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Valedictorian

Miller Place valedictorian Lori Beth Sussman and salutatorian Jenna Hoyland. Photos from Miller Place School District

Miller Place High School announced the top students of the 2019 graduating class are seniors Lori Beth Sussman and Jenna Hoyland, who have been named valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively.

Sussman has been an all-county musician involved in the jazz band and pit orchestra. In addition, she was the foreign language national honor society Spanish president, Tri-M co-vice president, varsity tennis member and part of the mock trial club. She also was Mathletes captain, Future Business Leaders of America member and The Cancer Answer project fundraiser founder.

She shared some advice to students who are heading into high school, saying not to be afraid to ask questions and put your foot forward. 

Sussman finished her high school career with a 99.918 weighted GPA and plans to attend Vassar College in the fall. 

“I’m really excited to go to Vassar. They have an open and flexible curriculum.” she said. ”I’m looking forward to learning more.”   

Hoyland has participated in winter and spring track, served as senior council president and service club treasurer and was yearbook editor. This year she was also named a National Merit Commended Scholar.   

The senior shared some advice to her fellow peers and students who are heading into
high school.

“Set high standards and don’t back down from them,” she said.  

Hoyland finished her high school career with a 99.77 weighted GPA and will attend Binghamton University where she plans to study chemistry. 

“I’m excited to meet new people and take on new challenges,” she said. 

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.”

Comsewogue valedictorian Ankita Katukota and salutatorian Jessica Sperling. Photos from CUFSD

Comsewogue High School announced the top students of the 2019 graduating class are seniors Ankita Katukota and Jessica Sperling, who have been named valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively.

Katukota finished her high school career with a 101.43 weighted GPA. She served as the varsity tennis captain and interned at the Brookhaven National Laboratory. She was a member of the jazz band, Brookhaven youth court, Women in Science and Engineering and Athletes Helping Athletes. 

She will attend University of California, Los Angeles and plans to study pre-med. 

“I’m really excited to go to UCLA and ready to try something new,” she said. “The school is really well-known for its pre-med program.”

Katukota shared some advice to students who are heading into high school. 

“I would just say keep working hard, get involved in extracurricular activities and keep striving for what you want,” she said.

Sperling, as salutatorian, finished her high school career with a 100.2 weighted GPA. During her time at Comsewogue, Sperling served as   T.A.S.K. club member, student government president, Comsewogue Board of Education student representative, Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association student representative, Spanish honor society vice president and yearbook editor-in-chief. 

Sperling will attend Binghamton University in the fall and study political science. 

“I’m really excited to go Binghamton,” she said. “I’m really interested in law and hope to go to law school [in the future] and possibly go into government work.”

Sperling said she is looking forward to continuing doing work in the community and being active in campus clubs and organizations at Binghamton. 

The senior also shared some advice to students heading into high school. 

“Have a good balance between school and your personal life,” she said. “I think it is really important to have time for yourself and enjoy your high school experience. Before you know it it’s over.”

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.”

Seniors Annalisa Welinder, left, and Ava Schully, valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively. Photo from PJSD

Two young women, Annalisa Welinder and Ava Schully, have, respectively, attained the title of valedictorian and salutatorian for the Port Jefferson Class of 2019. 

Welinder has an impressive and diversified high school résumé, including taking eight honors and 12 Advanced Placement courses and one college-level class. She is an Advanced Placement Scholar, a Presidential Scholars Program nominee and a National Latin Exam four-time gold medalist. She serves as president of the Latin Club, is a member of Mathletes and member of the school’s Academic Team. Welinder is also a member of both the track team and tennis team.

A violinist, Welinder is a member of the prestigious National Youth Orchestra, where she served as a concertmaster in 2017, with which she traveled to numerous concert halls, including Carnegie Hall. She and her brother have run a summer music camp — Sound Strings Long Island — for all age levels and she is a frequent award winner for various violin competitions. Welinder is also interested in creative writing endeavors.

Asked for some words of wisdom to share with future graduates of the school, Welinder had an uncomplicated response. “Everything seems easier and more doable if you enjoy it,” she said.

Welinder is excited to enter the freshman class at Stanford University in September.

Schully, as salutatorian, commended her family, peers and teachers who have helped her succeed in school and other aspects of her life. 

Schully’s list of achievements is comprehensive and includes taking 10 AP courses, four honors courses and two college-level courses. She was on the school’s soccer team in ninth grade and has run on both the school’s track team and cross-country team. She is a member of the Peer Leadership, Interact, Drama and Latin clubs as well as a member of Tri-M Honor Society and Sources of Strength.

