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Pleasant Valley honors Top 10, their role models

Pleasant Valley High School held its first Top 10 Senior Class celebration in May to honor its high achieving students and the teacher or staff member that was a role model for them.

Brian Boylan, who is a co-principal at PVHS with Jonathan Ayre, said, “As new principals to the building, we wanted to create an atmosphere where our students’ academic accomplishments were highlighted. We wanted to make sure they are recognized for all that they do.”

The event consisted of an award ceremony where each of the students received a certificate and then shared why their role model made such a positive influence in their lives and their educational career.

The Top 10 students were Izabela Baran, Madison Fava, Julia Gower, Jaclyn James, Briana Noel, Oluwafeola Olaniyan, Maria Saitta, Kassidy Shupp, Sophia Tauer and Jacob Wharton.

Izabela Baran invited her advanced placement English teacher Jackie Brinker to the dinner. She said her teacher not only taught her the fundamentals of literature, but also critical thinking skills and a passion for writing.

“She was always available to provide feedback on my writing and challenged me to think beyond the surface level,” Baran said. “Most importantly, she believed in me and helped me believe in myself.”

Baran plans to attend the University of Pennsylvania and major in neuroscience and psychology and plans to become a psychiatrist.

Madison Fava also plans to attend the University of Pennsylvania, but she is headed for the pre-med track and major in biology. Her role model was her science teacher Shannon Mackes.

“She is always someone I know I can count on for help, especially during my college decision process,” Fava said. “Her classes are very challenging, but always have me thinking.”

For Julia Gower, retired English teacher Philomena Reduzzi was her role model.

“She is one the most genuine and caring teachers I have ever met,” Gower said. “I had her throughout the pandemic, and she was a spark of light in the darkness.”

Gower was the salutatorian. She plans to attend Penn State University at Main Campus and major in chemistry with the goal of doing research.

Jaclyn James was the class president. She plans to go to Cornell University and pursue the five-year program in architecture.

She selected art teacher George Boudman as her mentor.

“He exposed me to different mediums, which encouraged me to seek different perspectives, expanding my expression of art,” she said.

Briana Noel wasn’t able to attend the event. She chose her math teacher Michelle Piontkowski.

“She is just an all-around amazing person, and we have formed a great bond,” Noel said. “Whether it be in class or outside of it, she helps everyone make their high school experience better.”

Noel plans to attend a four-year university and study marketing with a minor in computer science.

Oluwafeola Olaniyan selected his ninth-grade history teacher and former football coach, James Ward, to attend the dinner with him.

“Mr. Ward has motivated me in both athletics and academics which helped me to succeed on both stages,” he said.

Olaniyan plans to attend Georgia Tech University for chemical or electrical engineering and participate in their Air Force ROTC program.

FBLA President Maria Saitta chose her adviser and business teacher Denise Hopely as her role model.

“Without Ms. Hopely’s continuous help and belief in me, I would not be the leader I am today,” Saitta said. “Whenever I would cast doubt on myself, she would always have my back and encourage me to keep going and explain to me that my limits were never defined. She truly has given me the skill sets I needed to blossom in this world and excel in any area of my life.”

Saitta plans to go to Seton Hall University to major in political science on a 3+3 law track, participate in their honors program and the Buccino Leadership Institute.

Class Valedictorian Kassidy Shupp chose guidance counselor Sheri Fallon as her guest of honor, because she has “gone above and beyond her position to consistently show tremendous support for my academic, social and emotional well-being.”

“I could not be more grateful for everything she has done, so it was the most incredible moment to have her by my side at the Top 10 dinner,” Shupp said.

Shupp plans to attend Belmont University to study educational studies (non-licensure).

Sophia Tauer, who plans to attend Rider University to major in actuarial science, chose math teacher Ken Piontkowski as her mentor.

“I’ve had him for AP Calculus AB and BC. His classes have challenged me and therefore made me a better student and prepared me for a future career in mathematics,” she said. “I always looked forward to his class, which is hard to say considering it is such a difficult class but he made it a good environment.”

Jacob Wharton asked his social studies teacher Jason Robbins to attend the dinner with him.

“His class was one of the most interesting, and in my opinion, useful classes that I have ever taken,” Wharton said. “His class taught me important skills and knowledge in regards to being a citizen in the United States and inspired me to pursue a degree in political science to use that knowledge in the real world.”

Wharton is heading to Ohio to Ashland University in the fall. Eventually, he plans to go to law school to become a constitutional or criminal defense lawyer, but is also considering a career as a legislative government official.

The Top 10 dinner was held on May 15 at the Stroudsmoor Country Inn in Stroudsburg. It was organized by the high school principals, as well as Jamie Rockwell, assistant principal; Gail Finamore, principals’ secretary; Dr. Susan Mowrer Benda, director of curriculum and instruction; Dr. Rae Lin Howard, assistant superintendent; and Dr. James Konrad, superintendent.

“As these students go out into the world, we want them to know their hard work doesn’t go unnoticed. They have made a difference at PVHS and will continue to make a difference in life,” Boylan said.

“We also want to honor our teachers and ensure their hard work and dedication does not go unnoticed. It is the highest honor for a teacher to know they had such a profound effect on our students academically.”

The Top 10 seniors in the Class of 2023 were honored in at dinner in May. Pictured are the seniors and the teachers and staff that helped them along the way, and PVSD administration. In the front row, from left to right, are Izabela Baran, Julia Gower, Kassidy Shupp, Sophia Tauer, Jaclyn James, Oluwafeola Olaniyan, Maria Saitta, Jacob Wharton, Madison Fava, all seniors; Shannon Mackes, science teacher; Jonathan Ayre, co-principal; Brian Boylan, co-principal; Jamie Rockwell, assistant principal; Dr. Rae Lin Howard, assistant superintendent; Dr. James Konrad, superintendent; Dr. Susan Mowrer Benda, director of curriculum and instruction. Standing in the back row are Jackie Brinker, English teacher; Philomena Reduzzi, retired English teacher; Sheri Fallon, guidance counselor; Michelle Piontkowski, math teacher; George Boudman, art teacher; Ken Piontkowski, math teacher; James Ward, social studies teacher; Denise Hopely, business teacher; Jason Robbins, social studies teacher; Gail Finamore, principal secretary. Briana Noel, student, is absent from the picture. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO