average. Besides taking advanced placement classes in all four main core areas, she’s been involved in Art Honor Society, mock trial club, French Honor Society and National Honor Society. Outside of school, she has sung with her youth choir at church and volunteered as a counselor and tutor at the local Boys and Girls Club as well as taken kickboxing and dancing classes.

Despite all the preparation for a college education, Scott said she won’t know just how well prepared she is until she is actually experiencing it even though her friends who graduated from Ward Melville before her have given her confidence.

“It’s hard to tell until you get there, but all of my friends who are already in college said they felt very prepared, particularly for the workload,” she said in a phone interview.

After college, Scott said she would love to go abroad and report from different countries, but not from war zones, as she said she is a pacifist. The budding journalist said she would love to do culture segment stories similar to the ones she sees in National Geographic or Time Magazine, reporting on ordinary life in various countries.

While she hopes one day to work for The New York Times, she said she is aware that the publishing world is constantly changing with the digital arena. Wherever her journalism studies take her, Scott said she sees herself doing a lot of traveling and immersing herself in a country and its culture to produce original work.

When it comes to communicating abroad, the salutatorian said she already knows a good amount of French, and she said when she feels more comfortable with the language she would like to study Spanish and Mandarin.

“I think it’s helpful to learn as many languages as you can,” she said.

While she said she has a lot of good memories from her time in Three Village, she said many occurred in ninth grade, including painting a mural in Gelinas with fellow students and visiting her English teacher’s office.

“I had an English teacher Ms. Cadolino, and one day I brought a bean bag chair into her office, and we used to just sit,” she said. “I would come to her for writing advice, and we would just talk. She was very much a mentor to me, so I have good memories of being in her office.”

Scott said she will also remember interacting with all the students who had diverse interests, many becoming her close friends. 

“I learned as much from the students as I did from the teachers,” the salutatorian said.

By Desirée Keegan

Local school districts took pride in their highly accomplished students at the top of the class this year. Last weekend, valedictorians and salutatorians from Miller Place, Mount Sinai,
Rocky Point and Shoreham-Wading River took to the stage to address their peers during the Class of 2017 commencement ceremonies.

Miller Place

William Sussman and David Argento were the school’s valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively.

William SussmanSussman, who graduated with a 101.4 GPA, was a National Merit Scholar and Advanced Placement Scholar with Honor.  He was president of the Future Business Leaders of America and received U.S. State Sen. Kenneth LaValle’s (R-Port Jefferson Station) Youth Leadership Recognition Award. Enrolled in nine AP courses throughout his years at Miller Place, including AP Chemistry and college computer application, he served as the Mathletes team captain, and was a member of the National Honor Society and the Foreign Language National Honor Society.

He will attend Yale University in the fall to major in electrical engineering.

“I think the best way to put it is gratification,” Sussman said about being named valedictorian. “After years of putting in hours of work — staying up late to do all the homework and projects in addition to extracurriculars — it felt good to be recognized.

Sussman followed in the footsteps of his father, Dr. Howard Sussman, an associate professor of clinical family medicine at Stony Brook University School of Medicine and valedictorian of his own high school in 1988.

“It’s kind of exciting and poetic,” Dr. Sussman said. “He values education incredibly highly and he’s really gone above and beyond to learn all he can.”

David Argento

Argento, who is heading to Providence College in the fall to study finance on the school’s St. Thomas Aquinas scholarship, was named salutatorian with a 99.1 GPA. With a loaded schedule, he was a National Honor Society parliamentarian, co-captain of the varsity tennis team, an Eagle Scout, and was also a member of Mathletes, orchestra and a jazz combo musical group. Like the valedictorian, he has taken nine AP courses at Miller Place. Argento said he hopes to have the opportunity to run his own business someday.

Argento’s older brother Chris was valedictorian at the school in 2012. He said he never expected to be in the position he is now.

“It feels great, but I didn’t really have it as a goal to be salutatorian,” Argento said. “I just tried my best and it seemed to work out.”

He said he chose his college because of its similarity to Miller Place, which he called a very positive environment.

“Both schools are rather small, and I just felt very comfortable there right from the start,” he said.

Mount Sinai

At the top of Mount Sinai’s class are Ben May and Helene Marinello.

May, the school’s valedictorian, graduated with a 103.97 GPA, and is known for his environmental work. He was the founder of Mount Sinai’s Model United Nations and environmental outreach club, was on the Matheltes team, and was captain of the Ocean Bowl team, which won a national title this year. He took three AP classes as a sophomore, four as a junior and six his senior year.

Benjamin May

“The school was very receptive to me wanting to challenge myself academically,” he said. “Over the past three years we’ve made the school very sustainable [through the environmental outreach club]. We started a recycling program, we do annual cleanups with about 70 students cleaning up Cedar Beach.”

