Ranked 1 through 10 out of 392 seniors, the top students of East Islip High School’s Class of 2012 shared their thoughts, their memories and their dreams as they sat around a table on Senior Ranking Day. Some already have defined college plans, others remain undecided, but as they talked, they found elements in common, shared experiences and characteristics that have led them up the path of scholastic success. All are AP Scholars with Honor or Distinction. Eight of the 10 are music students, eight are planning to major in math or science and eight are the oldest children in their families. Six are varsity athletes. With laughter, they noted that all of them had seen “Star Wars,” though the influence it had on their superlative academic achievements could not be determined.
The following profiles offer a closer look into what makes these stellar seniors tick, and the ambitious futures these six girls and four boys envision for themselves.
1. Nicholas Pandolfo
Valedictorian Nicholas Pandolfo hopes to attend the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, often ranked the best business school in the world. “My ambition is to concentrate on management,” he explains, “and hopefully end up on Wall Street.”
Pandolfo is a member of the National Honor Society and the Science Honor Society, as well as other school clubs, and plays varsity lacrosse.
He recalls a specific class as being especially meaningful: “The best experience I had at East Islip High School was ‘Shock and Awe’ in AP U.S. History.”
Pandolfo concludes, “My academic motivation can be summarized by the saying, ‘Why fit in when you’re born to stand out?’ I hope to continue the success I have achieved, throughout the rest of my life.”
2. Angela Pizzuto
Salutatorian Angela Pizzuto plans to pursue a major in physics. A “self-proclaimed over-achiever,” she enjoys reading classic novels and playing piano.
Pizzuto says, “Now that I have been ranked number two, which I could not be more excited about, I feel like I’m one step closer to reaching my lofty goals of attending an Ivy League university next year. I would like to congratulate the Top 10 and all the graduating seniors as we take a step towards adulthood.”
She cites her parents for their help, as well as the high school’s music department, particularly teachers Bethany Affelt and Christopher Neske. “Without their support,” she says, “I doubt I would have survived high school in one piece.”
3. Raymond O’Connor
Raymond O’Connor is president of the Honors Choir, vice-president of the Tri-M Music Honor Society, and an AP Scholar with Distinction. Showing his diverse talents, he also was chosen as captain of the cross-country team and performed as the lead in the school musical for three years in a row.
His college plans remain undecided, but that does not indicate any lack of ambition. He is considering Northeastern University, Rochester Institute of Technology, Cornell University and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
“I do not know what I want to be,” O’Connor explains, “but I am confident that if I try my best and stay true to who I am, I will find success. If there is one thing I have learned at East Islip High, it is to take advantage of the opportunities available, and to give 100 percent in those aspects of life that bring you joy.”
His favorite quote is “Just do it.”
4. Kendall Grant
Kendall Grant is interested in studying business administration, economics and political science, and is taking a long look at Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations. “I hope to infiltrate the ranks of the political system to achieve greater justice for myself and for my country,” Grant explains. Other colleges on her radar are Boston College and Rice University.
Grant serves as East Islip’s National Honor Society co-president, and vice president of the French Club.
She is also proud of her status as cheerleading captain, explaining “It feels awesome to represent my team and lifestyle in a positive way.”
“East Islip gave me an incredible academic experience,” says Grant. “My teachers and supervisors undoubtedly pushed me to work harder and find success.”
Her favorite quote (a classic she first recalls hearing from her guidance counselor, Christopher Boehler) is “It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish.”
5. Athena Shea
Athena Shea has her eye on Cornell University’s College of Arts and Sciences, but is also considering Boston University and Northeastern.
Her glowing list of achievements includes president of the Math Team, treasurer of the Tri-M Music Honor Society, AP Scholar with Distinction and member of the National Honor Society and the Science Honor Society.
She thanks her family and friends, along with the teachers that influenced her so immensely, saying “East Islip High School has been a fun time. The people I’ve met and experiences I’ve had will definitely stay with me.”
Shea’s philosophy on success hinges on an important concept. “It is important to know what you want and persevere to attain it,” she explains.
Her favorite quote is “In society, we are but a part of a race with no winners. We are all but pacers looking to find our moment of brilliance.”
6. Ethan Schaber
Ethan Schaber is planning for a career in the medical field, with a specific interest in neuroscience. He is considering Boston University, Northwestern University, Cornell and Rice.
Schaber’s primary passion is music, and he participates in both the Symphony Orchestra and Honors Choir. A versatile musician, he is proficient on viola, violin, guitar and bass guitar.
“My experience at East Islip High School has been an incredible one,” Schaber says. “I have learned so much from all of my teachers, and have made friends here that I will have for life.”
His favorite quote is “It’s better to regret something you did than something you didn’t do.”
7. Christopher Rost
Christopher Rost’s ambition is to major in math or science, but he hasn’t decided which college he’ll attend, though Georgetown University and Cornell are on his list.
His time spent playing as a member of the varsity soccer team means a lot to Rost. “Soccer has been very influential to me,” he states. “It helped me make new friends and meet new people, to learn to work as part of a team, and accept criticism as well as coaching.”
Equally important to Rost is music. He plays cello and guitar, and is a member of the Tri-M Music Honor Society. “Music has helped me get through school, whether it’s getting pumped for a game, helping me study or just making me relax,” he says.
Rost describes his mother and father as key sources of support. “My parents were essential to my success,” he says. “I wouldn’t be here without them and cannot thank them enough for all they did for me.”
His favorite quote is “Not all those who wander are lost” (from “The Fellowship of the Ring” by J.R.R. Tolkien).
8. Kathleen Moskowitz
Kathleen “Kate” Moskowitz wants to major in chemistry or biology, and plans to apply to a wide range of colleges, including Boston University, Boston College, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Rensselaer, Vanderbilt University, Cornell and the University of Pennyslvania.
She serves as East Islip’s National Honor Society co-president, as well as treasurer of the Symphony Orchestra, and is an AP Scholar with Distinction. Moskowitz also takes pride in her sports participation, noting “I have played soccer and run track since before I can remember.”
“I am thankful for all the wonderful opportunities I have had at East Islip High School, and will forever be grateful for my family and friends who have helped me along the way.”
Her favorite quote is “Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great. Some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them” (from "Twelfth Night" by William Shakespeare).
9. Kayleigh Cook
Kayleigh Cook plans to major in music education, with a minor in anthropology. She is considering the Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam as well as Ithaca College, Syracuse University and Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester.
“As a student here at East Islip, I had a blast,” says Cook. “The teachers are amazing and I owe my success to them. I will never forget ‘Shock and Awe’ and “The Flamingos.’”
Cook is also a Girl Scout, a dedicated musician, and a member of the National Honor Society and Video Club. Pointing out that eight out of the top 10 students have studied music, she adds “I feel like giving a shout-out to the music teachers. You guys rock.”
Her favorite quote is “Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light” (from the film “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”)
10. Gianna Pico
Gianna Pico hopes to study pre-med at Amherst College, in preparation for a career as an orthopedic or oral surgeon, but is also considering Villanova University.
“I had a great experience at East Islip High School,” Pico says, “and will never forget the teachers that pushed me or the times I had with my friends.” Showing her sense of humor, she adds with a wink, “I owe 95 percent of my success to the Dunkin Donuts staff.”
Pico also cites her participation in soccer as an important influence, declaring “Soccer will be a part of my life forever.”
Her favorite quote is “Expect the unexpected” (Heraclitus).