Story and photo by Eleanor Mathews
Eighty-nine members of Watchung Hills Regional High School’s Class of 2014 were inducted into the National Honor Society (NHS) last Thursday evening, in a celebration that also included presentation's on the four characteristics on which the society inducts its members: scholarship, character, community service and leadership.
This year’s Faculty Council, which expedites the selection process, included; Brian Brown, Vincent Colabella, Christina DiBartolo, Salvatore Fazzino, Suzanne Fenstemaker, Nancy Koppel and Lynn Raimondo.
Elected officers of the chapter, Joshua Voorhees (2013-2014 president); Shannon Pilsbury (vice president); and Kavinda Wijayaratne (secretary) announced the names of the Class of 2014 members who had been accepted into the Society.
The newly inducted members are:
Nicholas Akrawi, Samuel Aldous, Shellen Arora, Rachel Berman, Eric Binder, Kelly Blochlinger, Lucy Bolognese, Elizabeth Booth, Samantha Braver, Maxwell Brown, Sarah Brown, Karan Cariappa, Annika Chan, Zachary Chan, Cody Chen-Shao, Adam Christopherson, Whittney Chu, Anthony Cicalese, Joseph Cline, Kelsey Conway, Sarah Deluty, Sreya Doddakashi, Alison Draikiwicz, Nicole Economides, Lauren Farnell, James Ford, Alexandra Fung, Engy Gadelmawla, Jessica Gaeta, Michelle Gallic, Bryan Gerber, Abhinav Goyal, Michael Graboyes, Isabella Hou, Kristy Huang, Andrew Hunter and Kyle Isler.
Also inducted were: Alex Jiang, Cristine Jones, Max Kabat, Nikolas Karsos, Joshua Katz, Rebecca Kinsella, Meghan Kovac, Samantha Larkey, Yiming Li, Holly Liebau, Shelly Luong, Danielle Mak, Erin Maloney, Robert Martin, Megan McFadden, Erin Mickles, Ashwini Nagappan, Rupal Nahar, Margot Novek, Isabella Nugent, Gabrielle Pagkalinawan, Arjun Patel, Michaela Pesce, Paige Petrosky, Shannon Pilsbury, Alexander Pollera, Leah Rich, Alison Rietze, Matthew Rodriguez and Jared Roth.
The final inductees were: Alexander Rucker, Mary Rugolo, Hana Sawanobori, Cecelia Sha, Mengting Shen, Emily Sheppard, Julia Sofo, Yash Srivastav, Soumya Sudhakar, Olivia Tan, Endi Ulaj, Joshua Voorhees, Mary Wagerik, Alexander Wang, David Wasserstein, Alexis Weaver, Emily Wexler, Kavinda Wijayaratne, Emily Wilson, Elaine Xiao, Helena Yang and Albert Zeng.
The Watchung Hills chapter, one of some 13,500 such in the United States, was established in 1979. The national organization is the oldest academic society for high school youth. It was established to “create enthusiasm for scholarship, to stimulate a desire to render service, to promote worthy leadership and to encourage the development of character in the nation’s secondary school youth.” Each chapter inducts young people who epitomize those standards.
As a prelude to the evening’s activities, words of welcome were extended to the gathering by the chapter’s co-advisors, guidance counselor Laura Dunn and and librarian Vivian Swartz, who commended the adults who had “brought out the best” in the inductees — their parents and their teachers.
New inductee Elaine Xiao led the audience in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.
Inductees Robert Martin and Kavinda Wijayaratne made brief opening remarks of welcome, and Watchung Hills School Superintendent Elizabeth Jewett expressed congratulations to the newly-named honorees, as well as her appreciation for having been invited to take part in the induction ceremony.
Newly-elected members briefly explained the principles of the Society as they lighted candles on the dais:
Watchung Hills Vice-Principal Steven Searfoss “certified” the candidates and led them in the National Honor Society Pledge, in which candidates promised to uphold the high purpose and principles of the Society.
Each of these four criteria was explained in turn in a candle-lighting ceremony, in which students briefly interpreted these four pillars of the society.
Character was interpreted by Cody Chen-Shao and Hana Sawanobori; Scholarship, by Bryan Gerber and Andrew Hunter; Leadership, by Engy Gadelmawla and Erin Mickles; and Community Service, by Elizabeth Booth and ShellyLuong.
Searfoss then certified the candidates and led them in reciting the NHS oath, in which candidates promised to uphold the high purposes and principles of the Society as enumerated in the four criteria. Each new member, in turn, came to the dais, where membership certificates, “honor cords” (symbolic of their appointment to the Society).
Congratulations were presented by Vice-Principal Patricia Toubin, and honor cords were conferred by Vice-Principal Terrence MacConnell.
The new NHS members will wear their honor cords at the graduation ceremony.
Watchung Hills Principal George Alexis, in concluding the student portion of the program, praised the “commitment to excellence” and the high level of academic achievement manifested by the newly-inducted members of the NHS.
Alexis said those students would serve as role models and leaders among their peers. praised the 89 recipients for their commitment to excellence which encompasses learning, character, leadership, service, and conveyed thanks to the parents, teachers and community members who had played a part in that striving toward excellence.
As has been the custom over many years, the new inductees choose to recognize a faculty member who symbolizes for them the four standards of the National Honor Society. Their choice this year was Science Department member, Brian Brown; and social studies teacher Dr. Sean DiGiovanna, who said he was "humbled and delighted” to have been presented with an honor cord as a token of his honorary membership in the National Honor Society organization.
These honorees were a positive role model for their peers, he said, and bonded to one another for their common interests and achievements. His statement that, as leaders of the senior class, their high qualifications will cause them to succeed — or, at least 99 and three quarters percent of them to do so — evoked laughter, applause and a standing ovation.
He said student and teacher are all on the same journey, he said characterized by a hunger to learn and a search for truth. He saidhimself, although not a scientist, likes to read about physics, demonstrating a “hunger to learn.” The hunger for knowledge and understanding is its own reward, he told the new inductees.