Laconia High School’s Top Ten students are, from left on bench: Taylor Lovely, Lyndsey Paronto, Allyssa Miner and Teegan Stevens; middle row: Cheyanne Zappala, Gladiana Spitz, Colleen O’Brien and Simon Trieu; and back row: Sandro Bosnjak and Dalibor Kresovic. (Karen Bobotas/for The Laconia Daily Sun)
Excellent students, better people, according to school officials about the best students in the Class of 2017
By RICK GREEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — One wants to be an aerospace engineer, another a molecular geneticist, a third would like to be a physician.
The top 10 students in the graduating class at Laconia High School all have different goals, but at a banquet Tuesday night, social studies teacher Rick Crockford said one ambition is important above all others.
"You guys are all the crème de la crème and you're going to do great stuff and you're going to be really, really decent human beings, and that, if you ask your parents, and if they tell you the truth, is what they really want," said Crockford, who heads the school's humanities department.
"They've spent 12, 13 years telling you, 'You've got to work a little harder. That A- just doesn't cut it.' Actually, when the chips are down, they really want you to be a good person."
Each of the students selected a teacher to join them in speaking at the banquet. Crockford was there at the request of No. 1-ranked Taylor Lovely, who will be going to Middlebury College in the fall. She plans to study neuroscience and become a medical doctor.
Crockford said Lovely has a trait shared by all 10 students, an ability to work hard for days on end.
"She reminds me of an old joke," he said. "A guy gets into a cab in Manhattan and says, 'Hey, how do I get to Carnegie Hall, and the cabbie looks at him and says, 'Practice, practice, practice.'"
Lovely's motivation came in part from a desire to meet Crockford's expectations.
"I spent hours studying at night, reading the text book, I think mostly because I didn't want him to be disappointed in me more than I didn't want to be disappointed in myself," she said.
Allyssa Miner will be studying occupational therapy at Quinnipiac University. She said Tate Aldrich, New Hampshire's teacher of the year, provided support far beyond academics.
"I've learned more about myself having him as a teacher than I ever imagined," she said. "I've learned my true value. I've learned what really matters. I've learned to surround myself with the positives. But most important, I've learned that no matter how heavy your past is, you will find a way to sculpt your life into what it was destined to be."
Dalibor Kresovic, who will be going to Worcester Polytechnic Institute to study aerospace engineering, drew the biggest laugh of the night with a plug for his former teacher Chris Ulrich, now assistant principal at Newfound Regional High School.
"I know that there's a principal vacancy soon and Mr. Ulrich, I would highly recommend you if anyone on the school board is listening," he said, glancing at the table where several school board members were seated along with Laconia High School principal David Bartlett, who is resigning to be an assistant principal at Rundlett Middle School in Concord.
"There's one condition," Kresovic told Ulrich. "You are not allowed to leave Laconia for a Concord middle school."
Lyndsey Paronto would like to be a forensic psychologist and will be going to Marist College in the fall. She is captain of the school's lacrosse team, which has won two state championships. Her father teaches Spanish at the high school, and she invited him to the banquet.
"Not only has he taught me how to walk, talk, eat solid foods," she said. "He has taught me how to dream big and dream with self-confidence. Somehow he has always known exactly what to say whenever I was lacking in spirit. Whenever I was upset about a game loss, or upset about myself, he has never failed to make me feel better."
Colleen O'Brien is a poised young woman who is an accomplished flute player and vocalist who would like to be a music teacher. She'll be attending Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas.
Alison Witham, one of her teachers, explained that O'Brien's goal was to play the flute in the highly competitive All State Music Festival, but she was only able to get there through hard work.
"Throughout the years, Colleen worked hard and persevered," said Witham, who is also her private flute teacher. "She did not make it her sophomore year. She did not make it her junior year. She kept comments she would get from her audition. We would go over them. We would set goals and make plans for the next year, the next audition.
"In her senior year, she made it."
For her part, O'Brien said Witham is much more than a teacher to her.
"It's important to have the role model that sparks a fire to what you are going to be, what you really want to pursue in life," O'Brien said. "And that's why I have to thank Mrs. Witham. She gave me that spark. And I can't imagine what my high school experience would be like without her in it.
Gladiana Spitz will be going to the University of Rochester, where she will be studying molecular genetics. She would like to do research on treatments for cancer, a disease that has touched her family.
Her teacher and mentor is Ivy Leavitt-Carlson. Spitz said that Leavitt-Carlson supported her through tumultuous times.
"You were there for me every step of the way," Spitz said.
She said that when times were tough, "You nudged me and I would go back into place where I was supposed to be."
Teegan Stevens will be going to the University of Massachusetts in the fall, where she would like to begin working toward her goal of becoming a neonatal nurse.
She said she wants to be like her teacher and mentor, Crystal McDonough.
"Someone who never gives up, always sees the glass half full, shows passion with every move she makes and gives more than she takes," Stevens said.
Simon Trieu will be going to the Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston, where he plans to study computer engineering.
"I like technology, which is integrated with math, and my favorite subject is mathematics, so I feel like that's a great thing for me," he said.
"I'll miss the people here. Everybody is going their different ways, but I see college as a new beginning, a new life, a new way to make friends and develop life skills."
Cheyanne Zappala will be going to Clark University in Worcester, where she plans to study biology with a pre-med emphasis.
She said that it was through the study of literature in high school that she was able to examine life issues and grow as a person and a student.
Zappala talked about advice she received in her college search to "have a compass point."
"Something that has stayed with me is the advice that if I had an idea of what I want to do in my future, that if I have this compass point, that all the details will fall into place," Zappala said.
Sandro Bosnjak, the No. 10-ranked student, wants to be a police detective. He will be going to Plymouth State University to study criminal justice.
"I want to help people," he said. "I want a proactive job, where you're not sitting behind a desk. You're always out, interacting with people."
Taylor Lovely, ranked No. 1 in her Laconia High School graduating class, hugs her teacher, Rick Crockford, at a banquet Monday honoring the school's top 10 students. (Rick Green/Laconia Daily Sun)