BY PATRICIA KELLER WEST MILFORD – A 2015 West Milford High School graduate is officially a “Rhodes Scholar.”Nicolette D’Angelo recently won the prestigious, and rare, scholarship.Upon learning she had won the Rhodes Scholarship, D’Angelo said she immediately called her mother, “and cried with her after sharing my unreal, euphoric news.”“I can’t help but remember calling her in November during my first year of college, in tears, to say that I was finding my courses too difficult, that I feared I would never be able to succeed at a school like Princeton (University),” D’Angelo said. “To call her three years later with very different news is the greatest thanks I can give my parents for their unconditional support of my education. I owe everything to the love, support and mentorship of my family, friends and teachers.”The award funds two to three years of graduate study for selected students to pursue a degree(s) at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. D’Angelo is currently a senior at Princeton, pursuing a bachelor of arts degree in classics, as well as certificates in creative writing, humanistic studies, and gender and sexuality studies. She is among just 32 American college and university recipients awarded the renowned fellowship for 2019. The Times Higher Education World University Rankings in September, 2018, declared Oxford as the world’s number one university for the third consecutive year. “The Rhodes Scholarships are the oldest and most celebrated international fellowship awards in the world,” the Rhodes Trust website said. The Rhodes Trust is a British charity established to honor an endowment from the will of Cecil J. Rhodes upon his death in 1902, to provide full financial support for Rhodes Scholars to pursue a degree or degrees at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. The first Rhodes Scholars arrived at Oxford in 1903, and the first U.S. Rhodes Scholars entered Oxford in 1904. In partnership with the Second Century Founder, John McCall MacBain, and other generous benefactors, the scholarships continue to this day. “Rhodes Scholars are chosen not only for their outstanding scholarly achievements, but for their character, commitment to others and to the common good, and for their potential for leadership in whatever domains their careers may lead,” the website said.According to press releases from Princeton University, D’Angelo joins a diverse group of Rhodes Scholars this year: 21 of the 32 selected are female, and many come from immigrant, first-generation backgrounds. D'Angelo plans to pursue a Master of Studies Degree in Classics at Oxford.“I can’t express enough appreciation for New Jersey schools, especially NJ public schools,” she said. “The faculty and staff of Upper Greenwood Lake, Macopin and WMHS all contributed to the lifelong love of reading, writing and learning which informs my scholarship today, and will continue to be important, no doubt, throughout my time in Oxford. Thank you.”D'Angelo grew up in the Hewitt section of West Milford Township, where she attended Upper Greenwood Lake Elementary School. Like most of her peers in West Milford, she attended Macopin Middle School for 7th and 8th grade, and then went on to attend four years at West Milford High School.High achiever at WMHSThroughout her four years at West Milford High School, D’Angelo was a Model United Nations debate team delegate, serving as team president for two terms and winning 10 awards. She acted in the school’s spring musicals and enjoyed singing as a member of the WMHS Honors Concert Choir and the Highland Jazz Choir. She served as Class President from 2011 to 2013, and was Student Council vice president in her junior year.During her senior year, she was student council president and served as the student representative to the West Milford Board of Education. D'Angelo was also a member of the National Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta (math honor society) and the Spanish Honor Society. She was an award-winning poet, a National Merit Commended Scholar, an AP scholar, and Salutatorian for the Class of 2015.In addition to her many impressive academic achievements and accomplishments in extracurricular activities, D'Angelo volunteered her time and efforts in the community for charitable and supportive events and causes as well, such as: a team co-captain for Relay for Life in the Highlands, a West Milford Teen Coffee House volunteer, and a volunteer for the National Eating Disorder Association.“While there are many people who have inspired me to learn more and be more, I would most like to thank my family and teachers for my academic successes,” she said in a 2015 interview with the Messenger. “My parents taught me to keep reading and asking questions. My teachers, both inside and outside the classroom, have similarly empowered me to be passionately curious in all that I do. Books have given me knowledge, but they have shown me how to use it."As Salutatorian of the WMHS Class of 2015, D’Angelo addressed the crowd at the commencement ceremony with a speech about how all of the students have fought their own personal battles and challenges over their four years of high school, and all have a story that is “unique and worthy of telling.” She said that growing up in a town with the small town feel of West Milford has taught them all the art of storytelling. She shared some amusing anecdotes about growing up in the township that had classmates and resident audience members alike chuckling in agreement.