The best and brightest of 2014

West Milford High School's top 10 graduates share their gratitude

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  • 1. Sara Reich

  • 2. Patrick Kerssen

  • 3. Anthony Pasquarielol

  • 4. Jonathan Albar

  • 5. Destin Royer

  • 6. Edward Looney

  • 7. Danielle Burns

  • 8. Kelly DeNaples

  • 9. Sophia Metcalf

  • 10. Lauren Conlon

Commencement: the ceremony of conferring degrees or granting diplomas; an act or instance of commencing; beginning. Yes, beginning.

Graduation is both an end and a beginning. On Wednesday evening, West Milford High School graduated 287 students. It was the end of 13 years of learning, of firsts, in their hometown elementary schools, middle school and high school.

And now it’s on to new beginnings. Many are heading to colleges and universities to continue their education and live out their dreams. Some will enter the work force. Still others will join the military.

It is both a time to look forward and to reflect back.

The West Milford Messenger is introducing readers to the West Milford High School Class of 2014 top 10. These students achieved the highest honors in their class and have big plans and bright futures. And they are grateful. Here they share their thoughts about those who have helped them most along this journey.

West Milford High School's Top 10 graduates of 2014

1. Sara Reich - Valedictorian

GPA: 4.7

"There are many people to thank for my academic successes, first and foremost being my parents, who have always encouraged me to do well and to work hard at everything I do. These values have pushed me throughout my life to succeed in school and other arenas. I also have to thank all of the teachers I’ve had over the years. Teachers are truly the people who give students the opportunity to learn, and without them I would not be where I am today."

Sara is a member of the National Honor Society, vice president of Mu Alpha Theta (Math Honor Society), Spanish Honor Society, New Jersey All-State Mixed Choir, Regional Choir, and Regional Orchestra participant. She is also an active volunteer with the West Milford Museum and Relay for Life. Sara is the co-founder and president of “The Power of Melody,” an organization that seeks to improve the lives of the disabled through music. She was a distinguished scholar all four years of high school, recipient of departmental awards for English and science and a National Merit Scholarship finalist.

Sara will attend Northeastern University, major undeclared, as a member of the University Scholars Program, which offers its students a full tuition scholarship for four years. Sara was a distinguished scholar for all four years of high school

2. Patrick Kerssen - Salutatorian

GPA: 4.45

"I thank my parents for my academic success. They often helped me with things I was struggling with and always encouraged me to do my best even when I was entirely ready to take a zero or not study for a test. They always made sure I was doing what I had to be."

Patrick is a member of the varsity tennis team, earning all-county honorable mention honors, section leader and outstanding senior for the Highlander marching band and outstanding achievement in jazz award for the Jazz Band. He earned his Eagle Scout rank as a Boy Scout and was a member of the Interact Club.

Patrick will attend Moravian College in the fall, majoring in music education with a concentration in piano. He hopes to become a music educator or own a business involved with music.

3. Anthony Pasquariello

GPA: 4.38

"I would like to thank my family for all the support and guidance they have given me over the years. Through every obstacle, my parents always supported and looked out for me; they never pressured me to succeed, instead they showed me the benefits of embracing knowledge at every opportunity."

Anthony is the president of the National Honor Society, which takes part in many community-based services, including their own tutoring center twice a week at the high school. He volunteers at Chilton Memorial Hospital and says he would recommend it to anyone who is looking to volunteer.

Anthony will be studying engineering at Boston University in the fall. He hopes to create devices that will help save and improve the lives of injured and sick people.

4. Jonathan Albar

GPA: 4.37

"I thank my parents and all of my teachers for my academic success. They helped me through the years whether it be extra help in class or just motivation. But although I am very grateful for everything they did to help me succeed, I honestly believe that the biggest person to thank is me. Even though I had help along the way, it was my late night studying, hours of home work, and hard work that led to my success. It isn't that I'm not thankful for all the people who helped me, it is just that I believe that I am the only person responsible for my grades and without the work I put in, I wouldn't be in the position I'm in today."

Jonathan is a member of the National Honor Society, Italian Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta (Math Honor Society), and was a varsity tennis captain.

He will be attending the University of Colorado at Boulder in the fall where he will study mechanical engineering, specializing in engineering in renewable energy.

5. Destin Royer

GPA: 4.37

"I most thank my parents for my academic success. Growing up, they fostered a desire for knowledge that has resulted in my academic successes. Additionally, my uncle, Todd always ensured that I was never without some interesting topic to study or book to read. My family, and their natural inclination towards study, has been the key to my academic success and I thank them immensely for that."

Destin ran cross-country, wrestled, ski-raced, and played baseball during his four years in high school. He is a member of the National Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta, and The Spanish Honor Society.

Destin will be attending Ithaca College in the fall and studying political science and computer science. He hopes to one day work in finance.

6. Edward Looney

GPA: 4.34

"Of course I thank my family for their everlasting support and encouragement, always pushing me to be the best I can be. I thank my wonderful friends who have suffered through hours of homework and projects with me, and my teachers who went out of their ways to prepare us for college."

