True leaders understand what community means, and how important community can be in times of need. In our modern technological world, social networking has become a growing influence on young adults, but some communities are lucky enough to have young leaders who care and support their community in a more traditional and concrete capacity. This year’s top 10 graduates of Pilgrim High School are individuals who stand out among others and lead, forming real and tangible connections with, and in support of, their community. This year’s top 10 graduates truly exemplified leadership in all of their endeavors.
“They are true leaders,” said Acting Principal Marie Cote when asked about the graduates.
Cote, who is in her 12th year as a high school administrator, called the class of 2012, especially the top 10, “Fabulous! Second to none in my career.” She added, “I had a great sense about them from day one.”
The class, Cote explained, was her inspiration for this year’s school motto, “We are bigger than ourselves.”
She and other administrators were worried that the class would “peak too early” but were continually inspired when the class “stepped up” for every task set before them.
So many of the seniors, Cote explained, were Eagle Scouts or attended leadership conferences at college campuses in the tri-state area.
Cote gave two key moments of the year when the senior class showed uncommon leadership. First was the tragic death of their classmates, Gabriella F. DiPalma and Elanna Zuller.
The class of 2012, said Cote, rallied around their community and the families of the young girls.
“They included [Gabriella] in everything,” Cote said. Gabriella would have graduated in June.
The second moment for Cote was this winter’s adopt-a-family program. Each class adopted a local family in need and raised money and presents to help support them during the holiday season.
The senior class, said Cote, “had to have the biggest family.” The class picked the largest family to support, setting the curve for the rest of the school.
The school and the community will be sad and excited to see these altruistic young adults leave. But they know wherever they go, they will succeed and lead.
“It comes from within,” said Cote. “They will accomplish great things.”
Holding the top spot out of a class of 240 is Amanda Ruggieri.
Ruggieri has had much success in the classroom and on the soccer field. She competed on the girls’ varsity soccer squad for all of her four years at Pilgrim, and was captain for her last two. While leading the soccer team, Ruggieri also participated in Students Against Destructive Decisions, Executive Committee, and was treasurer for the National Honor Society.
While her athletics and extracurriculars kept her busy outside of the classroom, academics kept Ruggieri even busier. For her efforts, she was presented with the National Council of Teachers of English Writing Award, which awards students nationally for their superior writing. She was also a National Merit Scholar and AP Scholar. Pilgrim recognized her as an outstanding student in science and math for all four years.
“I have always had a desire to be the best person, student and athlete that I am capable of being,” said Ruggieri.
She hopes to continue her success at Brown University in the fall where she will study biochemistry and molecular biology.
Ruggieri will remember all of her friends and teachers “who helped to make my high school years enjoyable.”
She will miss her soccer teammates, who became especially close this year after the tragic death of teammates Elanna Zuller and Bella DiPalma.
“They became my second family,” she said.
She thanks her parents, sister, teachers, friends, teammates and soccer coaches.
“Without this network of support, I don’t know where I’d be,” said Ruggieri.
This year’s salutatorian, Lauren Peladeau, is not only an accomplished scholar and athlete but also a veteran pianist.
Peladeau has taken private piano lessons for almost a decade, and each year she participates in the Rhode Island College Solo & Ensemble Music Festival.
In the classroom, Peladeau’s hard work helped her get named to the National and Foreign Language Honor Societies.
She led the Patriots softball team as their captain and catcher. She also ran cross country as an underclassman. Her respect for the sports she participated in, and constant support for her teammates and coaches earned her the Sportsmanship Award in both sports.
In keeping with the theme of leadership that characterizes her class, Peladeau was a member of the Pilgrim student leadership group. Peladeau attended several leadership workshops and seminars throughout her high school career. She also volunteers at Saint William’s Church and at local elementary and junior high schools. And on top of it all, she is a Spanish tutor and participated in the Yearbook Club.
When asked what motivated her to accomplish so much, she answered, “Since I was little, I have always been very self-motivated and determined. I have always wanted to challenge myself.”
She contributed her success to her “supportive parents, family, friends and teachers.”
She will attend Springfield College in the fall, where she has been accepted into the Doctor of Physical Therapy program.
Amanda Rode takes home the bronze medal this year, and she’s got the credentials to back it up.
Like her Top 10 co-graduates, Rode is a leader, so much so, that she was awarded the 2012 Civic Leadership and Leader of the Year awards at Pilgrim. She is not a slouch in the classroom either, receiving the Outstanding Student in Biology award, and the Pilgrim Pride math award.
Rode sought to enjoy every moment of high school, “I want to remember all of the fun I have had, whether it was in physics or planning a fundraiser.”
She has made many friends and fond memories through the various clubs and activities she has been involved with, such as treasurer for the Class of 2012, secretary for Mock Trial, and Drama Club.
Rode was also captain of the Pilgrim girls’ volleyball team; her leadership helped the Pats make it to the quarterfinals this year.
She has dedicated her last four years to accomplishing her goal, to be the first person in her family to attend college.
“I wanted to do my personal best … to make going to college possible, and make my parents proud.”
She could not have done it alone, she said, and thanks her parents, “who have been an endless source of encouragement,” as well as Ms. DeSousa, Ms. Kelly and Mr. X who “have helped make my time at Pilgrim memorable.”
Rode will major in civil engineering at the University of Rhode Island come September.
Ranking at number four this year, Jacob Marrocco has been the face of leadership for his class as the 2012 class president for all four years. Marrocco tirelessly represented and supported his class.