Outside of school, the valedictorian was also on the planning committee for the first Long Island Youth Conservation Summit and is the group’s current national communications coordinator, writing the emailed newsletter. Through the Sea Youth Rise Up campaign, he won a video contest last spring, was selected to travel to NYC and Washington D.C., where he participated in a live internet broadcast, met with the president of the United Nation’s general assembly and met with former President Barack Obama’s (D) environmental quality council.

“It was probably one of the coolest things I’ve ever done, because with that meeting, we were pressing them to found a new national monument at the marine protection area called Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument,” May said of the new marine protected area Obama established last fall.

His passion is meeting with politicians and pressing for environmental changes. He plans to double major in international relations and economics at Pennsylvania State University this fall and plans to become proficient in six different languages.

“I could use that for international diplomacy through political advocacy when it comes to the environment, which is what I hope to do in the long run,” he said.

When he thinks about his time spent in Mount Sinai, and when asked how and why he’s striven for success for so long, May recalls the instant he knew he was chasing the No. 1 spot he’s in now.

Helene Marinello

In his AP World History class, for every chapter read, students needed to create an outline. Grades would be given from 1 to 5, depending on how much work seemed to be put in. May’s friend would spend half an hour on his assignment and get a 4, and May put in two hours with each assignment, and received at 5.

“Almost every single time we’d get the grades back, he’d ask me why I put in so much work — What matters getting that extra point?’” May recalled. “I just wanted it. I felt I knew I could get that extra point if I put in a little extra effort, and I kept that mindset throughout high school and put in that extra bit of time to get the better grade. It’s super fulfilling. It shows it pays to put in the extra work.”

Marinello graduated with a 102.04 GPA. She said high school has left her with many
memorable moments, but enjoyed a trip to Disney World this past March the most.

“I felt as though our whole school bonded as one large group, instead of the usual cliques,” she said. “I got to become closer with people I normally would not have talked to.”

She said she felt honored to be at the top of her class.

“The competition between class rank was very vigorous, so it is truly a privilege to be recognized for what I was able to accomplish,” she said. “Seeing all my hard work finally pay off, in a way other than just good grades, brought me great pride. These past 13 years at Mount Sinai have been an all-around learning experience that I don’t think any other school district could have given me. Between the amazing faculty at this district and the community that surrounds the school, I will never be able to forget the memories I have made.”

Rocky Point

At the top of Rocky Point’s Class of 2017 were Pooja Deshpande and Nicholas LoCastro.

Pooja Deshpande

Deshpande graduated with a 105.38 GPA and was a member of the National Honor Society,
vice president of the Math Honor Society, president of the Human Rights Club, the Interact Club and Thespian Society, was a mentor of the North Shore Youth Council’s Big Buddy Little Buddy program, which pairs high school students with younger ones, and tutored students in subjects ranging from mathematics to French.

Taking 10 AP courses, the valedictorian won the Principal’s Leadership Award, became an Advanced Placement Scholar with Honor, received the National Council of Teachers of English Achievement Award in writing and won numerous awards at the Long Island Science Congress. She’s also been involved in the school musical every year.

“I have grown so much over these past years, and I am so thankful to have been raised by such a community,” Deshpande said. “The Rocky Point School district has taught me that not only is being unique accepted, it is celebrated, and the differences that everyone has should be used to bring us closer together, as a strong community.”

Through the Interact Club, she  assisted in a Camp Pa Qau Tuck cleanup in Center Moriches, the school blood drive, fundraised for various organizations and was a mentor to students with various disabilities.

Nicholas LoCastro

“I have learned through these experiences that although I may not be able to change the world, I have the power to change a life, and to someone, that can mean a world of difference,” she said.

She will be attending Stony Brook University’s Honors College in the fall, majoring in neuroscience with a minor in mathematics, on the pre-medicine track.

Close behind was LoCastro, with a 105.13 GPA. Taking seven AP courses, he was also a National Merit Scholar, AP Scholar, was president of the Science Club, member of the honor society, math honor society and thespian society. He played Captain Von Trapp in “The Sound Of Music”, was in the tech crew for spring pocket theater, was a member of guitar club, participated in New York State Council of Administrators of Music Education festival mixed choir and Suffolk County Music Educators Association festival choir.

“Rocky Point has an excellent music and theater program,” he said. “It also let me broaden my horizons and perform in school musicals, something I had never done before high school but am glad I did.”

Natalie Bazata

Rocky Point also had an exhortation speaker in Natalie Bazata, who graduated with a 104.64 GPA.

For all four years, she participated in chamber orchestra and pit orchestra, ran the variety show, a demonstration of the immense musical and artistic talents of Rocky Point students, during her junior and senior year, and also dabbled in school organizations like human rights club, Be A Nicer Neighbor club and Big Buddy Little Buddy.

