New Paltz High School names its valedictorian and salutatorian

Philip Ryan Kelso on left (salutatorian) and Wells Willett (valedictorian)

New Paltz Interim Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bernard Josefsberg and New Paltz High School Principal Mario Fernandez have announced that Wells Willett has been named the 2020 valedictorian and Philip Ryan Kelso has been named this year’s salutatorian.

Willett, the son of Julie Denney and Scott Willett of New Paltz, earned a GPA of 101.2. He maintains a rigorous schedule of five advanced placement classes — Macroeconomics, Comparative Government and Politics, Environmental Science, Language and Composition, and Physics. He is a member of the National Honor Society and serves as captain of the cross-country team and the Nordic ski team, where he was Section champion. He is also a National Merit Scholar finalist.


Willett participates in the College Fed Challenge, a competition designed to bring real-world economics into the high school classroom. Teams take on the role of monetary policymakers, analyze economic and financial conditions and formulate a monetary policy recommendation, modeling the Federal Open Market Committee. Outside of school, he is an avid cyclist and hiker, and participates in triathlons.

He has already been accepted to Dartmouth College, where he plans on completing a double major in environmental science and mathematics.

Speaking of his valedictorian status, Willett says, “I am very grateful to my teachers, family and friends.”

Salutatorian Philip Ryan Kelso is the son of Karen and Andrew Kelso of Lloyd. Kelso, who earned a GPA of 101.19, balances a full schedule of advanced placement classes, including Macroeconomics, Language and Composition, Statistics, Physics and Comparative Government and Politics. He is a member of the National Honor Society and a National Merit Scholar finalist. Kelso is the president of the Mathletes, who won the division championship this year and will be heading to the Dutchess, Ulster, Sullivan and Orange (DUSO) Sectional meet. He also qualified for the NYSML (New York State Math League) State competition and ranked tenth amongst the more than 500 students who compete in DUSO competitions. Kelso also participates in the College Fed Challenge.

Kelso enjoys athletics, as well as music and theater. He is on the varsity cross-country team and starred in the lead role of the High School’s production of The Secret Garden. He received a perfect score on his NYSSMA All-State piano and vocal solos. Additionally, he writes the crossword puzzles for the school newspaper, The Maroon. Outside of school, he volunteers and works at Elting Memorial Library in New Paltz.

He has already been accepted to Northeastern University, but is still deciding where he will be continuing his education. He will major in mathematics.

Like Willett, Kelso attributes his academic success to the support of his teachers, family members, and friends.

“I am so proud to be in the presence of two young people who have brought so much to our school and have so much to offer,” Dr. Fernandez said. “These students understood the opposition and understood the opportunities. From their very first day of elementary school until now, they have showed a tremendous amount of hard work and dedication.”