#1 - Svetlana Stepanova
Svetlana Stepanova, is Valedictorian of Toll Gates Class of 2023, a distinction that didn’t come without hard work and dedication. Her time was not only spent …
Svetlana Stepanova, is Valedictorian of Toll Gates Class of 2023, a distinction that didn’t come without hard work and dedication. Her time was not only spent on her studies but on the court, in the community giving back, and working on her art. She plans to attend Boston University in the fall with a major in Fine Arts at the College of Fine Arts. She hopes to either add a minor in Business at the Questrom School of Business, or double major in Fine Arts and Business.
She served as President of the Best Buddies Club, President of the Art Club, Captain of the Varsity Girls Tennis Team, Vice-President of the RI Historical Society Teen Advisory Board and class Treasurer. The list goes on. Stepanova volunteered with Save the Bay Beach Clean-Ups at Sweet Peas Preschool and Day Care and the Michaela Lynch Memorial Golf Tournaments and Bowlathon.
She was a member of the French Honor Society, the National Honor Society, and the Rhode Island Honor Society. She received the Outstanding Art Student Award, Outstanding Calculus Student, and the Harvard Book Award as well as being an AP Scholar with Honors. Her art work was highly decorated as well, winning Scholastic Art Awards: 3 Gold Keys, 2 Silver Keys (Regional) and on the national level a Scholastic Art Award - Silver Medal. She placed 2nd in Senator Jack Reed’s 2023 Art Competition and 2nd in Congressman Langevin's 2022 Second District Congressional High School Art Competition.
“My motivation stems from what I find personally rewarding, which in my case, is feeling proud of my achievements and recognition for what I do. I put a lot of time and effort into school, art, and tennis, and I strive to do the best of my ability. I want to be someone in the future, I want to feel proud of myself. Right now, getting good grades and receiving accolades is how I achieve that, but I hope in the future, I develop a less intensive approach. I never received much pressure from my parents, I just simply wanted to excel on my own terms and was intrinsically motivated. My aspirations and dreams of attending a recognized college really pushed me to do my best in school. The countless hours I put into my art are driven by the idea of feeling gratified for having completed such breathtaking artwork. Support and encouragement from my family, friends, and teachers are nonetheless important and I want to thank them all for allowing me to grow into who I am today,” wrote Stepanova.
Salutatorian Kristen Carcieri shined not only in the classroom but onstage as well. She was a member of the Toll Gate Drama Club, Member and Manager of Bishop Hendricken High School’s Paramount Show Choir, Member of Bishop Hendricken High School’s Drama Club, and participant in Rhode Island Youth Theatre Summer Programs. Carcieri will be attending New York University’s Stern School of Business, and majoring in Marketing.
Throughout her time at Toll Gate, she served as President of the National Honor Society, was a member of Concert Band, Mock Trial, the French and Italian Clubs. She was also a figure skater with Warwick Figure Skaters and Chair of the Communications Committee for the Rhode Island Historical Society Teen Advisory Board. In the community she volunteered as a Religious Formation Class Teacher and Vacation Bible School Youth Leader at Saint Gregory the Great Church.
Carcieri received multiple awards not only for her work in the classroom but beyond those walls as well including: as a Chorus of Kent County Scholarship Recipient, an Italian Language Achievement Award Recipient, a President’s Education Award in Outstanding Academic Excellence Recipient, a Renee Tetrault Scholarship Recipient, and a Yale Book Award Recipient.
“Mr. Paliotta, Mr. Sollitto, Mrs. Biafore, and Mr. Areson all have such a passion for teaching which creates a very enjoyable and stimulating learning environment. Their doors were always open for me to talk to them about anything going on in my life, whether I needed someone to talk to about the many stresses of high school, or when I had good news to share like my acceptance into NYU,” wrote Carcieri in regard to what contributed most to her success in high school.
She will always remember being on stage. “I will remember the first time I stepped onto the stage at a Show Choir competition representing Bishop Hendricken’s Arts Program and how surreal that felt. I will always be so grateful for the community that I have found through the Bishop Hendricken Arts Program,” wrote Carcieri .
Hailey Randall didn’t waste time at Toll Gate. She took full advantage of academic and extra curricular opportunities, especially music. She will continue to explore her love of music as a Music Technology major at Northeastern University in Boston. She played Bass Clarinet in Concert Band, Honors Band, Jazz Band, Jazz Combo, and the RI All State Concert Band where she was the Leader in the Senior Band Council for Toll Gate. For three years she received a superior rating in Solo and Ensemble.
“What I will remember most about high school is being a part of the Music Department through taking part in numerous band ensembles and classes. This part of my experience is so memorable because I love performing and rehearsing with the great musicians and friends that I have been able to do this with throughout the past four years,” wrote Randall.