“The teachers and other staff of the Rocky Point district are caring, passionate and knowledgeable in their fields, and I am incredibly thankful to have crossed paths with them,” she said. “I usually have a huge fear of public speaking, but for some reason, I felt more proud and excited than scared in that moment. Words mean very much to me, so it was an honor to craft a speech that said things exactly how I wanted to say them in a
moment of celebration.”

Shoreham-Wading River

Anthony Peraza and Kyle Higgins finished at the top of the Class of 2017.

Anthony Peraza

Peraza, who continues a string of family success in the district, graduated with a 102.45 GPA.

He took 10 AP courses to be named an AP Scholar with Distinction, ran cross-country all four years, and was named captain, competed in winter  and spring track and played alto sax in jazz band.

“When I first got named, it felt surreal and didn’t really hit me for a while,” Peraza said. “I’ve kept expectations low — I knew I was high in my class, it wasn’t a focus during school.”

He will be majoring in biological engineering at Cornell University in the fall.

“I know academics are great and it will challenge me, which is what I want,” he said.

Higgins graduated with a 102.17 GPA. He took eight AP courses, to be named an AP Scholar with Honor, was vice president of the National Honor Society, a member of Natural Helpers Club,  a varsity lacrosse player,  a community program’s lacrosse coach, and was named academic All-County for varsity basketball and named second team All-Division in football.

Kyle Higgins

“I worked hard in school,” he said. “It was never really my aim to get to salutatorian, I just wanted to do the best that I could, so it was an added bonus just to be named that.”

He will attend Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the fall, majoring in aerospace engineering and will play lacrosse for the school. He was also the recipient of the  Thomas Cutinella Memorial Scholarship.

“There were definitely a lot of nights I stayed up way past when I should have because I had to get work done, but it’s just about being able to stay focused on what I was doing at the time and get done what I need to get done,” he said.

Kevin Redding contributed reporting

File photo.

Students at Kings Park, Hauppauge, and Smithtown school districts put in strong efforts this year to come out at the top of their classes. The valedictorian and salutatorian at Kings Park and Hauppauge, and the honored speakers at Smithtown High School East and West shared a little about themselves so the community can get to know them better.

Kings Park

Salutatorian: Joseph Ribaudo

Ribaudo will be graduating with a cumulative weighted average of 105.89.  He participated in  Model UN, varsity golf, Science Olympiad, math team, National Honor Society, National Spanish Honor Society, trivia team and the business club DECA.  He only recently joined the  DECA program this year and  qualified  to go to the international competition in Anaheim, California.  He also excelled at regional and national science competitions.   Ribaudo  received the National Hispanic Scholar award, which is given to the top 2000 Hispanics in the nation.  He also teaches religion twice a week at St. Joseph’s parish.  Ribaudo will be attending Yale next year, double majoring in molecular, cellular, and developmental biology and economics.

Valedictorian: Anjali Verma

Verma will be graduating with a cumulative weighted average of 105.98.  She serves as president of Science Olympiad, student leader of the Kings Park Chamber Orchestra, vice-president of Model U.N. and vice-president of the Independent Science Research Club.  She is a three-season athlete participating in the cross-country, winter track, and spring track teams.  For the past year, Anjali conducted research under the mentorship of Dr. James Dilger, volunteering in his lab to investigate a safer alternative to opioid pain medications.   She has been recognized as a Coca-Cola Scholar, a National Merit Scholar, a Presidential Scholars Program nominee, and was a 3rd place finalist at the Long Island Science and Engineering Fair in the computational biology category.  Anjali will be attending Columbia University next year, majoring in mechanical engineering.

Hauppauge

Salutatorian: Rachel Black, 18

Black will be attending the University of Notre Dame to study mathematics with a concentration in life sciences. Selecting her favorite high school memory is difficult, because there have been so many. She was fortunate to go on the German Exchange trip her sophomore year, and said that it was a blast and she learned so much. Also her freshmen year she ran her last race of the season in cross-country and became an all county runner. But there are so many, even small moments like bonding as a class, or joking around at  extra help, she doesn’t think she could say what her single favorite high school memory was. There are so many things she is excited about for college. She is super excited to be able to focus more intently on one area of study, as well as participating in the service events, club teams and ministry Notre Dame has to offer. She is going to miss the people in her high school the most. Black will miss her friends and  teachers, coaches, and advisors. She will also miss all her sports teams and being a part of the clubs she was involved in. She said Hauppauge High School was her second home and she will really miss it. Black was involved in student council and served as president,  treasurer of the school’s National Honor Society  and German Honor Society, co-president of  Science Olympiad , member of Natural Helpers, and participated in cross-country, winter track and spring track as captain.

Valedictorian: Angela Musco, 18

Musco will be attending Stony Brook University in the fall. She will be in the Honors College as well as the Scholars for Medicine Program (8 year medical program). She plans to major in biology with a focus in neurobiology, as well as  minor in Spanish. As president of Interact Club (a community service club), she helped organize Safe Halloween, an annual event to allow children to trick-or-treat and play games safely. This is one of her favorite memories because she said she likes working with the children. She is most excited to meet more people and make new friends at college. Musco said she is also excited to live on her own and be more independent; she is  looking forward to being exposed to new ideas and starting her journey towards  her career in medicine. She will miss seeing her best friends every single day. While in high school she was a member of  National Honor Society,  vice president of  Spanish Honor Society,  president of  Interact Club,  vice president of the student body,  treasurer of debate club and more.

Smithtown West

Honored speaker: Cory Zhou, 17

Zhou will be attending Yale University to study biomedical engineering or economics. His favorite high school memory is staying overnight every year at Relay for Life. He said it’s an incredible event that raises a ton of money for the American Cancer Society, and to be a part of it with his friends was so rewarding and fun. Zhou is most excited to be able to meet so many new people and form more lifelong friendships, as well as gain more independence to explore many new academic and extracurricular interests. He said he is going to miss the people at Smithtown West the most. All the teachers he had were so incredibly passionate, and he said he developed real relationships with each one. His amazing friends have been through so much with him; the best times he has had were the ones spent with them, and he said it’s going to be so hard not having them with him every day. In high school, he was involved in Academic Quiz Bowl, Science Olympiad, math team, DECA, Freshman Kickstart Mentoring, varsity badminton, symphonic band, and several honor societies.

Smithtown East

Honored speaker: Kyle DiPietrantonio, 18

DiPietrantonio will attend  George Washington University double majoring in international affairs and Spanish. His favorite high school memory would be attending DECA’s International Career Development Conference in Anaheim this past April. He said it was an amazing time spent with his teachers and friends. As this year’s co-president for Smithtown East, it was an excellent and full-circle way to end his DECA experiences. Aside from competing, some highlights included bonding with his peers, watching the sunrise, and visiting Universal Studios with 19,000 other DECA members from around the world. He is most excited about being in the vibrant city of Washington D.C. and in a new environment. He is also excited to meet new people from all walks of life and expand his perspective. DiPietrantonio will miss a tremendous amount about his school, especially the unforgettable people he was fortunate enough to cross paths with and all of the memories they shared. He said Smithtown has always been so supportive of him and has given him a solid base to succeed in his future. He is leaving high school knowing he genuinely took advantage of every opportunity, from intriguing clubs and classes, and even several trips abroad. DiPietrantonio was very involved in his high school’s extracurriculars. This year, he was the co-president of DECA as well as the vice president of Suffolk County DECA. Additionally, he was the co-president of the Spanish Honor Society and the co-president and captain of the Academic Quiz Bowl team. He was also part of the Smithtown Industry Advisory Board as a member of the international business committee. He was an active member in the leadership class the past two years where he led the Friends Dance committee that supported students with autism at the Nassau Suffolk Services for Autism. Finally he was involved as a member in the National, Social Studies, Business, Math, and DECA honor societies.

File photo

Students at Huntington, Northport-East Northport and Harborfields school districts put in strong efforts this year to come out at the top of their classes. The valedictorian and salutatorian of each district answered a few questions to let their community get to know them a little better. The graduates were asked the following: (1) What were you involved with at your high school? (2) What college are you attending and what are you studying? (3) What is your favorite high school memory? (4) What are you most excited for in college?  (5) What will you miss most about your school?

Huntington

Salutatorian: Miranda Nykolyn, 17

1. I was involved with Key Club (secretary), varsity rowing, varsity tennis, Mathletes, and Science National Honor Society (treasurer).  Science research is among my favorite activities.

2. I am attending Stanford University and majoring in mechanical engineering/applied mathematics.

3. My favorite high school memory would have to be winning the New York State Scholastic Rowing Championships in the Women’s Varsity Single.

4. I am most excited to be living on my own, and being responsible for my own actions. College is a great time to grow and find a healthy balance between schoolwork and fun.

5. I will miss most the amazing people in my community and the great programs offered. Huntington High School has many AP classes and a variety of extracurriculars that allow for any interest to be fostered.

Valedictorian: Steve Yeh, 18

1. I was involved with Stocks Analysis Club, Math Honor Society, Spanish Honor Society, Social Studies Honor Society, Chinese Foreign Exchange Club, Quiz Bowl and Science Bowl, piano, tutoring at Huntington Station library and Natural Helpers.

2. I am attending Cornell University next year majoring in math and economics and minoring in physics.

3. I don’t necessarily have one favorite high school memory, but as a whole I loved being around my friends, having meaningful discussions and debates in history and government courses and helping out my classmates with academics and regular daily problems and vice versa; this makes it more of a community rather than just a school.