Schully took a service trip to Peru to help build a clean water system for local people, attended a six-week intensive study of classical music at the Interlochen Arts Camp in Michigan, took part in the Philadelphia International Music Festival and recently performed on cello in the National Association for Music Education All-Eastern music conference in Pittsburgh. Her extracurricular activities include being a member of the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra of New York and Stony Brook University Young Artists Program. She has received numerous school awards and is active in the local community.

Schully’s plans after high school include exploring how music can promote community partnerships and cross-cultural relations. She has committed to Brown University where she plans to create her own major that focuses on a mixture of topics including ethnomusicology, human development, international relations, education and nonprofit organizations in an interdisciplinary context.

“Challenge yourself in classes you’re actually interested in and take part in extracurricular activities that you love,” she said. “Don’t worry about doing what you think a college admissions office might want to do and just pursue your passions. The rest will follow.”

Ibuki Iwasaki, Eli Doyle, Luke Begley, Charles Clark finish atop their classes

By Anthony Petriello

Ibuki Iwasaki. Photo by Alex Petroski

At the conclusion of the 2018 school year at Earl L. Vandermeulen and Comsewogue high schools, four graduates stood at the top of their respective classes. These extraordinarily talented students include valedictorian Ibuki Iwasaki and salutatorian Eli Doyle from Port Jeff and valedictorian Luke Begley and salutatorian Charles Clark from Comsewogue.

At Earl L. Vandermeulen, Iwasaki finished the year at the top of the class with a 101.4 cumulative grade point average. Iwasaki was president of the National Honor Society and a member of the Mathletes team, for which she competed in more than 20 competitions, and won the All-County title for the 2017-18 school year.

“I am self-motivated,” she said of her academic drive. “My mother trusts me to seek out challenges.”

She attributed her success to her natural curiosity.

“I like to learn and try out new things whenever I can,” she said.

Eli Doyle. Photo by Alex Petroski

Iwasaki was also a member of the Science Olympiad team, where she was a first-place and third-place winner in various competitions. The team travels to universities near and far to compete against other high schools in a sports-style science tournament sponsored by organizations like NASA, Lockheed Martin and the United States Air Force. Iwasaki had also been a player on the varsity tennis team since eighth grade and was undefeated individually in the league this year. She is a National Merit Scholarship recipient, an AP Scholar with Distinction, and had earned a perfect score for three years at Level IV NYSSMA on the violin. Iwasaki will be attending Massachusetts Institute of Technology this fall but said she has not declared an official major.

“I want to take advantage of all the opportunities MIT has to offer,” she said.

Eli Doyle finished high school with a 100.9 GPA. Doyle said he is grateful to the high school faculty for allowing him to achieve greatness.

Luke Begley. Photo by Alex Petroski

“I appreciate the opportunity my school has given me to achieve what I have achieved,” he said.

In addition to being an exemplary student, Doyle excelled on the field as well as the stage, having played tennis since ninth grade, earning honors from the Suffolk County Junior Tennis League, and working as part of the stage crew for school plays, musicals and concerts. He also volunteered at Jefferson’s Ferry Life Plan Community in South Setauket and spent his time with the residents, earning him the Presidential Volunteer Service Award. Like Iwasaki, he was also a member of the Science Olympiad squad, finishing in first place in both optics and astronomy competitions. He was a member and officer of the Student Organization for all four years of his high school career and had the opportunity to participate in the Simmons Summer Research program at Stony Brook University where he studied ferroelectric fluid, which is a type of magnetic fluid that can be used in many applications from computer hard drives to rocket fuel. Doyle will be attending Brown University this fall where he will study engineering physics.

At Comsewogue, Luke Begley was named valedictorian, finishing with a 101.5 GPA. Begley is a music-minded scholar as well as a scholar-athlete. He was a member of the NYSSMA All-State Orchestra on the double bass and played midfield on the Comsewogue varsity soccer team. He attributed his academic success to his parents and his teachers.

Charles Clark. Photo by Alex Petroski

“They always motivated me and created an environment where I could succeed, and my teachers always knew how to keep me interested and engaged,” he said.

Begley was also the president of the French National Honor Society, captain of the Academic Quiz Bowl team and an AP Scholar with Distinction during his junior year. He credited his drive to succeed to his close friends.

“We keep a good balance of competition and cooperation where we compete to be the best academically but still help each other when it is necessary,” he said.

Begley will be attending Princeton University this fall where he will be double majoring in physics and music.

Comsewogue salutatorian Charles Clark had a 101.3 GPA to wrap up his senior year. He could not be reached for comment.

