Pilgrim top ten leave chaos of past 3 years to pursue success, ambition

Posted 7/6/22


For the first time in two years, high school seniors were able to experience the traditional graduation ceremony and activities that prior generations had held. It marked a bright …

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Pilgrim top ten leave chaos of past 3 years to pursue success, ambition



For the first time in two years, high school seniors were able to experience the traditional graduation ceremony and activities that prior generations had held. It marked a bright moment in a world of uncertainty. The future, which has been so gloomy and unclear as of late, gleamed with possibility for these bright-eyed students as they celebrated the end of one journey and the beginning of another.

The top ten students in the Pilgrim High School Class of 2022 fought hard through the days of distance learning and asynchronous classes to maintain their positions. While impressive regardless of the circumstances, the dedication to learning that these students demonstrate is truly incredible.

#1 Olivia Conrady

Olivia Conrady is Pilgrim’s 2022 valedictorian, and one look at her resume proves that creativity and academic excellence must be deeply intertwined.

Olivia was the vice president of the Pilgrim Drama Club and co-president of the school band. When she wasn’t busy with her creative pursuits, she competed on her school’s math league and Academic Decathlon team. This kind of balance demonstrates a deep-seated drive for personal growth that can’t be taught.

She describes her path to success as a carefully-cultivated mix of internal and external motivation. “I have a natural desire to push myself in most endeavors, however, my parents’ expectations have been an incredible influence on my pursuits.”

When asked to whom she owes her success, Olivia said, “The various arts teachers and directors have most directly contributed to my enjoyment of high school, since they play such a significant role in my life.”

Olivia plans to attend either Brown University or Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the fall, where she will major in Statistics/Applied Mathematics.

#2 Sophia Schobel

Sophia Schobel approached high school with the same competitive spirit with which she approached her various athletic endeavors.

Sophia has been on the Pilgrim field hockey team for the past three years, and she has been on the gymnastics team for four years. In her senior year, she was elected captain of the gymnastics team, leading them to their second consecutive State Championship victory.

Even outside of her teams, Sophia felt a deep sense of belonging and community at Pilgrim.

“I am going to remember the whole Pilgrim community. I feel like we have such good school spirit, and that really makes all of our events and sports games unforgettable.”

When asked about her academic success, Sophia says she can’t limit her motivation to any single source.

“I have had so many wonderful teachers over the years that have always pushed me, and I wouldn’t have been as successful without them. My parents have always been incredibly supportive of me as well, and that has led to this accomplishment.”

“Also, my dad graduated fifth in his Pilgrim class, so I obviously had to beat him,” she jokes.

Sophia will be attending RIC on a Presidential Scholarship, with a double major in secondary education and chemistry.

#3 Shiva Veera

A few words with Shiva Veera is all it takes to see the tremendous determination with which he approaches life. Every day, he demonstrates not only how to live life in a way that brings joy, but how to help as many people as possible along the way. It’s this attitude that has allowed him to excel at Pilgrim, ranking number three in his class.

“I feel like if you are going to do something you might as well do it well, therefore whether it be calculus over the course of a year or volleyball for only a quarter, I try to do everything in my power to learn as much as possible about what I’m attempting to do to make sure I don’t ever regret it later on.”

Shiva acted as treasurer of the National Honor Society, and he was also a member of the Spanish National Honor Society. Furthermore, he was the proud recipient of the Bausch and Lomb Honorary Science Award. In his free time, he volunteered as a peer tutor and worked with the Lifesaver Club.

High school was a bit of a roller coaster for Shiva, with COVID causing such a massive rift in everybody’s plans. But he refused to let that divert from the great experiences he had. He says that the most memorable aspect of his four years at Pilgrim was the interpersonal connections he made along the way.

“I will probably remember the times I spent with my friends the most. The memories that I have made with them were cut short due to COVID, but that doesn’t suddenly erase the significance of all the incredibly special people I have met along the way. From lab experiments gone wrong to creating stupid student films, as we all split up to continue with the rest of our lives, whether that be to some college across the country or to the military, I’ll still look back fondly at what we have done.”

Shiva will attend URI in the fall to study biomedical engineering. He hopes to use his newfound knowledge to develop cutting-edge medical technologies, helping his fellow man and making the world a better place.

#4 Crystal Southammavong

Crystal Southammavong demonstrates an intrinsic motivation that drives her toward excellence in all aspects of her life. Ranked fourth in her class and a devoted participant in the National, Spanish, and Rhode Island Honor Societies, Crystal still finds time to dedicate to career-oriented activities outside of school.

Working as a Public Relations Specialist and Social Media Management Consultant and founding a Marketing Club with other young adults outside of the Pilgrim community, Crystal displays a drive toward innovation that extends far beyond school grounds. She has been working toward a career in the business field since most students were still considering future majors.

“I knew from the get-go that I needed to have self-motivation in order to get what I want. I feel like I’m the hardest when it comes to pushing myself on completing assignments and projects. My mind goes, ‘If I don’t do this one task right now, someone else will do it ten times better than me.’ I enjoy the rush it gives me; I never want to be replaced by someone else.”

Crystal will be attending Northeastern University in the fall to double-major in Brand Management and Computer Science.

#5 Sydney Suffoletto

Sydney Suffoletto spent her high school years developing a well-rounded profile, branching out into different fields to find the things she excelled at.

Sydney spent two years as a catcher and first baseman on the Pilgrim softball team, during which she made unforgettable memories with her friends and community. She also took part in the Foreign Language Honor Society and acted as president of the National Honor Society.

