Class of 2018 Top 10


As part of our annual coverage of Johnston High School’s upcoming graduation, the Sun Rise presents the following top 10 graduating seniors of the class of 2018.

1. Benjamin Budway

Johnston High School’s class of 2018 valedictorian is Benjamin Budway, who plans to attend Brown University where he will major in applied mathematics and economics.

Budway’s resume is quite impressive given his list of accomplishments during his last four years of high school. He’s served in the Band for four years, Jazz Band during his junior and senior year, the Tri-M Music Honor Society for four years where he was treasurer and later vice president, and with the Panther Cubs as a junior and senior.

He’s also been a member of the Football, Track, and Academic Decathlon teams since he was a freshman, and is a member of the National Honor Society.

Budway’s numerous awards include being a Presidential Scholar Candidate, a National Merit Finalist, being the third highest scorer at the Academic Decathlon, the Civic Leadership Award in 2017, and first clarinet in the RI All State.

While Budway will remember his trips with band, his football games, and the time spent with the Decathlon team, he credits his parents, Miss Picano, and Mr. Russo as those who have contributed most to his high school success.

When asked what motivated him to excel, Budway said “To make my grandparents and parents proud.”

2. Matthew Eisemann

Matthew Eisemann’s academic proficiency has earned him the title of salutatorian for the class of 2018.

“My family and determination to be the best student possible,” were the biggest factors in Eisemann’s motivation to succeed, he said.

Eisemann excelled in music as a member of the Select Choir where he served as vice-president, in the A Capella Group, and the Tri-M Music Honor Society. He served as president of the Tech Crew and was also a member of the National Honor Society.

“I really found my home in three years of choir. Thanks for all the memories,” he said.

Eisemann’s awards include third place in the school Science Fair and recognition for the National Spanish Exam. He recognized several teachers-Mr. Gingras, Mr. Reid, Mr. Lamoureux, Mrs. Denham, Mrs. Ruggiero, and Miss Picano for helping him through high school and making it enjoyable.

Eisemann plans to major in communications at Rhode Island College.

3. Lauren Papa

Lauren Papa ranked third in this year’s class, and plans to attend Clark University as a psychology and biochemistry major.

“I will remember being a part of Johnston’s music department. This was easily the most important part of my high school experience-it helped me to be confident and feel accepted. I’m going to miss that more than anything,” she said.

Papa served as editor in chief of the Yearbook, section leader of A Cappella Group, and as secretary of the Select Chorus. She’s a member of the National Honor Society, Tri-M Music Honor Society, World Cultures, the Rhode Island Music Education Association All State, and the Float Committee.

“My success and enjoyment came from my amazing friends and family and the wonderful teachers who have supported me. I would specifically like to thank Mr. Reid, Miss Ruggiero, Mr. Gingras, Miss Picano, Mr. Lamoureux, and Mrs. Denham,” she said.

Papa’s awards include honorable mention at the Science Fair this past year and an honorable mention on the National Spanish Exam for the past three years.

“The trust that my family had in me to be responsible for my education was my biggest motivator. I always wanted to have the best grades because I wanted to show them that they didn’t make a mistake. This ultimately led to a love of learning that I will forever be grateful for,” she said.

4. Yuvia Morales

When asked about what motivated her to excel, Yuvia Morales said, “I have always had the innate desire to succeed, especially academically. My talents and skills in school have pushed me to work hard.”

Morales served as co-captain of Mock Trial, copy editor for the Yearbook, in the National Honor Society and on the Float Committee.

“I will remember the fun times I had in both of my AP English classes, Miss Picano’s stories and Mr. Russo’s jokes,” she said.

Awards Morales has received include the Picerne Scholarship, the Johnston Federation of Teachers Scholarship, and the RI Civic Leadership Award. Morales credits Mrs. Denham and Miss Picano, along with her best friend Leah Spirito, for her success and enjoyment at Johnston High.

Following graduation, Morales plans to attend Johnson and Wales University to study marketing.

5. Alyssa Johnson

Fifth-ranked Alyssa Johnson plans to study nursing at the University of Rhode Island.

“My drive to succeed in life and create a start to a future that will lead me to success has been my motivation. I strive to be the best version of myself each and every day,” she said. “Johnston Senior High School will always be a place I consider a tremendous chapter in my journey. Ever since I was little, I’ve always had a strong work ethic, and for that characteristic I owe all of my success.

At Johnston High, Johnson served as captain of the Volleyball team, secretary of Students Against Dangerous Decisions, president of the National Honor Society, as part of the Softball team, and as a member of the Panther Cubs, Chemistry Club, and the Johnston Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition.

