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Graduation 2019

In Port Jefferson, graduates shared in the late June celebrations, braving the heat and humidity June 28 to grab their diplomas.

As the outgoing superintendent, Casciano thanked his colleagues as he prepared to leave the district in October in order to aid the new superintendent Jessica Schmettan.

“The class of 2019 will really be missed,” he said. “Everything you have done has been a demonstration of commitment and the pursuit of excellence.”

In addition, the Berger family received an honorary diploma in honor of their son Dylan, who died in 2016.

Reid Biondo, the Student Organization president, who will soon be attending the University of Virginia for economics and science, told his fellow graduating seniors they would need to look to themselves and their values as they move away from school.

“I don’t need to tell everyone the values they already know, I only ask that in the upcoming years they uphold their values with dedication and action,” he said. “Everyone can talk, but few will act.”

Mount Sinai valedictorian Isaac Kisten and salutatorian Kenneth Wei. Photos from Mount Sinai School District

By Leah Chiappino

In light of graduation season, Mount Sinai valedictorian Isaac Kisten and salutatorian Kenneth Wei have taken the time to reflect on their hopes for the future as well as their journeys to the success they have attained thus far in school.  

Kisten has a final GPA of 104.28 and plans to attend the Stern School of Business at New York University as a finance major. He stated that he also hopes to study social entrepreneurship in order to “leverage the use of business to benefit the community in some way.”

At Mount Sinai, he took ten AP courses and earned the AP Scholar with Distinction award. Kisten stayed immersed in extracurriculars at Mount Sinai as the Future Business Leaders of America president and the National Honor Society treasurer. He volunteered for Habitat for Humanity, March of Dimes and the Ronald McDonald House, and worked as the Center Youth Group student leader. 

To boot, he played varsity basketball and won several awards for his performance, such as Basketball All-County Academic and first place at the AICPA National Bank On It tournament. He was named Infant Jesus Basketball All-Star.

Kisten commended his family for his accomplishments. 

“They always had confidence in me and my abilities,” he said. “They motivated and guided me when I needed direction.”

The Kisten family first moved to Mount Sinai from Queens in 2007, a decision Kisten has nothing but positive things to say about. 

“These past 12 years have been amazing,” the valedictorian said. “This school is unparalleled in preparation and opportunities offered to all students. The community of Mount Sinai has been extremely welcoming.”

He added equally high esteem and appreciation for his teachers.  

“Being valedictorian is more of a testament of how exceptional all my teachers have been,” he said. “I simply listened to all of their advice and teaching and success came easy.”

Kisten did not abstain from the opportunity to thank his friends and regarded the school’s senior trip to Disney as his favorite high school memory, citing the “countless memories” that were made in just a few days.

As far as advice to future seniors, Kisten said to “pay attention to the advice of those who went before us. Parents, teachers and all of those who have had more life experiences than us offer guidance that can be the key to success. Always keep in mind the small community of Mount Sinai. It gave us 12-plus years of our lives that we could not find anywhere else.”

Wei earned a final GPA of 104.11, and will be attending MIT as a bioengineering major, with hopes of working in the research field. His extracurriculars included Athletes Helping Athletes Club and Student Council president, as well as playing the flute and piano in the music department. 

His favorite memories from high school consist of his tenure running track and field. He joked that his most memorable experience in the sport was splitting a cantaloupe between his legs at the state championships. His skills exceed far beyond that, as in the 2019 indoor track and field season he earned the U.S. #1 Mark for the long jump, was recognized three times as an All- American track star and holds the state record in the sixty meter hurdles. He also competed with professional and Division 1 collegiate athletes at the Toyota USATF indoor championships. 

Wei took 11 AP courses, but his favorite class at Mount Sinai was a ceramics course taught by Eric Giorlando, who doubles as his track coach. Wei praised Giorlando, calling him a “mentor to me over the past four years. He’s taught me a lot and I would like to thank him for all he has done for me.”

Wei’s advice to future seniors was to relax during the college admission process, and not to focus on the immense stress he said students are put through. 

“Nine times out of ten you are going to be happy where you end up regardless,’’ he said. “If there is an extracurricular you want to take, but you are juggling a big STEM class your senior year, go for the extracurricular. Just
have fun.”

Salutatorian Joshua Vogel and valedictorian Bryant Liu. Photo from RPUFSD

As a result of 13 years of hard work, determination and scholastic commitment, Rocky Point High School seniors Bryant Liu and Josh Vogel have been named the Class of 2019 valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively. 

Liu has a long school career that has included leadership and service experiences. He has taken 11 Advanced Placement courses and was recognized as an AP Scholar with Distinction as well as named a Commended Student in the 2019 National Merit Scholarship Program for exceptional academic promise.  