Mount Sinai’s valedictorian Jonathan Yu and salutatorian Jack Pilon are like many other students in their class, looking forward to college, and even further, future careers.

Yu finished with a 103.12 GPA. The senior was the environmental club vice president, a National Merit Scholarship award winner and he ran winter and spring track.

Mount Sinai valedicotiran Jonathan Yu. Photo from Mount Sinai School District

He said his proudest accomplishments were as a member of the school’s Ocean Bowl team. The team is made up of four students who travel to competitions where they test their knowledge of marine sciences, including biology, chemistry, physics and geology. This year the team won the regional Bay Scallop Bowl at Stony Brook University and went on to compete in the National Ocean Sciences Bowl, where it placed eighth.

“It was a great accomplishment,” Yu said. “It was great to explore, go to different places and meet new people.”

Yu will attend Georgia Institute of Technology where he plans to study physics, a subject which to Yu is a means to understanding a complex world.

“The world is so complicated — so it’s nice to simplify it,” Yu said. “At the simplest level everything in the universe follows a certain set of rules, and I think that’s amazing.”

Yu said he hopes to take his passion for the subject to work as a researcher, and added if he had any choice of destination, it would be to work in Antarctica. 

“It just seems like a really interesting place,” Yu said. “There is so much going on, from ice movement to the wildlife.”

As a word of advice for incoming high school freshmen, he said kids have to help each other so that everyone can succeed.

“It’s just the right thing to do,” he said.

Mount Sinai salutatorian Jack Pilon. Photo from Mount Sinai School District

Pilon graduated with a 103.52 GPA. The senior has been team captain for spring and winter track, National Honor Society president and a member of the school’s orchestra, but his highlight moments were spent as this year’s class president.

In his junior year, Pilon and his fellow class officers created committees on prom, homecoming, fundraising and class trips that were joined by students interested in having a say in running the school events.

“These were students who wouldn’t have originally had the opportunity or even interest in school government, and we were able to get them involved,” Pilon said.

Being class president is just a part of Pilon’s interest in government and politics. It’s why he plans to major in government while attending the College of  Arts and Sciences at Cornell University.

“It kind of drew from what I did as class president — you’re really able to create change, and it’s something I’m really interested in,” Pilon said.

But that isn’t his only interest. He is attending the arts and sciences college to see which of his interests — medicine, government or business — draws more of his attention.

Pilon said anybody who wants to enjoy high school should look to get involved.

“Use the opportunities given to you,” he said. “Explore everything you can, take the hard classes and be up to the challenge.”

By Amanda Perelli

The recognized valedictorians and salutatorians of the Middle Country school district were active community members who set a positive example for this year’s graduating class. The driven students excelled in and outside the classroom, engaging in several extracurriculars and college-level classes.

Centereach valedictorian Anthony Roman and salutatorian Olivia Zhu. Photos from Middle Country school district

Centereach High School 

Valedictorian Anthony Roman graduated with a 98.2 GPA and was recognized by the college board as an AP Scholar with Distinction and a National Merit Scholar. He was enrolled in 14 AP classes at Centereach and four other college-level courses.

Roman was a member of several clubs and organizations within the district, including the Thespian Honor Society, Italian Honor Society, National Honor Society, the school newspaper and Science Olympiad team.

He is attending Massachusetts Institute of Technology this fall to study mechanical engineering and computer science. 

Salutatorian Olivia Zhu, who graduated with 11 AP courses and two college-level courses under her belt, also earned the recognition of National AP Scholar with Distinction from the College Board.

A member of National Honor Society, Tri-M Music Honor Society, and Math and Science Olympiad teams, Zhu also made time for sports, competing as a member of the varsity tennis team since eighth grade. She served as captain and earned most valuable player nods from her coach the past two seasons.

She will be attending Cornell University to study computer science and engineering this fall.

Newfield valedictorian Photos from Middle Country school district

Newfield High School

Valedictorian Logan Ortiz graduated with an unweighted GPA of 98.7 and more than 40 college credits. He participated in student government, National Honor Society and Tri-M Music Honor Society and served as
captain of the Mock Trial team while also remaining president of the Video Club.

Ortiz was also busy serving as captain of the golf team.

He plans to attend Georgetown University next fall and study political science. He said he hopes to attend law school and has his eye on becoming a government official.

Salutatorian Diogo Martins finished his high school career with an unweighted GPA of 98 and more than 45 college credits.

During his four years at Newfield, Martins helped out with almost every fundraising event in the school and served in leadership roles in the Thespian Honor Society, World Languages Honor Society and National Honor Society.

Martins will attend Villanova University in the fall and intends to major in finance.