Johnson’s special recognitions include the 1st team All Division award as a senior on the Volleyball team, the Top 10 book award from Boston College as a junior, the Richard D. Salzillo Memorial Scholarship, the Johnston School Committee Scholarship, the Mayor and Town Council Scholarship, and the Johnston Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition-Chris’ Memorial scholarship.

“Without the support of my parents and sister I would not have been as successful as I have been. They continuously pushed me to do my best and never failed to support me in both school and life. They taught me that I can be anything I want as long as I worked hard,” she said.

While some of her best high school memories centered around Homecoming, Float Committee, and Battle of the Classes, Johnson appreciated the support of her friends and the encouragement received from Ms. Mallari, Miss Picano, Mr. Russo, and Mrs. Denham.

6. Philip Jessop

Philip Jessop earned his sixth spot in the top 10 by combining academic excellence with extracurricular activities.

“I will remember how spirited JHS was thanks to Mr. Russo and all of the many events and activities I participated in or ran while a part of the Student Council,” he said

Attributing his successes to Mr. Russo, Miss Picano, and Mrs. Denham, Jessop served as president of the Student Council in his senior year, as recording secretary in his junior year, a secretary of the National Honor Society, and as a member of the Academic Decathlon, Mock Trial, Students Against Dangerous Decisions, and the Chemistry Club.

When asked what motivated his success, Jessup said it was getting into a college with an excellent Biology program. He plans to take that motivation to Providence College where he’ll major in biology/pre med.  

7. Aley Blakney

Seventh-ranked Aley Blakney said her family and inner drive motivates her to excel in academics and beyond.

“My desire to do well motivated me to excel. My parents motivated me as well, but I have always been a self-motivated person,” she said. “It’s important to put your all into everything in order to get the most that you can out of life.”

Blakney’s time at Johnston High saw her participate as co president of the Panther Cubs, public relations officer of the National Honor Society, and as a member of Students Against Dangerous Decisions and the Float Committee

“I will remember all of the memories that I made with my friends and classmates inside and outside the classroom,” she said. “Additionally, I will remember all the lessons that four years of growing up can bring. I am truly grateful for all the experiences that Johnston High School has given me. I will remember putting my all into everything, while making memories with my peers that I will cherish forever. Four years went by too quick.”

Blakney received the 2017 Stonehill College Book award. She said her parents, family, amazing teachers and guidance counselor have helped her along the way and taught her influential life lessons. She plans to study psychiatric nursing at the University of Rhode Island.

8. Gabriella Scarcella

Eighth-ranked Gabriella Scarcella won’t soon forget the fun she had both on and off the field while at Johnston High School. Her plans now include Stonehill College, where she hopes to major in neuroscience.

“My parents motivated me to be the best version of myself. They believed in me so I believe in myself, too,” she said.

Scarcella served in the National Honor Society for two years, as captain of the Soccer team in her junior and senior years, and as captain of the Golf Team. Her best high school memories include winning the D3 State Title and being the MVP of the game.

Her awards include Excellence in Science, and the United States Air Force Mathematics and Science award for having the highest grade point average in both math and science.

When asked who contributed to her successes in school, she named Mr. Russo, Miss Picano and Mrs. Fagundes.

9. Leah Spirito

“My parents motivated me to excel and I’ve always thrived off doing well to make them proud, as well as my older sister,” said ninth-ranked Leah Spirito, who plans to attend Rhode Island College as an education major.

Spirito served as Yearbook editor, as a member of the National Honor Society, and in the Academic Decathlon, where she earned a silver medal in the essay portion of the competition during her junior year. 

Spirito said she’ll most remember all the exciting events that take place in high school, such as Homecoming and Battle of the Classes. She’ll especially remember her junior year AP English class with Mrs. Dehnam and the stories and memories from the past two years in Miss Picano’s class.

“My friends and my best friend Yuvia have contributed most as well as my favorite teachers Mrs. Denham and Miss Picano,” she said.

10. Giana Aquilante

Rounding out the top 10 of Johnston’s class of 2018 is Giana Aquilante, who plans on studying marketing at Johnson and Wales University.

Aquilante served on the Float Committee, in Students Against Dangerous Decisions, the Chemistry Club and in the National Honor Society.

Aquilante’s awards include an Award of Achievement in AP English Language, Excellence in Social Studies, and she’s the recipient of the Honey Dew and Timothy Westell Memorial Scholarships.

“I have always been very self-motivated, and I’ve known that in order to succeed in life, it would take a lot of hard work and dedication,” she said.

Amongst the moments she’ll remember, Aquilante said that all the fun time at float meetings with her best friends will stick out the most. She credits her academic success to her family, teachers, and her friends.



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