As a musician, the 2019 valedictorian has received many honors in the local area. He plays bass clarinet and trombone, is a section leader in the marching band and is a level 6 pianist and the first student from Rocky Point to be named an All-State pianist, one of only 12 in the state during his sophomore year. He received the Piano National Guild Supreme Pupil Award, placed second at the American Fine Arts Festival at Carnegie Hall, and receive honorable mention at the American Protégé International Competition of Romantic Music. In his free time, he also served as the accompanist for the seventh-grade chorus and participated in the Steinway Performers Showcase and represented Steinway and Sons at the Smith Haven Mall.

Liu finds time to balance his studies with many additional extracurricular activities.  He is a member of the National Honor Society, Math Honor Society, Math Team, Robotics Team and he has participated with the Pit Orchestra for the high school musical. He also participated on the varsity tennis and winter track teams.  

Outside of school, Liu worked as an intern at Brookhaven National Laboratory and participated at the Summer Research Program at Stony Brook University. He also works at the Chinese Learning Center at Stony Brook where he teaches language and culture to younger students.

Liu will graduate with a weighted average of 104.69 and is bound for the University of Southern California, where he will pursue a career in economics and mathematics.  

Vogel is a dedicated scholar, athlete, actor and a talented musician. He was named a Commended Student in the 2019 National Merit Scholarship program, Advanced Placement Scholar with Honors and will be graduating with a grade point average of 104.51.  

A singer, Vogel has been acknowledged with many honors and awards throughout his four years of high school, including being invited to perform at the SCMEA All-County Music Festival in the Mixed Chorus, the NYSCAME All-County Music Festival, Mixed Chorus and the NYSSMA All-State Conference, Mixed Chorus. This year, the 2019 salutatorian was selected to participate in NAFME All-National Honor Ensembles Mixed Choir that took place in Orlando, Florida, making Rocky Point history as the first district student to participate at this level. Vogel was the co-section leader of the French horns and bass clarinets in the marching band and participated in the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra and the Suffolk Symphonic Choir.  

He has also held a number of leadership roles in the school community, including serving as the president of his class for three years and as a member in the Human Rights, Athletes Helping Athletes and Compassion Without Borders clubs as well as the National Honor Society and Thespian Honor Society.

Vogel will be attending Dartmouth College in the fall, where he will be studying government.

Left, Valedictorian Mahdi Rashidzada; right, Salutatorian Katlynn McGivney. Photos from SWRCSD

Shoreham-Wading River High School announced the top students of the 2019 graduating class are seniors Mahdi Rashidzada and Katlynn McGivney, who have been named valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively.

Rashidzada’s list of achievements includes taking 12 Advanced Placement courses and six honors courses. He is on the school’s track and field team and is vice president of the National Honor Society, captain of the Debate Team, a member of Mathletes, president of the National History Day Club and a member of the Riverhead Youth Court. His list of accolades includes being a Suffolk County Math Teachers’ Association fourth-place honor, as well as school awards in AP Chemistry, AP Language, Spanish IV, Human Physiology and STEM.

Outside of school, he is a Sunday school teacher at the Islamic Center of Long Island, was involved in a local political campaign as an intern and volunteers for Long Island Cares and Stony Brook Hospital. He was also named an RPI Science and Mathematics scholar and a New York State Debate qualifier. He has received National Merit commendation and conducted research on the antimicrobial properties of herbal hydrosols in the high school’s science lab as well as at St. Joseph’s College. 

“Do what you love,” Rashidzada said when asked to share some sentiments with his fellow graduates and future seniors at the high school. “It is important to find what you love and what you’re good at and really pursue it.” 

He will major in neuroscience on the premed track and said he looks forward to entering the freshman class at the University of Pennsylvania in September.    

Throughout high school, Katlynn McGivney has participated in a well-rounded educational, academic, athletic and volunteer career. She has taken advantage of the school’s numerous AP and honors courses and has been recognized with excellence awards in Biology Honors, Chemistry Honors, French III and AP Capstone Seminar. She has played volleyball since ninth grade, softball since eighth grade, ran winter track and has received a varsity letter for three years. McGivney is secretary of the school’s student government and a member of the National Honor Society as well as the Women in Science and Engineering Club. As for community service, she enjoys her work in the district’s Round Out summer camp as a volunteer and has also volunteered for local community programs. She is a page at the North Shore Public Library and plays travel softball for the Long Island Crush and club volleyball. 

McGivney succinctly summed up some words of wisdom for her peers with, “Make the most of your high school experience and enjoy it while you can. It will be over before you know it.” She has committed to study at Hamilton College to pursue biochemistry and play on the softball team.

“I am proud and honored to have Mahdi and Katlynn represent Shoreham-Wading River High School as our top two students,” Principal Frank Pugliese said. “They both exemplify the mission and vision we all have for our students while they are here and as they head out into college and careers — maximizing their potential, creating responsible citizens and fostering a lifelong appreciation for learning.”

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