Shoreham-Wading River seniors Christian Wesselborg, left, and Calvin Schmalzle, right, were named this year’s valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively. Photos from Shoreham-Wading River school district

Shoreham-Wading River’s valedictorian Christian Wesselborg and salutatorian Calvin Schmalzle both managed to achieve high marks while squeezing in a helping of extracurricular activities.

Wesselborg earned a 101.42 GPA. He is a gold medalist at the Al Kalfus Long Island Math Fair, a winner of department awards for both AP Biology and AP Statistics, was named an AP Scholar with Distinction and
was honored with a Rensselaer Medal for excellence in math and science. 

Wesselborg participated in several sports, including wrestling and winter and spring track. He was also recognized as a member of the academic All-County team as a member of the Wildcats varsity soccer team. The senior also spent his time as the robotics team captain and a member of the jazz band.

Other than school, Wesselborg participated in Relay Iowa, an adventure over 330 miles long.

After four years of high school, Wesselborg plans to attend Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
in Troy, where he will study biosciences.

Schmalzle finished with a 100.09 GPA. He is a National Merit Scholarship Commended Student, a Brookhaven National Laboratory High School Research Program summer intern and placed first at the Suffolk County Math Teachers Association precalculus contest.

Outside of the classroom Schmalzle was also a member of the school robotics team. After school he played volleyball and ran track and field, earning an All-American nod during winter track and to the All-County academic team during volleyball season.

In the fall Schmalzle will attend Clarkson University where he plans to study mechanical engineering and explore his passion for math and physics. He said he’s hoping to land a job in the engineering field.

“Christian and Calvin are both exceptional students who represent the well-rounded education at Shoreham-Wading River High School,” Principal Frank Pugliese said. “Their commitment to school, community and
extracurricular activities will certainly drive their future successes.”

Schmalzle said the things he would miss the most from his time in high school are his friends and family. He said other students that look to do well should do their due diligence.

“Work hard and believe in yourself,” he said.

Miller Place High School valedictorian Nicole Cirrito and salutatorian Victoria Calandrino have worked hard both in the classroom and on the sports field.

Cirrito graduated with a 100.77 GPA and won several academic awards, including the Rensselaer Medal Award for Excellence in Math and Science, the Advanced Placement Language Expository Writing Award, scholar-athlete awards in track and field hockey and was named an AP scholar with honors. Her SAT score sits at a healthy 1520.

Miller Place valedictorian Nicole Cirrito. Photo from Miller Place School District

Cirrito is an active member of the school’s yearbook club, service club and the Foreign Language Honor Society. As an athlete, she has been recognized as All-League and All-Division on her spring track team. She also ran cross-country.

“I’m going to miss my friends the most, that and running track,” Cirrito said.

Some of her proudest accomplishments were done as vice president of the National Honor Society, where she participated in setting up blood drives, food drives and other charitable events. 

“We got to do things for our community and we were able to become very involved in all the planning and executing” Cirrito said.

She will be attending Stony Brook University in the fall where she will study math in the honors program with the hopes of becoming a math teacher.

“I like the ability to figure out what problems are ahead of you just using what you know,” Cirrito said. “I’ve always wanted to be a teacher since I was younger, and when I got older and I learned I liked math. I just knew I wanted to be a math teacher.”

Calandrino graduated with a 99.87 GPA and received high marks on advanced placement exams, including a perfect score in AP Psychology. She is the receiver of awards for excellence in AP Psychology, AP World History and AP Language and Composition. In school she has been active as a member in the school orchestra and on the school soccer and track teams.

Miller Place salutatorian Victoria Calandrino. Photo from Miller Place School District

Outside of school she held several leadership positions, including secretary of the National Honor Society, in which she recorded meeting minutes and worked to help set up events.

The most fun she said she’s had in her activities out of school involved an internship for Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), where she aided the politician in the offices response to the White House attempting to lift the ban on wildlife trophies as well as the legislator’s efforts in dealing with local feral cat problems.

“In Miller Place we have a feral cat problem, and my family adopted a cat that we found outside, so I got to work with different vets around Miller Place and Mount Sinai to coordinate the office’s efforts,” Calandrino said.

She will be attending Boston University where she will be studying political science on a prelaw track. Though at the moment she intends on going into law, she said she is leaving herself open to studying politics or world history, specifically looking at working in international relations.

Calandrino said students entering high school who might think they enjoy a subject should use the available AP classes to see in which subjects they are interested. 

“Definitely don’t slack off and not take AP classes, because AP classes transfer to a lot of schools,” she said. “It’s very beneficial and it will help you figure out if you want to become something in that field.”

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