“Living in a small town does not mean you have to live a small life or have a small story to tell," D'Angelo said. "So write your story, share it with others, and do everything you can to make it a big one - then be it. I know it can be more beautiful than you could have ever imagined.”Writing her own big storyD'Angelo began her undergraduate studies at Princeton University in the fall of 2015. According to an April 2018 press release by Princeton University, D’Angelo stated in an application for the 2018 national Beinecke Scholarship for Graduate Studies in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, that her passion for classics was sparked in her first year at Princeton during the Humanities Sequence: a year-long, team-taught survey of the Western canon, from Homer through 20th-century literary texts. “I realized that at the heart of these texts were concerns about war, gender and sexuality, migration, inequality: concerns not foreign to those of family and friends at home,” she wrote. “I’ve since dedicated the entirety of my university education to highlighting this contemporary relevance through traditional as well as creative approaches.”According to the release, D'Angelo has earned several academic honors while at Princeton, including the “Award for Outstanding Work by an Underclassman” (for Creative Writing) from the Lewis Center in her first year, the “Bain-Swiggett Poetry Prize” from the Department of English in her second year, and Princeton’s “Shapiro Prize for Academic Excellence” in her first two years. D’Angelo is a member of Mathey College, where she serves as a residential college adviser.She is also editor-in-chief of The Nassau Literary Review, a writing fellow of the Princeton University Writing Center, a head “symposiarch” and peer mentor in the Humanities Council, and a student ambassador in the Humanities for “Princeton Research Day.” She has served as a Community Action Orientation Leader for the Pace Center for Civic Engagement, designed costumes for the Princeton Shakespeare Company, sung with the University Chapel Choir, and contributed to The Nassau Weekly and Stripe magazine. Although D’Angelo did not study Latin or Greek classes while in high school, she mastered Latin in under two years at Princeton, and mastered Greek over one summer intensive course. She now teaches Latin to local elementary school students through the “Princeton Young Achievers” program and the Paideia Institute- a Classics nonprofit organization.During fall break of her sophomore year, D’Angelo traveled to Greece with other Humanities Sequence students, where she “conducted an independent research project on polychromy in the costumes of ancient Greek tragedy.”In summer 2017, with funding from the Lewis Center for the Arts, D’Angelo began to create “Guesthouse: Voices from Eating Disorder Facilities in America”- a book of poetry compiled in her travels across the United States, from interviews with patients in treatment centers and support groups. D’Angelo received the “Sam Hutton Fund Award” from the Lewis Center for this project, and continues to work on it.D’Angelo spent this past summer in Rome as a development and outreach intern, helping to write educational materials for the study of Greek and Latin at the Paideia Institute.In April, D'Angelo was named as one of only 18 students from around the country to be awarded the National “Beinecke Scholarship” for postgraduate study in Classics.Each Beinecke Scholarship winner receives $4,000 immediately prior to entering graduate school, and an additional $30,000 while attending graduate school. Yelena Baraz, Associate Professor of Classics at Princeton, wrote in a recommendation letter that D’Angelo: “is much more than a language prodigy. She is an insightful reader of literature, a writer herself and a theoretically astute thinker.” “Nicolette is an ideal student, but she is more than that: she is a student in whom it is easy to see a future colleague,” Baraz wrote. “And she will be the one who will tell her students that they don’t need to have years of Latin to be a classicist, to belong in this field, and to read these texts.”“No dream is too big”In a December, 2018 interview with The Messenger, D'Angelo expressed appreciation for her primary and secondary education in NJ Public Schools, specifically West Milford Township Public Schools. She discussed her future plans, and offered some advice for fellow WMHS alumni and future alumni.“My ultimate goal is a career as a university Professor of Classics. As a Masters student at Oxford, I will prepare myself to eventually pursue a PhD at a public-facing American institution,” she said. “The global perspective afforded by two years in the UK — where, arguably, my field of classics has been synonymous with educational reform as well as educational inequalities — would best prepare me to develop a philosophy of outreach in my research and continued interdisciplinary activism. Along the way, I’m excited to explore Europe, and one day maybe hike England’s coast-to-coast trail.”She advises students in the district to reach for the stars and not be discouraged.“Know that no dream is too big,” she said. “In West Milford, you can receive a fantastic education that will open more doors than you might realize, so long as you are on the lookout. I know that many people say that high school isn’t ‘the real world,’ but the experiences I had at WMHS nonetheless paved the way for me to attend Princeton and know what my values were.” Upon completion of attaining a Master of Studies Degree in classics at Oxford, D’Angelo plans to seek a career in the US as a University Professor of Classics. She also plans to complete further studies in the US to earn a PhD degree in the future.