Edward participated in marching band, jazz band, PALs, and is a member of National Honor Society and Mu Alpha Theta. He received the RIT Award for Computing and the Math Department Award.

Edward will be attending Rutgers New Brunswick in the School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program for math and physics. He then hopes to go to graduate school and go into research.

7. Danielle Burns

GPA: 4.32 GPA.

"I would like to thank my parents for giving me the inspiration to learn and do well in school. They never pushed me to get straight As but I knew in order to do well later in life I needed the grades and they were never disappointed in any grade since they knew I always worked hard even when the class seemed impossible. Also, my teachers put the drive to learn and I enjoyed my four years in high school because of them. I'd especially like to thank Mr. Wagner, Mrs. Wojcik, and Mrs. Weiss-Magasic since they thoroughly prepared me for college."

Outside of academics, Danielle participated in soccer, track and field, Symphonic Band and Wind Ensemble (reaching principal chair clarinet), North Jersey Area Band, National Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta, and member/two-year president of the Interact Club. She received the New Jersey State Governors Jefferson Award for her work in the Cinderella Project and the John Philip Sousa Award for music.

In the fall, Danielle will attend Lebanon Valley College in their six year Doctorate of Physical Therapy program to pursue a career as a physical therapist.

8. Kelly De Naples

GPA: 4.31

"My parents are my biggest supporters. My whole life they've comforted me when I was stressed about school and helped me study whenever I'd ask. They have always been there for me and taught me from a young age that giving up is never an option. They also taught me to always try my best and that self-motivation is the key to being successful. I have always been self-motivated and believe this is the reason I am in the top ten of my class. When it comes to who I'd thank for my academic success, my parents have been a big help, but I'd really like to thank myself. I'm the one who made school a priority in my life, staying up late into the night studying and trying my hardest on assignments. My parents taught me to be independent. They never checked how many tests I had coming up or made sure I got my homework done; they left that all up to me. This sense of independence is how I did well in high school and how I plan to continue my success in college."

Kelly has been involved in National Art Honor Society, National Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta, and Italian Honor Society. She has participated in Community Clean Up, Empty Bowls, and Relay for Life and has been named a distinguished scholar all four years of high school. She was a varsity cheerleader, being named captain, most dedicated, and most valuable player during her senior year.

Kelly will attend Hofstra University in the fall, majoring in graphic design.

9. Sophia Metcalf

GPA: 4.3

"There are too many people to possibly list here, but I’ll list the two that I believe influenced me most: Mrs. Blumenthal, for giving me the skills to learn, and my mother, for enforcing those skills. Mrs. Blumenthal, my third grade teacher at Maple Road School, instilled in me a principle that has stayed with me in the decade since, namely, that if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right. She never accepted work that she believed was any lower than the highest quality her students had to offer, and she drove students to discover their potential. My mother, hard-working teacher that she is, took Mrs. Blumenthal’s lesson to heart, and made sure that every project, paper, problem, and poem lived up to the sky-high standard of that third-grade classroom. It is because of her that I live with my fingernails scratching at cloud bottoms, always curious of what lies just above."

Sophia has participated in Model UN, is the president of the student council this year, a member of the marching band, acted in several school musicals, was a member of the Chamber Choir, Honors Concert Choir and Wind Ensemble. She also volunteers with the Interact Club, was a Relay for Life team captain, a member of the St. Joseph's Church youth group and organized events at the local teen coffee house. She is a member and officer of the National Honor Society, a member of the French National Honor Society and named to the All-State Choir, Region Jazz Choir and Region Choir.

Sophia will attend McGill University, College of the Arts, "majoring in Adventure with a minor in Super Hero Training" (aka political science and foreign languages).

10. Lauren Conlon

GPA: 4.23

"For my academic success, I would first like to thank my parents. They have taught me the discipline, time management, perseverance, and essential work ethic needed to become not only a distinguished scholar, but also a well-rounded individual. I would also like to thank my teachers for providing me with the tools and techniques that expanded my knowledge each year. In combination, I think my parents and my teachers have prepared me for academic success that will carry over from the high school to the university level."

Lauren is a lettering member of the West Milford High School gymnastics team for two years and an all star cheerleader for seven years She plans to continue cheerleading in college. She has volunteered for breast cancer walks, diabetes walks, cooked Thanksgiving dinners for needy families, donated books to a library in Kenya, and sent care packages and letters to U.S. troops. Lauren volunteered with the West Milford High School PTSO this year to prepare for SAT Bootcamp and Project Graduation. She is a member of the National Honor Society, the Mu Alpha Theta Math Honor Society, and vice president of the Spanish National Honor Society.

Lauren will be attending Fordham University in the fall as a biological sciences major on the pre-medicine track. She plans to complete her undergraduate degree, enter medical school, and become a pediatrician to achieve the enriching reward of providing service to the community on a daily basis.

The West Milford Messenger congratulates the entire Class of 2014.

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