Each year, Saugerties High School recognizes its top two graduating seniors, conferring them with the titles Valedictorian and Salutatorian. This year, the top two are best friends who both plan to enter the health-care field.
Valedictorian Antonino Laquidara has excelled throughout his high school career. His cumulative average is 102.156.
Laquidara consistently challenged himself throughout his high school career. Coasting was never an option for him. He’s been involved in National Honor Society, Math Team, Spanish Club, the Citizenship Education Training program with the American Legion Boys’ State of New York, Lap4Life Walk and the New Visions Hunger Project through Cornell Cooperative Extension.
Advanced placement calculus teacher Ms. Cacchillo has nothing but nice things to say about Laquidara. She called him an “attentive, responsible and meticulous student,” and said he always has his work done and corrects his mistakes. Possibly even more important to her, she explained as her smile widened, has been his genuine interest in her class.
Ms. Cacchillo has been one of Laquidara’s favorite teachers. She’s made quite an impact on him. “Nobody makes you do math like Ms. Cacchillo,” he said. It seems a good portion of Laquidara’s success in that class is due to an amazing teacher-student relationship that both say they’ll miss.
Is there anything in academics Laquidara isn’t good at? Word around Saugerties High School is that there isn’t, but Laquidara begs to differ. He said big projects have been difficult for him. There always seems to be some big assignment, especially in classes like English, where posters and collages need to be made. Laquidara said he’s not artistic, which is why he didn’t enjoy that as much as other students may have.
How does it feel to be Valedictorian? He seems stunned by the title. He claims it simply “feels all right.” Thinking hard and trying to find the right thing to say to explain his feeling, Laquidara found himself at a loss for words and ended up describing it as “weird.”
Laquidara says he didn’t earn the title on his own. “I wouldn’t even be close to where I am right now without my parents,” he said. Joseph and Jill Laquidara have been there for him through it all. Laquidara’s father has been his helping hand throughout any struggles he faced in math since around fifth grade. Whenever Laquidara has a test to study for, his father makes him a practice test. His mom really helped him with Spanish. Laughing, he says his mother actually remembers more from the lessons than he does.
Laquidara has also been helped along by his best friend, Salutatorian Dhruv Patel. Throughout high school they’ve been in nearly all of the same classes and helped each other through it all. They’re the type of friends that finish each other’s thoughts and know exactly what the other is thinking, even in the classroom. The two friends have been study partners since around fifth grade and constantly bounce ideas off of each other. They share a bond that only true best friends can share.
Of course, for Laquidara’s future, that’s a huge plus since Patel will be attending a college just minutes away — Laquidara will attend Albany College of Pharmacy and Patel will attend SUNY Albany.
To obtain the degree he’ll need in order to pursue a pharmacist career, Laquidara will need to attend college for six years. June 22 will mark a new beginning for Laquidara as he delivers his Valedictorian speech, receives his diploma and begins the next part of his life.
Dhruv Patel, 17, is Salutatorian of the class of 2013. Throughout high school, Patel has accumulated an average of 101.61. He has worked incredibly hard throughout his four years of high school, in and out of the classroom.
Patel has been involved in Key Club, National Honor Society, Webmaster, Tutoring Program, Math Team, Spanish Club, New Visions Hunger Project through Cornell Cooperative Extension and Varsity Track and Field. In addition, Patel has also attended the National Youth Leadership Forum on Medicine in D.C.
While he has excelled in academics, he doesn’t feel like he’s better than classmates who have had less success. He explains that school “is not black and white. It depends on your forte.” For him, his forte has been math and science. This isn’t because he’s naturally good at those two subjects; it’s because he enjoys them more. However, Patel said he’s been very fortunate throughout high school because all of his teachers have influenced him in a positive way.
“All of my teachers have helped me in one way or another,” he said. “They’ve taught me something about life in general, what you need to do, or have really improved a focus in education.”
Mr. Riley, a history teacher, is an example. Patel was never interested in political science until taking Mr. Riley’s class. Now, he’s actually planning on going for a minor in political science when he gets to college. Riley, on the subject, says, “it wasn’t about challenging anyone – it’s about making people think.”
Ms. Cacchillo, a math teacher at Saugerties High School, was also cited as an example of a teacher who has made a positive impact on him. Patel says that “the stuff she teaches in class, it just sticks with you.”
He’s learned a thing or two from his fellow peers as well. Throughout the halls of Saugerties High School, Patel has become known as sort of a super genius, a kid that cannot fail. Patel believes we’re all capable of achievement. He said one should “never believe [themselves] to be smarter than anyone else because you will become complacent and you’ll be your own downfall.” He honestly believes everyone is capable of achieving anything they set their mind to.
Patel believes that at some point in everyone’s life, you get a message. There’s a point in time in which you realize that you have to work hard. For Patel, it happened around sixth grade. Luckily, that stuck with him and he worked in high school without letting the opportunities pass him by. Patel understands that each person comes to that realization at a different time. “It’s never that they’re just not capable,” he said. “It’s just that they haven’t felt that need to accomplish something, but everyone will get that need at some point in their life.”
With that said, Patel now has to make sure his own personal need to achieve continues into college. Right now, he claims that his title of Salutatorian obviously means something, but he knows he can’t hold onto it forever. He doesn’t want to take the title to heart because he doesn’t want to become complacent about his achievement. Patel admits that it’s a high honor, but it is crucial to him that he remembers that “when you move onto your next step, you have to remember the last step of what you did, but you have to build from it.” Patel views this honor as a stepping stone in the right direction.
Patel plans to attend SUNY Albany as an attendant of the Medical Program. It’s a good thing he’s built up a strong work ethic — he’ll have to be in school for anywhere between eight to twelve years.
Congratulations to Laquidara, Patel and the rest of the Saugerties High School Class of 2013.