After their years of hard work and support, Johnston High School Principal Dennis Morrell said it was time to honor the people behind the top 10 students in the class of 2019.
Members of the district’s central office and high school administrative staff joined Morrell for a breakfast on April 10 to honor the parents, grandparents and guardians who have supported each top 10 student throughout their respective journeys.
Morrell was quick to note that the breakfast wasn’t about the students – they have Honors Night and graduation, among other highlighted events, still to come – but rather those who provided rides back and forth to school and practice.
“Many of us have gone through this with our own children, and we just want to take a moment to say thank you,” he said. “Having parents who trust us with educating their children and allow us to work with their children is very rewarding to me … I’ve known these guys since sixth grade.”
Morrell said it was also “very rewarding” to be able to recognize the students’ loved ones, who sat around tables in the library and conversed for a bit during breakfast. During a break in his comments, he asked the students to thank those who have assisted and cared for them since the beginning.
“So I’ve seen them grow from when they were 11 and 12 years old to fine and outstanding young men and women,” he said. “We’re especially proud to see how far they’ve come. I know that they have their futures ahead of them, but this is because of you, because of the family.”
Debbie Zolkos’ son, Jason Briggs, is graduating No. 7 in his class this year. He plans to serve in the military, and she said that his ranking is certainly “something to really be proud of.
“Jason’s incredibly smart,” Zolkos said. “We’re very proud of him.”
Kayleena Lariviere, who will finish eighth in the top 10, was joined by grandparents Jody and Mike McAssey. Jody lauded her granddaughter’s accomplishments and said she is “very well focused.”
“We have stood back and watched this girl thrive on her own. She’s the most self-motivated person I’ve ever met,” Jody said said of Kayleena, who will attend the University of Massachusetts at Boston in the fall. “She knows what she wants, and it’s just been our honor to observe her in that self-determination.”
Dr. Sally Mitchell, the district’s director of special education, was on hand to offer her thanks to parents for their support. She said she is appreciative that despite the many options available, parents chose to send their children to Johnston High School.
“We are very grateful that you trust us with your children,” Mitchell said. “You can send your children to private schools, you can send them to other communities for other programs, but you're invested in Johnston. You live in Johnston, this is your town, and you opt to send your children to the public schools and we’re very happy.”
Assistant Principal Michael Mancieri offered his congratulations as well, adding that he has seen the students grow since their sophomore year and they will be sorely missed come graduation.
“One of the things that I will say that reflects on the 10 of you and your class as well, is that you are not only smart and succeed academically, but you contribute to this community with your kindness and with your talents,” he said. “I hope that you take that forward into the world, and you will be successful.”
Morrell closed his remarks by issuing a superlative to the class of 2019.
“I’m going to miss you guys, I know that,” Morrell said. “You guys were one of the nicest groups that I’ve had in a while.”
The full top 10, in order, includes valedictorian Sophia DaCosta; salutatorian Kelly Sigui; Ivan Fernandez; Haya Abaherah; Conner Agnew; Matthew Silva; Briggs; Lariviere; Brenna Guilmette; and Malorie Magnone.