10 remarkable achievements by Montclair High School 2021 graduates
Over the course of the 2020-2021 academic year, Montclair High School students achieved multiple awards and honors and took part in many activities to enrich the community. The following summary of key events and honors is based on information presented on the Montclair Public Schools website:
NATIONAL MERIT: The National Merit Scholarship Program awarded 25 Montclair High School students with Commended Student honors. Four MHS students were named semifinalists in the program: Madeleine N. Blackburn, Maxwell O. Blackburn, Walsh A. Giarrusso and Eleanor G. Hickock. The students received letters of commendation and a congratulatory letter from MHS and National Merit Scholarship Corp. About 16,000 high performers were designated as semifinalists and 34,000 students were designated as Commended Students nationwide.
MODEL UN: Montclair High School’s Model United Nations team members were awarded several distinctions at the virtual Connect Model UN conference, during which students nationwide debated in a simulated United Nations setting. Students wrote position papers before the conference, then worked together to write and debate resolutions. Recognized students: Best Delegate, Juniper Shelley; Distinguished Delegate, Miles Quarterman; Outstanding Delegate, Caleb Levine; Best Position Paper, Lucy Solomon and Palmer Holland; Most Improved, Dominik Bondy.
PULITZER CENTER: Montclair High School senior Ava Agostinelli won first place in the Pulitzer Center’s Local Letters for Global Change writing contest. Agostinelli’s letter was addressed to Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill, asking her to put forth a stronger initiative to fight climate change. “Despite equally important issues that are piling up in the U.S., they will not be able to be solved until we are certain that humans will be alive to see them in the next century,” Agostinelli wrote in the letter.
MHS PHYSICS CLUB: The Montclair High School Physics Club placed first in New Jersey’s Physics Olympics, a high school physics competition hosted by the New Jersey section of the American Association of Physics Teachers. The Olympics were held virtually this year and took place over two weekends. Out of a possible 300 points, Montclair scored 290.6, more than 50 points above the second-place team. MHS gets to display the Physics Olympics Bowl trophy for a year in its trophy case.
DECA: Montclair High School’s DECA Club was one of 324 chapters that received a THRIVE-level recognition from the national organization this year. The MHS DECA members who contributed to the recognition were Elias Benchekroun, Amelia Chan, Owen Duncan, Maura McGeever and Serena Lee, with the assistance of their adviser, Ken Schnitzer. DECA is a career and technical student organization that prepares emerging leaders and entrepreneurs who are interested in careers in marketing, finance, hospitality and management.
CHALK THE WALK: Montclair High School’s End the Stigma club visited the Montclair elementary schools in April to “Chalk the Walk,” writing positive affirmations to welcome all students for week two of hybrid learning. Chalked phrases like “Don’t be afraid to be great!” and “You light up the room!” were surrounded by colorful rainbows, smiley faces and flowers. The End the Stigma club this year had about 70 MHS sophomore members and was advised by art teacher Brienne Kvetkus.
HELPING HANDS: The Helping Hands Project, founded by Montclair High School senior Lucy Solomon, raised $1,500 for the Transgender Law Center during a December fundraiser. The group sold a variety of handmade items on Church Street, including earrings, hand-painted holiday cards, stickers and cookies. “It’s a really, really trying time economically for a lot of people,” Solomon told Montclair Local at the time. “We didn’t know how successful our fundraising efforts were going to be.”
VOLUNTEER AWARD: Montclair High School students Margaret Borgen, David Bourbon, Jade Lytle and Kaitlyn Randall received a President’s Volunteer Service Award to honor their community work. Borgen is founder of In Harmony Montclair, which hosts community events and develops opportunities for young people to give back. “I was inspired by seeing my Mom and Grandmother dedicate their time to volunteer work,” Borgen is quoted saying in a February announcement on the school district’s website. “So many teens want to make a difference, and I saw this as a way that we could be creative and raise money for great causes to support our community.”
BILITERACY SEAL: The New Jersey Seal of Biliteracy was awarded to 19 Montclair High School seniors in 2021, covering seven languages: Albanian, French, Italian, Latin, Polish, Russian and Spanish. The Seal of Biliteracy is an official recognition from the New Jersey Department of Education. Three students attained the seal in two languages and one student, Milena Testa, attained the seal in three languages — Italian, French and Spanish. Three former English language learners also attained the seal.
YOUNGARTS AWARD: Montclair High School junior Oliver Koenig was recognized at the Honorable Mention level as part of the 2021 National YoungArts Foundation awards in jazz alto saxophone. The award is the organization's second-highest honor. Koenig joins 658 other 2021 YoungArts award winners. He was selected by a discipline-specific panel of artists through a rigorous blind adjudication process. He received a cash prize and the opportunity to learn from leading artists through a network offering creative and professional development support.
— Compiled by Talia Wiener