'Culture of excellence' celebrated at National Honor Society ceremony

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Thursday night was a time for reflection, transition and recognition as Johnston High School honored sophomores, juniors and seniors during the National Honor Society induction ceremony.

Principal Dennis Morrell welcomed the crowd to open the evening, congratulating parents, guardians and families and thanking them for their “unconditional love, guidance, support and encouragement” throughout the students’ years at the school.

“Thank you for trusting us with their education,” Morrell told the families.

To the students, he said: “You have a fire inside you that drives you to share – to share your time, to share your knowledge, to share your energy with those who need it the most. You do not sit back and rely on your ability to study, and you don’t work tirelessly in classes just for the sake of working.”

Morrell touched on the four criteria engraved on the National Honor Society emblem – character, scholarship, leadership and service – before chapter vice president Connor Agnew delved deeper into the symbolism. The torch depicted on the emblem, he said, represents “the searching light of truth” that students can use to lead others and “to keep burning in our school a high ambition for the enduring values of life and to serve.”

Prior to students receiving their cords, collars and medals, members of the National Honor Society’s faculty council each lit a candle and stepped to the podium to speak about one of the core tenets. English teacher Susan Volante, world languages teacher Dina Avila, history teacher Stephen Donovan and math teacher Jason Achilli offered brief remarks on scholarship, service, leadership and character, respectively.

“Willingness to work for the benefit of those in need, without monetary compensation or without recognition, is the quality we seek in our membership,” Avila said. “We are committed to the idea of volunteering our time and abilities to the creation of a better tomorrow.”

“In taking the initiative in class and school activities, a true leader strives to aid and guide others to reach the same objective,” Donovan said. “The price of leadership is sacrifice – the willingness to yield one’s personal interest for the welfare of others. A leader has confidence and will move forward when others hesitate.”

The candles were eventually used to symbolize a passing of the torch between the current National Honor Society officers — president Maikou Kue, Agnew, secretary Elizabeth Cruz and public relations officer Ana Petrella — and their successors.

Next year’s leadership group will include president Christopher Flanagan, vice president Carlos Fragoso, secretary Mia Ragosta and public relations officer Kayla Rogers. They switched places on stage with their counterparts following the passing of the light.

National Honor Society adviser Emilia Ruggiero also recognized the new officials for the National Junior Honor Society, including president Caleb Lee, vice president Brynn Roche, historian Kayla Aquilante and parliamentarian Audry Mahony.

“New officers, in accepting these offices, you have indicated your willingness to give the best time and effort to carry out the principles of the National Honor Society. Yours is an important responsibility as well as a privilege,” Ruggiero said. “The world today, as ever before, needs faithful and efficient leaders, and your school is looking to you to lead its students.”

After more than 80 students were recognized, Kue was invited to the podium to issue a farewell address as her presidency comes to a close. She said it was her honor to serve, and thanked Ruggiero for her guidance and support. She said the poem “See It Through” by Edgar Guest best encapsulated her time working with her fellow National Honor Society.

“When we were up against trouble, we met it squarely, face-to-face,” Kue said, quoting the poem. “We lifted our chin, set our shoulders, planted our feet and took a brace. When it was vain to try again … we did the best that we could do. We main have failed and we may have conquered, but we saw it through.”

She challenged her fellow seniors to “uphold the same rigor and integrity” that they have exhibited during their time at Johnston, while encouraging juniors to keep growing and continuing the seniors’ work.

“Wherever you may go, show them that as Panthers, we care about communities continuously. We pay it forward perpetually and we bring our best always,” Kue told the seniors, before offering more motivation to the juniors. “Don’t grow in isolation, but in cooperation by cultivating new leadership and informing historical knowledge so that we may continue this culture of excellence.”

As for the sophomores, Kue pushed them to find their voice.

“To learn and grow by listening, observing and reflecting on the words of your parents, your siblings and your upperclassmen,” Kue said. “Know yourself so that you may know others. Lead yourself so that you may lead others.”

Ruggiero closed the ceremony, which lasted less than an hour, by thanking Kue and the rest of the Johnston chapter. She said that they didn’t shy away from a task, and she never heard a negative review after any event they would hold.

She said she looks forward to working with the juniors and sophomores next year, while saying goodbye to her first group of seniors.

“I’m so proud to be your advisor. Members, I’d like to say thank you for a wonderful first year,” Ruggiero said. “Officers, you were a very responsible group and I knew I could count on you for anything. Maikou, I’d like to give you a special thanks. I appreciated your guidance throughout the year. You were a strong and patient leader.”

Class of 2019 National Honor Society members include Haya Abaherah, Connor Agnew, Dennis Anderson Jr., Robert Civetti, Elizabeth Cruz, Jared Curci, Sophia DaCosta, Nailea Estrada, Ivan Fernandez, Robin Fidel, Nicholas Gallo, Leonardo Garofalo, Brenna Guilmette, Maikou Kue, Kayleena Lariviere, Malorie Magnone, Karen Martinez, Sara Mendez, Lauren Messa, Grace Muller, Ana Petrella, Breana Podmaska, Emily Raposo, Kelly Sigui, Matthew Silvia, Jessica Watson and Zachary Zambarano.

Class of 2020 National Honor Society members include Anthony Andriole, Jenni Aubin, Joel Aubin, Myshelle Barron, Joshua Brien, Daniel Cambranes, Demetri Demetropoulos, David DiIorio, Christopher Flanagan, Carlos Fragoso, Samantha Gobeille, Jacob Healy, Michaela Healy, David Iannuccilli, Allison Kane, Juliana Manchester, Stephanie McCoy, James McHale, Andrew Medeiros, Angelina Parrillo, Isabella Parrillo, Megan Philbrick, Nitsa Prasith, Mia Ragosta, Kayla Rogers, Sophie Russo, Olivia Scuncio, Tayla Tanguay-Rossi, Alexander Tum, Madisyn Turcotte and Gianna Vittorioso.

Class of 2021 National Honor Society members include Ifeoluwa Alarapon, Kayla Aquilante, Joyce Armstrong, Gabriella Athaide, Kendall Bernier, Grace Centracchio, Patricia China, Trista Clark, Nicholas Cronan, Maxwell El Hage, Julianna Ferruccio, Laila Harrington, Caleb Lee, Audry Mahony, A’amani Maxie, Jessica Mercado Anez, Sarah Monahan, Olaitan Olagundoye, Derek Papa, Sofia Paris, Ava Pastore, Nicholas Petrillo, Melanie Privitera, Sean Reth, Brynn Roche, Justin Salvatore, Skyler Stone, Grace Thomas, Melanie Vessella and Caitlynn Zinni.

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