She also played on the girls soccer team for all four years, was Captain of the Math Team, Treasurer of the National Honor Society, and a member of the Drama and French Clubs. She has been dancing since the age of two at Cheryl Ann White School of Dance. Randall was a member of the French Honor Society, the Rhode Island Honor Society, and an AP Scholar with Honors. She received the President’s Education Award, the Brown Book Award, the Excellence in French Award, the Arion Award for Music, and was a Youth Artist Postcard Winner. She received a plethora of scholarships including the Picerne Scholarship, the HarborOne Scholarship, the Kent County Chorus Scholarship, and the Elks Scholarship.
“My family and friends have always supported me and contributed to my enjoyment of high school by making things more fun and pushing me to achieve my goals. Many of my teachers from throughout the years have also helped me along the way, but Mrs. McDowell, Mr. Hayes, and Mr. Reed have especially supported me and made these years enjoyable,” wrote Randall.
Cooper Payne, who ranked fourth in the class, has been intellectually curious since elementary school and has dedicated his time to developing his passions and interests. He will continue to foster his sense of curiosity at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, where he will major in Computer Science.
Payne was Captain of the Math Team and Director of the Drama Club. He received a gold medal in mathematics in the Rhode Island Academic Decathlon. Payne was also a member of the National and Rhode Island Honors Societies.
“I will never forget the opening night of the drama club’s 2023 show. It was the culmination of months of hard work from me, but especially from the cast and crew that graciously allowed me to be the director this year. I am so proud and still in awe of how great the show turned out,” wrote Payne.
He received the Lieutenant Governor Leadership Award, the AMS award for Outstanding Achievement in Mathematics, the Award for Outstanding Academic in Physics, and the President’s award for Outstanding Academic Excellence.
“The people who have contributed most to my success and enjoyment are my teachers that encouraged my extracurricular activities. I had math teachers coach me for the Academic Decathlon and Math Team. Mr. Hodge and Ms. Netcoh provided amazing assistance and dedication to the Drama Club, and even more teachers showed genuine interest and gave meaningful advice involving my future career and college,” wrote Payne.
Christine Dutt, fifth in the class, did not waste a second of her time in high school furthering her passion for Health Sciences and giving back to her community. She obtained over 500+ cumulative hours volunteering at local hospitals, wound care clinics, cardiac clinics, soup kitchens and churches. She logged more than 160 hours shadowing Rhode Island physicians/surgeons with specialties in plastic surgery, radiation oncology, vascular surgery, and pediatrics. She will be attending the University of Michigan - Ann Arbor and plans to major in Biopsychology, Cognition, and Neuroscience (BCN).
“As a daughter of Indo-Fijian immigrants, my parents worked very hard to pave a prosperous future for my sister and me in America. They pushed themselves to study hard and went on to pursue successful careers in nursing and business. They always encouraged me to work hard and have faith that success would follow. My parents contributed to my achievements and drive to succeed; I am very grateful for them and all the sacrifices they have made for me,” wrote Dutt.
Dutt conducted lab research at Providence College with biology professor, Dr. Charles Toth and studied the effects of TMAO on cerebral organoids. She worked virtually with psychology professor, Dr. Joanna Morris’ students to learn the mechanics of coding and building a website for a medical nonprofit organization. She dual-enrolled at the Community College of Rhode Island and obtained Basic Life Support (BLS) and Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) certifications. Dutt also created a medical non-profit organization to shed light on genetic medical disorders and collaborated with local healthcare professionals, teachers, and professors to conduct research for her nonprofit organization.
Julia Cutler spent her time in high school fulfilling her curiosity of all things from music to math. Sixth in the class, Cutler will attend Boston College this fall and major in Applied Psychology and Human Development.
At Toll Gate, she was a member of the Band Council, Lead Trumpet in Jazz Band, in the Honors Ensemble, and the Jazz Combo. She played on the Varsity Girls Tennis Team and was Captain of the Math Team. Cutler was Vice-President of Best Buddies and the National Honor Society. She was also a member of the Art and French Clubs.
“The people that have contributed most to my success and enjoyment of high school are my friends and family. My friends have made my high school experience much more enjoyable and fun. My parents, grandma, and aunt have supported me at every band concert and event throughout my entire life and pushed me to succeed. Teachers that have helped me succeed include Mrs. Biafore, Ms. Noren, and Mrs. Aspelund,” wrote Cutler.
Within the community, she was a Nathaniel Greene Homestead Volunteer; a Beach Captain with Save the Bay Beach Clean-Ups, and volunteered at the Warwick Public Library.
“I will remember a lot of high school, but what I will remember most about my high school years include my really fun weeks with friends at Art Club, my senior tennis season, making an energy villain ceiling tile with Svet and Shae in AP Environmental Science, and all of the different band concerts and rehearsals I’ve gone to through the years,” wrote Cutler.