4. I am most excited about meeting new people who come from diverse backgrounds and also being able to study a variety of courses across a breadth of disciplines while also learning more in-depth about respective content material.

5.   I will miss my friends and teachers the most.  I have learned so much about various subjects, but more importantly, I have learned more about myself.

Northport-East Northport

Salutatorian: Sarah Abodalo, 17

1. I was involved with varsity soccer (captain), named All Conference and All County (2015, 2016) and Newsday Top 50 Players (2015, 2016). I also was All County SCMEA (2014, 2015), NYSCAME for Voice (2016), NYSCAME for horn (2015), marching band, symphonic winds, tour choir (officer), pit orchestra, and Tri-M Music Honor Society.

2. I am attending the Honor’s College at Hofstra University, with majors in English and French language and education.

3. My favorite high school memory was when I toured England and Scotland with our tour choir in the summer 2015.  Performing in some of the most historical places in the world was one of the most gratifying experiences I have had the opportunity to partake in.

4. Next year I will be playing on the Hofstra University women’s soccer team. I am beyond ecstatic and honored to be playing at such a high level with such talented individuals.

5. I will greatly miss being a part of the fantastic music program that Northport provides its students. Choir and band have been a major part of my life and I am sad to have to say goodbye to all the wonderful teachers I have had over the years.

Valedictorian: Cybele Laisney, 18

1. I volunteered at the Atria, provided free tutoring for those in need, and at the Huntington YMCA. I was in French Club (president), Grandfriends (vice-president), National Honor Society, World Language Honor Society, and Technology Honor Society. I also played varsity tennis.

2. I am attending Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a major in bio-engineering.

3. I will remember meeting with Martha, a resident at the Atria, to sit down and chat every Tuesday. She offered a lot of wisdom and always encouraged me to pursue my dreams. I’ll miss her a lot next year,

4. I’m most excited to be surrounded by new people in the Cambridge/Boston area. I know the people I will be surrounded by will only inspire me to push myself further.

5. I’ll miss the people I’ve met along the way. I’ve gotten to know some truly wonderful people throughout high school, and although it is heartbreaking to be apart from the people I’m close to, I know they will do bigger and better things in college.

Harborfields

Salutatorian: Ishaan Lohia, 17

1. I was involved in the Harborfields Theatre Company, National Honor Society, science research and Mathletes.

2. I will be studying physics at Northeastern University.

3. My favorite memory is senior playfest.

4. I am most excited to study the things that I love at college.

5. I will miss the friends that I have made at Harborfields.

Valedictorian: Casandra Moisanu, 18

1. I was involved in All-County girls varsity soccer, National Honor Society, Spanish Honor Society and Mathletes.

2. I’ll be studying environmental science at Cornell University.

3. I’ll remember being a part of the soccer team here at Harborfields High School.

4. I am most excited to learn new things at a higher level.

5. I’m going to miss the family feel that we have here in Harborfields.

Michelle, Cari and Katelyn Gostic are sisters who were each named valedictorian or salutatorian at Shoreham-Wading River High School. Photo from the Gostics

By Kevin Redding

At Shoreham-Wading River High School, siblings share more than genes.

When Advanced Placement student and track star Anthony Peraza graduated at the top of his class, he wasn’t just following in the footsteps of his older brother, Matthew, who was named salutatorian in 2014.

The soon-to-be Cornell University engineering student was also carrying on an ongoing tradition in the district, which, since 2006, has seen a total of five sets of siblings graduate in the top percent of their classes, as valedictorian or salutatorian.

Those on the list, which now includes the Perazas, are William Throwe, named valedictorian in 2006, and his sister, Emily, salutatorian in 2009; Katelyn Gostic, valedictorian of her graduating class in 2009, whose drive to succeed from an early age set the bar for her sisters, Michelle, salutatorian in 2011, and Cari, valedictorian in 2013; Iris Yu, 2010 salutatorian, and her sister, Spring, the 2015 valedictorian; and Maxwell Maritato, who was named valedictorian in 2014, two years before his brother, Nicholas, who gave his salutatorian speech in 2016.

“For any student to become a valedictorian is an amazing achievement, but to have several sets of siblings be at the top of their classes really is a testament to the families,” Shoreham-Wading River High School Principal Dan Holtzman said in an email.

“I think Anthony saw the adulation his brothers received and was like, ‘oh, I’m going to be like that.’”

— Rosemary Peraza

In the Peraza household, education was always priority No. 1.

Raised by two high school chemistry teachers, Anthony and his older brothers — Matthew, 20, entering his senior year at Cornell University this fall, and Michael, 24, a Cornell graduate working for the county as an environmental engineer — were taught the importance of structure and academics from the moment they could breathe, according to their father, Tony, a retired teacher and coach at Longwood Senior High School.

