The future awaits

West Milford's top 10 graduates share their gratitude

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  • Valedictorian Cristina Pellegrino

  • Salutatorian Kelsey Harrison

  • 3 - Lilian Englander

  • 4- Megan Hogan

  • 5 - Samantha Huebner

  • 6 - Nicholas McCormick

  • 7 - Colton Prentzel

  • 8 - Christopher Chacon

  • 9 - Erik Larson

  • 10 - Melinda Mac Arthur

It’s a big world out there and the graduates of West Milford High School are about to take it on.

Next Thursday, June 22, West Milford High School seniors will embark on their futures.

They’ve spent 13 years building their educational foundation, now its on to college and fulfilling their dreams.

Graduation is a proud moment, for those graduating as well as their parents and families. Teachers and staff members, too, share in the joy of seeing these young adults accomplish such a milestone.

Many are off to college, some are headed to trade schools, others will trade in their backpacks for a job or the military. Whatever the future holds, it’s a new beginning for these students. The next chapter opens up and they are excited, maybe a bit nervous, to greet it.

The West Milford Messenger is introducing readers to the West Milford High School Class of 2017 top 10 students. They’ve achieved so much academically, but these students are also artists, musicians, athletes, volunteers. They are part of the fabric of the community in which they’ve grown up. They have bright futures and big plans.

Continue reading as they share their thoughts about those who have helped them most along this journey.

Valedictorian Cristina Pellegrino"In a life full of curiosity and learning, I would most like to thank my family for all my academic success. I remember following my brother around after school when I was younger, asking questions about all he learned that day. My parents taught me what it means to be dedicated and to have a desire to succeed; through them I learned the importance of setting goals and achieving them. In my brother I found my greatest role model; someone I could always look up to and someone who was there to remind that homework breaks are necessary.

"Fortunately, my friends and I are all a little nerdy and for that reason we cherish our Saturday homework nights. Their unconditional support has constantly motivated me to be the best that I can.

"Lastly, I’d like to thank my teachers for believing in me, and for making even the boring material interesting. I am eternally grateful for all that my family, friends, and teachers have taught me, inside and outside the classroom."


Recipient of the World Language Departmental Award, attended NJ Girls State, New Jersey Scholar Athlete Award recipient, NJ Women in Sports Day Award recipient, National Honor Society, Math Honor Society, Science Honor Society, president of Italian Honor Society; four year varsity soccer (captain and MVP, first team all county, first team all conference), Club Soccer for five years as captain for Sussex County Premier- EDP League Team, four year varsity lacrosse (Coach’s Award, second team all county, second team all conference), Peers As Leaders, Interact Club, Varsity Club.

Future plans

Christina will attend Fairfield University in the honors program as an accounting and management information double major with a minor in business analytics. She received the university's most prestigious scholarship and will be in Fairfield's five year MBA program, obtaining her MBA of finance during her fifth year.

Salutatorian Kelsey Harrison"I would like to thank my family for their support and guidance through the years. My parents have provided me with endless opportunities for which I will always be grateful. They always have my success in mind and pushed me to do my best in everything I did. I am thankful for my brother as well, who has been a role model to me since I was young."


Varsity soccer and lacrosse for four years, serving as a captain of the soccer team her senior year; first team All-Passaic County for both soccer and lacrosse senior year, Passaic County Athlete of the Year finalist. Interact Club, Varsity Club, National Honor Society, Science National Honor Society, and French Honor Society. Cinderella Project, Relay for Life, and Empty Bowls.

Future plans

Kelsey will study chemistry at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

3 - Lilian Englander "I owe a great deal of my academic success to my family; their brilliance and eternal support have encouraged me in all of the right ways. They provided me with the resources I needed so I could continue to succeed even when my classes surpassed anything they had learned. I was always urged to learn; 'I’ll help you with your homework' may have changed to 'Teach me what you learned at school today,' but the passion for progress and improvement were always shared amongst my parents and me.

"I am so grateful to have been surrounded by teachers who shared the same goal as well. There has been nothing more inspiring in my career than the devotion my teachers exemplified for their subject. Their enthusiasm for any topic was contagious and it is for that reason I will be a life-long learner.