From grades eighth through twelfth she was in the RIMEA All-State Jazz Ensemble and throughout high school was in the RIMEA All-State Band. Cutler received a superior rating in RIMEA solo and ensemble. She was also the recipient of the Saint Michael’s Book Award, the AP Scholar Award, and the President’s Education Award. She was a member of the French Honor Society, the National Honor Society, and the Rhode Island Honor Society.
Ashley chose not to be profiled.
Eighth in the class Kayla DeLeo, will continue her studies close to home at the University of Rhode Island where she intends to enroll in the Pharmacy and Doctor of Pharmacy Program. Throughout high school, she participated in the Science Olympiad, the Academic Decathlon, the Drama Club, where she was Stage Manager, and took on the role of Math Team Captain. She was a member of the National Honor Society and the Spanish Honor Society.
“The thing that I will remember most about my high school years is all of the time that I have spent with my friends, especially during school events like dances and working on the school play. The Drama Club became a huge part of my life during my four years at Toll Gate and having the Club composed of many of my best friends has made the activity incredibly memorable,” wrote DeLeo.
DeLeo received the Suffolk Book Award, the President’s Award for Educational Excellence, the Excellence in Biology Award, the Outstanding Achievement in English Language Arts, and the Stephen F. Chrabaszcz Memorial Scholarship.
“The people who have contributed most to my success and enjoyment of high school are my teachers, especially those who have supported me over multiple years at Toll Gate. Teachers in the Science Department specifically, Mr. Vadney and Mrs. Greenberg, have cultivated my interests in the field of Science while also making sure that their classes were fun and interesting to keep us wanting to learn. Outside of the classroom, I was encouraged by the faculty advisors of our school’s Drama Club, Mr. Hodge and Ms. Netcoh, to work hard in my extracurriculars,” wrote DeLeo.
“There is so much to be said about learning for its own sake. I’ve always been motivated by my interests and made connections between learning in school with experiences outside of school,” writes Noah Ramm, ninth in the class. Noah will continue his connections between academics and the outside world at the University of Vermont with a double major in Environmental Science and Music.
Taking leadership roles as Math Club President, Jazz Band President and as a Band Council Member, Ramm was also a member of the Drama Club as part of their sound technician team, and the Jazz Band where he was lead alto saxophone from freshman to senior year.
As a musician, he took third place as in the Saxophone Soloist category in the 2021 National Jazz Festival (NJF), 2021 NJF Division S-1 and Division L-2 “Virtual Performance.” And participated in the 2020 RIMEA band competition.
“Noah writes, “My greatest accomplishments have been because of music and the confidence I have gained in performing. Additionally, my greatest friends have been made through music. I’m so thankful that I’ve continued to play each year of my high school career.”
His impressive list of awards includes: The State of Rhode Island Award for Civic Leadership, The Assumption Book Award, the Bausch & Lomb/University of Rochester Award, the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Medal Award, the Biomedical Pathway Award: Excellence in the Study of Biotechnology, the President’s Excellence Award, and the Daniel Brian Cohen Scholarship. As well, Ramm is a member of the Rhode Island Honor, the National Honor and the Italian Honor Societies.
In his words, Noah attributes his high school success and enthusiasm to: “Mr. Reed and Mr. Kiley have helped me to become the musician I am today and have showed me the true joy in playing an instrument. There is no need for recognition, praise or grade but the love of music that you find in yourself and can instill in others through playing in a band cannot be denied! Mrs. Washington and Mr. Hayes have also helped me to determine a potential career in Environmental Psychology. Through their love of learning and engaging teaching, students like me have learned beyond the textbook and found authentic projects to demonstrate our learning.”
Paul Anderson, tenth in the class, has his eye set on a career in Healthcare. He plans to attend Rhode Island College in the fall, on a full-tuition and housing scholarship, where he will major in Biology. He was a member of the Cross-Country Team, Varsity Athletes Against Substance Abuse Club, the French Club and a student tutor.
“The thing I will remember most about high school is the friendships I have made with teachers as well as students. Forming relationships with those around me, let me both broaden my horizons and deepen my learning. I was able to learn a lot of things I wouldn’t have been able to learn without the friends that I have made,” wrote Anderson.
He was the recipient of the St. Michael’s College Book Award, the Toll Gate Biology Department Excellence Award, and the President’s Award for Educational Excellence. Anderson was also a member of the National Honor Society and the French Honor Society.
“The person most important to my success in high school is my mom, whose love and support has allowed me to be happy, healthy, and enthusiastic to learn. Without her, I would not be as successful as I have been. Within school, my teachers Michael Vadney, Sharon Franco, and Michael Kozusko have all supported me the whole way, giving me advice, entertaining conversations, and the best teaching I have received thus far,” wrote Anderson.