“When Anthony was about four, my wife and I used to run with him while [also] working on vocabulary and times tables,” his father said, laughing that he was the “drill sergeant” parent while his wife was the more affectionate one. “He knew what was expected of him as the youngest.”

Anthony’s mother Rosemary, a teacher at West Babylon High School, said the brothers are close, support one another and each have a strong work ethic.

“I think Anthony saw the adulation his brothers received and was like, ‘oh, I’m going to be like that,’” she said.

But while Matthew and Michael had to be pushed sometimes to get in gear, their father said that was never needed for Anthony.

“He was self-motivated — he would get up on time, would get most of his work done before he got home, [and] always gave us perfect report cards since grammar school, A-plus’s all the way down,” Tony Peraza said. “He just seemed to get it.”

Aside from running cross country and playing alto sax in the jazz band throughout high school, Anthony Peraza  took several AP classes, in physics, chemistry, calculus, music theory, U.S. history, literature and even scored a high grade on an AP biology exam his freshman year even though he did not take the class.

Michael, Anthony and Matthew Peraza have added to a sibling trend of valedictorians and salutatorians at Shoreham-Wading River High School. Photo from the Perazas

“My brother’s grades set pretty high standards, so I felt I needed to do that too, and not let anyone down,” he said. “Early on, it was drilled into my brain ‘do homework first, get it done.’”

On his younger brother’s achievements, Matthew Peraza said, “Anthony really got what he deserved. He’s worked hard and he had it figured out. I’m really proud.”

That same inherent motivation also drove the Gostic sisters in high school, where each of them excelled as three-season athletes, AP students and extracurricular leaders.

But as far as sisterly competition goes, Katelyn Gostic, 26, who was student government president, said there wasn’t much of it.

“We all sort of just followed each other’s examples … all three of us were independently wired to work really hard and take pride in what we did,” said the oldest sister, a Princeton University graduate currently pursuing her doctorate at the University of California, Los Angeles. “We were all so busy.”

Michelle Gostic, 24, currently at the Delft University of Technology Dutch in the Netherlands to get her coastal engineering degree, said having Katelyn as an older sister served as inspiration.

“I always admired her and had it in my head that she was in another league, so I never compared myself to her,” Michelle said with a laugh. “Any motivation we had was definitely from within.”

She said both her parents — Rich Gostic, a science teacher at Hampton Bays High School, and Sherry Gostic, a physical therapy instructor at Stony Brook University — instilled in them an appreciation for learning without putting pressure on them.

“My husband and I are proud parents, but I have to say the girls were very much self-disciplined and driven, and we really did not play a big role in what they have accomplished,” their mother said. “It just turned out the way it did without anybody really trying to accomplish any kind of goal.”

As the youngest, Cari Gostic, 22, said working hard was a habit that I grew up with and modeled.

“I came home and did my work because that’s what Michelle and Katelyn did, and it has worked out really well for me,” said the recent Cornell graduate, who finished a semester early with a degree in atmospheric science.

“We all sort of just followed each other’s examples … all three of us were independently wired to work really hard and take pride in what we did.”

— Katelyn Gostic

When Maxwell Maritato, 20, was in seventh grade, the engineer-in-training at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute recalls coming home and asked his mother Dorothy, “What would you say if I got an 85 on my science test?” to which she responded, “That wouldn’t be too bad.”

But when he told her that was the grade he got on his science test, she said, “Aw come on, you can do better than that.”

“I was like, ‘alright, let me see if I can do better,’ so it started out as wanting to please my parents a bit and it took off from there,” said Maritato, whose father, Peter, is the chair of the engineering department at Suffolk County Community College.

His mother said family always came first but stressed the importance of school.

“We encouraged them to get their work done before they played,” the physical therapy instructor said. “They were both bright from the get-go, and mature for their age. We consider ourselves lucky they were such good kids.”

By high school, Maxwell Maritato was student government president, a member of the National Honors Society, a volleyball and track standout and leagues above his classmates when it came to academics.

But younger brother Nicholas, currently pursuing a biomedical engineering degree at Johns Hopkins University, said he never felt pressured to achieve anything his brother did.

“It was definitely more inspiring to see the work he did pay off the way like it did, and it pushed me to strive to do my best,” he said, adding that any competition between the two was in good fun. “We were really good friends growing up.”

When Nicholas, an AP student, varsity volleyball and track athlete and Eagle Scout, was named salutatorian, his brother Maxwell had just a few words to say: “I saw it coming from miles away.”

Vice President of the North Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce Donna Boeckel, on left, and Councilwoman Valerie Cartwright, on right, with the scholarship recipients. Photo by Kevin Redding

The North Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce last week awarded $1,000 scholarships to local high school graduates heading to college to pursue their dreams this fall.