"I would lastly like to thank my friends, many of whom are in this article, for embracing school right alongside me. More well known as the ‘Nerd Herd,’ I found the most remarkable, driven, and accomplished group of friends that conquered high school right by my side. With the deepest sincerity and love, thank you all."


Competed regionally and nationally as a dancer since age 10; performs for nursing homes; nanny to five children after school everyday. PALS, Interact Club, Science National Honor Society, secretary of Mu Alpha Theta, vice president of National Honor Society. Relay for Life team captain, Westbrook Talent Show choreographer and tutor in algebra II, pre-calc trig, and college physics. Recipient of John H. Moeller Memorial, West Milford Township PBA Local 162, John Ducey and Valerie McGuinness Memorial, West Milford Rotary Club, WMTHS PTSO, and Mercedes Benz Presidential scholarships. Recipient of Science Departmental award.

Future plans

Lilian will attend Georgia Institute of Technology as a neuroscience and biomedical engineering double major, with hopes to complete medical school and specialize in forensic science as a pathologist.

4 - Megan Hogan"I’d be lying (and an extraordinarily terrible person) if I thanked anyone other than my parents for my academic successes. I have the most understanding and compassionate mother in the entire world; I cannot even begin to recount the number of times she sacrificed her precious work hours as an attorney to proofread my position papers or allowed me to skip chores so I could study longer. She was motivational but not overbearing, expecting my best and accepting imperfection. My dad was my anchor; he calmed me down when school became all-consuming and never hesitated to tell me that he loved me unconditionally. They forced me to engage with what I was passionate about. They made me who I am."


Model United Nations member (four years), team secretary/executive board member (two years), won four awards; Drum Major of the Highlander Marching band (three years) and winner of Best Drum Major award at Mount Olive High School Competition 2014; Student Council president, Student Council vice president, Class Vice President, Governor of New Jersey Girls State 2016, Voice of Democracy essay contest winner 2015, current student representative to the board of education and to Communities Against Substance Abuse (CASA); Youth blogger for the United Nations via the UN “Voices of Youth” blog; two-time All County Team and two-time All District Team sabre fencer; Peers As Leaders, National Honor Society, Science Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta (math) Honor Society, and French Honor Society. Recipient of New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Leadership scholarship, Highlander Band scholarship.

Future Plans

Megan will be attending the College of William and Mary, studying international relations, women’s studies, and Arabic, with hopes to work either for the United Nations through UN Women or for the State Department as an ambassador.

5 - Samantha Huebner "Reflecting on not only the past four years of high school, but the entirety of my life, I can say with absolute certainty that I would not have been able to achieve success without the love and support of my parents. Whether it be transporting me across the state of New Jersey for sports and extracurriculars, purchasing school supplies, or offering words of encouragement during times of stress, they have done it all. I’m so thankful to have both my parents by my side as I graduate to celebrate this success because it simply would not have been possible without them. I also want to thank my teachers and study group; the endless hours of hard work have finally paid off and I could not have survived high school without such intelligent and passionate people to fuel my curiosity and search for knowledge."


Varsity lacrosse, soccer; Interact Club secretary, Spanish, Math, Science, and National Honor Society member; involved in tutoring and other community service; Distinguished Scholar, AP student, Passaic County Female Student Athlete Award Winner (2017).

Future plans

Samantha will be attending the University of Connecticut studying pre-med in preparation for medical school with aspirations to become a doctor

6 - Nicholas McCormick "For my academic success, I would like to thank my parents as they have supported and encouraged my efforts, only asking that I try my best. My parents showed their support of my academic career through countless hours spent working on PTA committees, as class parents, and volunteering at most school events.

"Outside school, my parents were my Scout leader, my CCD teacher and coached every sport I participated in. My parents are my role models whose commitment to school, service and athletics inspired me to follow the example they set. They have always been vocal in support of my education, my teachers and always did whatever was necessary to make my educational experience a success.

"Also,I want to thank my sisters who supported me and celebrated every success with me. Finally, I would also like to thank my teachers who worked very hard to educate me, helped me to become a better person by being great role models, set high standards and were there for me whenever I needed help."