Besides his presidential obligations, Marrocco was very active in Pilgrim sports. He was the statistician for the JV and varsity girls’ basketball teams, as well as for freshman and JV baseball. He attended countless Pilgrim sporting events to cheer and support his fellow Patriots.
His motivation to maintain a high class rank and make High Honor Roll throughout all four years has helped him to win the Outstanding Student in Italian award and Outstanding Student in English ward.
He will bring this motivation for success to URI in the fall, where he hopes to study Journalism.
His fondest memories of high school will be late nights as property manager for the Drama Club, working numerous fundraisers and cheering for his schoolmates.
Marrocco would like to thank his parents, Michael and Elaine Marrocco, for their support and encouragement, and “all my teachers and friends.”
Holding the number 5 spot, Matthew Morris will miss “the sense of community [at] Pilgrim” the most when he starts studying Broadcast Journalism at Quinnipiac University next semester.
Morris was the V.P. of his senior class, and the National Honor Society. When he had free time away from his vice presidential duties, he supported the Drama Club as part of the stage crew, and was a member of the AFS Club (which promotes intercultural education).
His care for the well-being of his fellow students placed him on the After Prom Extravaganza committee, where he helped plan and promote a safe after prom experience for his fellow schoolmates.
Morris was named to the National and Rhode Island Honor Societies, and was presented with the Order of the Sons of Italy award.
He feels “fortunate” to have had “excellent and knowledgeable teachers, who made learning interactive and fun.”
Morris felt motivated by all of the support from his family and friends, who have always encouraged him to succeed. Morris’ leadership and dedication came to a head when he earned Eagle Scout Rank from Troop 49 in Lakewood.
For Veronica Anderson, number 6 this year, “the great memories with friends … both inside and outside the classroom,” will stay with her as she continues her education as a Biology major at Providence College.
Anderson’s passion for science, particularly chemistry, has earned her the Outstanding Student in Chemistry award. But she excels in other academic areas as well. She was a historian for the National Honor Society and a member of the Rhode Island and Spanish Honor Societies.
Besides her academic success, Anderson was part of the Executive Committee, Student Leadership and the Yearbook Club.
She owes her success to “both my mother and father [who] have contributed to my success and enjoyment [of] high school. Their positive influence, dedication and care to help me reach my highest potential [have] formed me into the person I am today.”
She said “she has always been driven and self-motivated to work hard and never give up,” skills she will undoubtedly need next year as she pursues her desire to succeed in the pre-medical sciences.
No, this is not a typo; Victoria Anderson follows her twin sister Veronica, at number 7. Victoria will also bring her skills in chemistry to the Providence College biology department in the fall. She too has earned the Outstanding Student in Chemistry award.
Victoria participated in Executive Committee, the Student Leadership Program, the Yearbook Committee, and was the Corresponding secretary of the National Honors Society.
“What I will remember most about my high school years is the best friends that I have had since middle school that continue to be part of my life today.”
Like her sister, she owes her success to her parents “who have encouraged me to excel and challenge myself on an everyday basis. They have shaped me into the person I am today.”
When asked what motivated her through her four years of high school, Victoria responded, “I have known that I wanted to be a doctor for a few years and that is what motivated me to leave high school with the most knowledge attainable.”
For Saad Ilyas, number 8 on the top 10, high school felt like “a blink of an eye.”
What he will most clearly remember from the blur of high school is the “fun and healthy learning environment that Pilgrim has provided me to get through four years of high school easily.”
Iylas was part of the track and field team in his sophomore and junior years. He also competed in the Ping-pong Club during his final year at Pilgrim.
For his efforts in the classroom, he was awarded a certificate for achievement of excellence in mathematics and science in his junior year, and was named to the Rhode Island, National, and Foreign Language Honor Societies.
In a few months, Iylas will go on to study mechanical engineering at URI.
He merits his motivation to “my parents and my ambitions.”
McKayla Stubbs, number 9, also served her class as a member of the Pilgrim Student Council.
Stubbs gained membership into the National, Rhode Island, and Spanish Language Honor Societies with her hard work and determination. She was also the recipient of the Regis College Book award.
Her motivation for success has been her want to “excel so that I could get into a good college and eventually pursue a career that I love.”
The fondest memories of high school for Stubbs will be of “spending time with my friends and all the good times we have had.”
She added, “My parents have contributed most to my success because they have always told me that if I try my best I will succeed.”
Stubbs will attend URI in September, where she will study communications.
Completing Pilgrim’s top 10 is Kelly Corrigan. Corrigan’s achievements are just as numerous as the rest of the top 10. She won the Holy Cross Book award, and was named to the National, Rhode Island, and Spanish Honor Societies.
She was also a member of the girls’ soccer team, an experience, she said, she will never forget.
“Soccer has always been a significant part of my life, playing with these girls has only increased that. I love and will miss them.”
When asked who has contributed to her success the most Corrigan said, “My parents have always kept me grounded with all the stress that high school brings. They have always led me to make the best decisions for myself.”
She will attend Salve Regina University where she will major in Secondary Education and English, an achievement that has motivated her through four years at Pilgrim.
“I’ve always been determined to excel in high school so my aspiration of attending my dream school wouldn’t be so far-fetched,” she said.
No aspiration or goal seems too far-fetched for these bold and selfless graduates. Congratulations to the top 10 and all of Pilgrim’s 2012 graduating class.