Each of the seven students, Benjamin May, Kira Gresser and Mathew Yonks from Mount Sinai; Alexa Tammone from Comsewogue; Angela Bonafede from Rocky Point; Emma Dell’Aquilla from Miller Place; and John McCarrick from Shoreham-Wading River were winners of the chamber’s highly competitive, districts-wide essay contest. Each was recognized for his or her academic achievements and community service.

“I think sometimes we as a community — the parents and the chambers — need to sit down and stop for a moment to let each and every one of you know that you’re doing a great job,” Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said during an awards ceremony at Don Quijote restaurant in Miller Place June 19. “While you’re in college, know that you have the entire community supporting you as you move forward. You guys soared — you’re shining stars and we look forward to having you as a continued part of the Town of Brookhaven.”

May, who will be attending the University of Pennsylvania to study economics and international relations, wrote in his essay about his experience as an environmental advocate at Mount Sinai High School — where he founded the Environmental Outreach Club. He said he was thrilled to accept the scholarship.

“I knew the competition was really strong for this one, so when I heard back about it, I was very humbled and honored,” May said. “I know the money is going to help me get a college education, so I’m very happy.”

Tammone, who has led several variety shows and programs at Comsewogue to benefit charities, will pursue a degree in music education at Montclair State University in New Jersey.

“[Music] is something I’m very passionate about and I want to share my passion with others — I’m very honored to be recognized,” she said.

Rocky Point’s Bonafede, who will be studying baking and pastry arts at Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island after years in the BOCES culinary arts program, said it was a big relief to hear she’d been chosen.

“Everything I’ve been working toward is finally paying off,” she said. “I’ve done a lot of community service events, like giving food to people in need, car washes, fundraising — I’m excited to be making my big dream come true.”

Dell’Aquilla, a volunteer at Mather Hospital, said, in her essay, taking care of her epileptic brother growing up helped her realize she wanted to study nursing at the College of Mount Saint Vincent.

McCarrick, an honors student, athlete, Eagle Scout member, and junior firefighter in the Shoreham-Wading River district, said he will be using his scholarship money to pay for school supplies at SUNY New Paltz, where he will major in mechanical engineering.

While a senior at Mount Sinai, Gresser, who will study human-based law at Villanova University in Pennsylvania, held several fundraisers to help build a water well in Africa for the organization Strides for Africa.

“It’s really nice that there’s something like this because a lot of people do a lot of good and hard work and don’t really get much for it,” Gresser said of the scholarship.

Yonks, who plans to pursue nursing at the University of Buffalo, has been a member of the Future Business Leaders of America and the Eagle Scouts. As a senior, he built garden boxes and planted vegetables that were donated to needy families in local areas.

“I’m just proud to be a member of the community, and I always like to help whenever and wherever needed,” he said.

Donna Boeckel, vice president of the chamber, along with chamber corresponding secretary Carol Genua, sifted through the dozens of essays that poured in from each district. Boeckel said the chamber has spearheaded this contest every year for the last 20 years and raises the money through town fundraisers.

“These recipients had submissions that outshined all the others,” Boeckel said. “We’re very proud of them — they really took it to the next level.”

Port Jefferson valedictorian Chiara Rabeno and salutatorian Xinyi Hong. Photo from Port Jefferson School District

By Jill Webb

At the top of their respective classes at Earl L. Vandermeulen High School and Comsewogue High School are five talented and smart 2017 graduates.

Chiara Rabeno has earned her place as Port Jeff high school’s valedictorian. She will graduate as an AP Scholar with Honor with eight AP credits and has received a National Merit Scholar letter of commendation along with earning a gold award on the National Latin Exam three years consecutively.

In addition to her commitment to academics, Rabeno was an active participant in athletics during her high school career. She played softball and field hockey, earning an All-Conference distinction two years in a row.

Port Jefferson salutatorian Xinyi Hong and valedictorian Chiara Rabeno during 2017 graduation. Photo from Port Jefferson School District

Rabeno was  president of  National Honor Society, and balanced the rest of her time as a member of the Interact Club, Environmental Club, Science Olympiad, and  a participant in the STEM program.

The valedictorian attributes her success to having supportive family and friends who encourage her, along with finding time to focus on things she enjoys.

“Ultimately by doing what you love to do, I think that you’ll end up doing well in everything else,” Rabeno said in an interview.

In the fall, Rabeno will study biology at Boston College, on the pre-med track to become a doctor.

Like Rabeno, salutatorian Xinyi Hong has  received a gold award for three straight years on the National Latin Exam. She has a lengthy list of academic achievements, including being a National Merit Scholarship Finalist, an AP Scholar with Distinction, and earning the American Chemical Society Award.

Hong’s parents emigrated from China, and Hong herself was born in Germany. Her family came to the United States when she was six years old, moving to Port Jefferson when she was in fifth grade.