“I will remember being with my friends the most. Whether it was socializing during school, or attending a school event or sports game, being around them has been the highlight of my high school years.”

She wanted to thank her family for both motivating and supporting her.

“Because of them,” she said, “I tend to set high goals for myself and strive to achieve them… My parents have always encouraged me to succeed and even to challenge myself.”

Sydney will be attending the six-year PharmD program at URI.

#6 Elise Van Luinen

Another example of the importance of exploration, Elise Van Luinen sports a long resume filled with a variety of extracurriculars. Ranking sixth in her class, Elise makes time in between studying for sports and community service.

As captain of both the outdoor and indoor track teams, Elise has garnered a lot of admiration from coaches, teammates, and competitors alike. She was awarded both the prestigious Coaches Award and Academic All-State Award in indoor track. She also plays on the Pilgrim soccer team.

When she’s not busy with sports, she can be found serving her community with the National Honor Society, the Rhode Island Honor Society, or the Pilgrim Environmental Club, which Elise was the president of.

When asked what she will remember most of her time in high school, Elise said, “I will remember the teachers most. Many of my teachers (particularly science) had monumental impacts on my educational career. Many of them encouraged me to attempt courses/coursework that I didn’t feel capable of. Thus, I will remember them and the confidence they gave me the most.”

Elise will be attending URI on a full ride scholarship to study biotechnology. She is considering a double major in environmental science.

#7 Aidan Driscoll

Ranked seventh in his class, Aidan Driscoll worked as hard to better his community as he worked to better himself.

Aidan was the secretary of his school’s Environmental Club and a member of the National Honor Society, demonstrating his passion for making the world a better place. He was also a member of the yearbook committee and the executive committee.

When asked who most contributed to his success in high school, Aidan said, “Along with my friends, the teachers that I have had have contributed a great deal to my success and enjoyment of high school… Without them I don’t think that I would have done as well in school and I really appreciate the hard work that they put in for all of us to succeed.”

He can’t give his teachers all the credit, though. Aidan finds himself intrinsically motivated, for the most part, driven by his own expectations and aspirations.

“My main motivation to do well in school was the possibilities of seeing positive benefits of the effort I put in. Being able to meet the goals I set for myself was very rewarding and I know that I will continue to set these goals to further my education and career journeys.”

Aidan will be attending Boston University this fall to study biology—a degree which he will hopefully use to inspire even more positive change in the world.

#8 Kierra Sherlock

Kierra Sherlock has always approached life’s trials and challenges with her head held high, confident in her ability to lead and conquer. Ranking eighth in her class, Kierra has embraced her role in the Pilgrim community, and now, she’s ready to bring that strength and spirit on her next journey.

Kierra acted as Pilgrim Class Secretary in her sophomore year, and Class Vice President in her junior and senior years, allowing her to lead her class through a time of great uncertainty during and after the pandemic. She also took part in the Best Buddies program, the National Honor Society, and the Spanish National Honor Society.

Kierra traces her motivation for excellence back to her youth, saying, “Since elementary school my grades have been very important to me and I just kept that mindset all the way through high school. I’ve always pushed myself to do the best I can at everything I do.”

While she finds herself intrinsically motivated for the most part, Kierra wanted to thank her family and friends for their unwavering support.

“They supported me every step of the way and made sure I was doing what I needed to be successful. But they also made sure that I kept a good balance between school, friends and work which definitely helped a lot.”

Kierra will be attending Nova Southeastern University this fall, and though she has yet to select a major, there is no doubt that she will find success in any field she chooses.

#9 Jacob Holland

High school, for Jacob Holland, was an endeavor of hard work and dedication. He dedicated himself to his studies, his team, and his community and, in doing so, developed a work ethic that would stick with him his whole life through.

As captain of the varsity soccer team at Pilgrim, Jacob learned how to be a leader. He fostered a sense of comradery within his team, listened to their ideas, and made decisions that led them to victory. Jacob says that his most prominent high school memory is his team’s State Championship victory in freshman year, which presumably inspired him to work toward the excellence he demonstrated in his senior year.

When he wasn’t studying or practicing, Jacob was doing community service with the National Honor Society or spreading culture with the Foreign Language Honor Society.

Jacob attributes his success to his competitive attitude. From soccer to science, he views every task as a personal challenge and sets out to conquer it.

“I am a very competitive person and throughout my life I have been taught to give 100% effort in everything that I do. There is also little gratification in receiving something you did not work for.”

Jacob will be attending UMass Dartmouth this year. With such a wide range of interests, he has yet to decide on a major.

#10 Janelle Mixner

Janelle Mixner ranked tenth in her class, with an admirable focus on athletics, and her dedication to her sports garnered a lot of attention from colleges.

For the past four years, Janelle has been a star athlete on the Pilgrim soccer team, and she’s collected a variety of awards to prove it. From Rookie of the Year to RIIL Pilgrim Student-Athlete of the Year, Janelle has demonstrated not only skill, but growth and determination. She also spent three years on the track and field team, earning the title of Pilgrim Throwing MVP as both a freshman and a senior.

In her junior year, Janelle was awarded the prestigious George Eastman Young Leaders Award for her impressive academic standing and prominent leadership qualities.

When asked where her ambition stems from, Janelle said, “My dreams and aspirations for my future motivated me to excel.”

But beyond her own intrinsic drive for excellence, she said she owes a lot of her success to her family.

“My family has contributed most to my success and enjoyment of high school by helping me and supporting me in everything I do.

Janelle is attending Sacred Heart University this year to play division one soccer, compete in track and field, and study exercise science.

Pilgrim, top tens


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