Varsity soccer captain, named first team all conference and honorable mention all county; varsity basketball, earned the team's Citizenship Award, named 2016 - 2017 Big North Conference Scholar Athlete of the Year for West Milford; Eagle Scout member of Troop 114 - service project was renovation of St. Joseph's Cemetery fence; member of PALs (Peers As Leaders), Varsity Club; Relay for Life, volunteer assistant coach for the Boys U-18 travel soccer team; National Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta Math Honor Society and the German Honor Society; awarded the Scholastic Excellence Award by the United States Marine Corps.

Future plans

Nicholas will attend Seton Hall University and study finance in the Honors Program at the Stillman School of Business where he was also invited to participate in their nationally recognized Leadership Program.

7 - Colton Prentzel "I'd like to thank the wonderful teachers at West Milford High School for making high school an enjoyable experience and an excellent learning environment. I'd like to thank my peers as well, for creating an atmosphere of positivity and of ambition, driving me to excel."


Model United Nations- Best Delegation, St. Peter's University; Model Congress; History Club (vice president); Finalist, Best Documentary 2016; Varsity Cross Country; Varsity Fencing- Epee- First Team All-County; "Guild" Gaming Club; Honor Societies: Math, National, Science, French (president); Executive Student Council (executive secretary); Paradise Knoll PTA Alumnus Scholarship.

Future plans

Colton will attend New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) Honors College and major in biomedical engineering. Ideally he would like to be a biomedical design engineer for a medical device company.

8 - Christopher Chacon"I largely have my parents to thank for my academic success. My parents have always pushed for me to do better in school, always encouraged and rewarded good grades. Focusing on school and my academics is entirely because of how my parents raised me and the values they instilled in me. Without them and their support, I wouldn't be nearly as successful as I am, nor anywhere close to the person I am today."


National Honor Society, Science National Honor Society, National Society of High School Scholars; awarded $18,000 in merit-based scholarship from Stevens Institute of Technology, in addition to other scholarships.

Future plans

Christopher will attend Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken to study mechanical engineering.

9 - Erik Larson"My academic success started with my parents who sparked my love of reading and curiosity as a baby. They always encouraged and supported me throughout my life. I know this will sound strange, one teacher that still stands out to me is my first grade teacher at Westbrook - Mrs. Canali. She was such a positive influence in my life and I will never forget her. The next teacher who had a profound impact on me was Mr. Andriulli, my middle school English teacher. He taught me that English class could actually be engaging and relevant. Ms. Mock and Ms. Sig were two teachers who made high school more interesting to me."


Distinguished scholar (four years), National Honor Society, German Honor Society, Science Honor Society. Lafayette College Grant.

The hobby that I am most passionate about is playing the guitar. I have been taking lessons since I was 7 years old. As I have gotten older, I still take great solace in playing and writing music. I have started playing sitar as well. I have performed in some Hindu temples, which is an entirely new experience for me. I have worked at North Jersey Guitar for close to two years now. Working for the owner and my guitar teacher, Shawn Reams, has really been such a positive experience for me.

I volunteer at The Children’s Therapy Center, where my sister Jesse goes. I play guitar to many of the classes and help run fairs and other activities over the years. I

Future plans

Erik will attend Lafayette College in the fall, where he received the Lafayette College Grant. He plans to major in neuroscience and minor in music.

10 - Melinda Mac Arthur “While there are an incredible amount of people I could thank for helping me reach this far, those who have had the most impact on me would have to be my parents. I was home schooled by my mom for a few years and that’s really where my love for learning took off, as well as my desire to constantly read. They never pushed me farther than my limits would allow but encouraged me to always do my best and were always willing to help me with any schoolwork I didn’t understand. Aside from them, I’d like to give a quick thank you to all my wonderful friends, who’ve supported and gone with me through the trials and tribulations of high school.”


Vice president student council, band president, and stage manager for the school play; Interact Club, Model United Nations, varsity track athlete for two years, National Honor Society, Math Honor Society (Mu Alpha Theta) and Spanish Honor Society,

Future plans

Melinda will be attending the honors program at the University of Delaware, majoring in criminal justice. She hopes to be an integral part of the FBI one day.

Congratulations to West Milford's class of 2017.

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