Hong served as  co-captain of the Science Olympiad team,  treasurer of the Environmental Club, and sits first chair viola in the school’s orchestra.

Comsewogue High School valedictorian Marissa Kaye Lehner. Photo from Lehner

She said one of her proudest accomplishments is overcoming shyness as a way to contribute to her own personal growth.

“I would be scared to say hi to people,” Hong said in an interview. “That’s something I’ve definitely had to work towards as opposed to something that came easily to me.”

When she attends Duke University in the fall, Hong said she will pursue a science-related field.

During graduation June 23, Rabeno and Hong broke with tradition somewhat, delivering their valedictorian and salutatorian addresses together on stage. They shared the stage  and spoke in tandem about the gifts the other possesses. The address touched on the honesty of Hong and the sentimentality of Rabeno, delivering the ultimate message of needing balance in order to achieve their full potential.

At Comsewogue High School, Marissa Kaye Lehner has been named the class of 2017 valedictorian.

A Nation Merit Scholar, Lehner took nine advanced placement classes during her time at Comsewogue. She was a part of several national honor societies, including music, English, math, science, social studies, and Spanish.

Outside the classroom, Lehner was  co-captain of the tennis team, winning a doubles match during the Section XI conference championships. She was a part of the academics club, math team, Bringing Unity Through Youth club, robotics and Girl Scouts.

Lehner said a key trait in her development as a student and person is she isn’t afraid to ask for help, and frequently encourages others to “rely on the people you have around you.”

Co-salutatorian at Comsewogue High School Lauren Ehrhard. Photo from Ehrhard

Attending the University of New Haven this fall, Lehner will major in national security, working towards a career as an intelligence analyst for the U.S. government.

Two students had matching grade point averages for second place in Comsewogue’s senior class and will share the salutatorian position — Lauren Ehrhard and Lucas Szeto.

Along with taking seven AP classes throughout high school, Ehrhard has been involved with athletics, including softball, and Athletes Helping Athletes, a club designed to teach elementary school students what it means to be a good athlete.

She was a member of Task Club, a community service organization called BUTY, chamber orchestra, and pep band.

One of her favorite experiences was being the director for a Night For Jason, an annual talent show that raises money for Friends of Karen, an organization supporting families with children suffering from cancer.

The biggest force driving her academically is having “really big dreams ahead of me,” Ehrhard said. “I know that the only way to reach that is to get good grades and be the person I know I can be.”

Ehrhard will be studying criminal justice at the University of New Haven, where she will join the ROTC program in preparation for joining the Air Force post-college.

Co-salutatorian at Comsewogue High School Luis Szeto. Photo from Szeto

Like his co-salutatorian, Szeto took seven AP classes. Szeto said school has always been something that has come easy to him, though that didn’t stop him from putting in his full effort.

Szeto is also proud of his musical achievements — he plays the upright bass. He participated in two different music festivals, the Long Island String Festival and the Suffolk County Music Educators Association festival, and contributed to  the Bay Area Summer Orchestra.

Lisa Szeto, his mother, recalled as a child Szeto told her he wanted to start playing video games. She told him she didn’t have time to teach him how, so Szeto took it upon himself to learn how to read so he could play.

“If he wants to learn something he will learn it with gusto,” his mother said of the memory. “If he doesn’t he will get through it.”

After graduation, Szeto will be attending Rochester Institute of Technology and majoring in computer science.

Debuting gender-neutral green gowns, accented with gold stoles, Ward Melville High School’s graduating seniors took their places in front of the school’s clock tower Sunday.

A satisfying cap to the Three Village school district’s 50th year, more than 600 students received diplomas at the commencement ceremony.

Ward Melville’s principal Dr. Alan Baum reminded those in the class of 2017 that they come from a 50-year tradition of greatness and will continue the tradition because they are “unbounded and unlimited.”

Salutatorian Isabelle Scott and Valedictorian Kirti Nath celebrated the individual gifts of their classmates.

“There is no person here without accomplishment today,” Scott said. “Parents, faculty, our victory is yours, too.”

The salutatorian urged her classmates to be true to themselves.

“I hope, if nothing else, that you do the things to make yourself proud,” she said. “Your life deserves nothing less.”

Nath encouraged her classmates to look on their mistakes as opportunities to move forward or gain strength.

“We don’t have to pretend that everything in high school is easy, because that’s what makes today so uniquely special,” she said. “And even though you may not have realized it at the moment, every fall was indeed a fall forward, moving us closer to success — and, if not success, then strength.”

The class gift — additional picnic tables for the football field — was presented by Brandon Cea, student government president.

Three Village school board president, William F. Connors, had advice for the soon-to-be graduates.

“I urge you to work hard, work to your potential and believe in yourself,” Connors said.

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