A race too close to call: MH Class of 2014 names top students


Gordon Chu and Meheresh Yeditha

For the first time in over a decade, the race for valedictorian had a photo-finish too close to call, and the Morris Hills Class of 2014 will have not one, but two valedictorians. As a result, both Gina Aragona and Eric Cefaloni will represent their peers at the graduation ceremony this month as co-valedictorians.

Upon hearing the news that she was named co-valedictorian, Gina Aragona felt “honored” to receive the distinction and thought it was “awesome that Eric and I can share the title.” Gina worked diligently over the past four years at Hills as her incredible list of accolades demonstrates. An active member of Key Club, National Honor Society, Mathematics Honor Society, Social Studies Honor Society, Spanish Honor Society, and Project LEAD, she shares her abilities in these various disciplines through volunteering. This year marks Gina’s second year as a tutor; she tutored last year in Geometry and this year in Pre-Calculus. Outside of school, Gina works at Little Learner Academy and helps out around the Rockaway Township White Meadow Lake Firehouse.

Gina says that one of her proudest achievements is gaining a spot on the Varsity Girls Basketball team at Morris Hills. Receiving a varsity letter throughout all four years of high school, she is strongly committed to the success of the team, being named captain this year. When asked how she managed to earn her stellar grades, participate in all of these activities, and balance a social life, Gina admitted “it was difficult, but I found a happy medium early on.” She knew to get involved and be active, but not to overwhelm herself. Her advice to others is to learn time-management skills and not to focus too strongly on one aspect of life. Gina will attend Marist College in Poughkeepsie, NY as a mathematics major, with a possible minor in accounting or math education. Success will certainly follow this young woman wherever she goes.

Eric Cefaloni is a co-valedictorian of the Morris Hills Class of 2014. Eric has played lacrosse, run winter track, and been involved in Key Club and JSA. “It’s pretty cool being valedictorian, but it doesn’t feel too much different,” he says. Eric admits to being “pumped and excited” when he found out he was named co-valedictorian, and said he knew he was close to the top of the class but did not know exactly how close until the very end. Eric says the key to becoming a high achiever lay in his ability to set extremely high standards for himself as well as his tireless work ethic. “I was never quite happy with any grade lower than a 95 and just did the best I could,” he says.

With such a big achievement up his sleeve to close off his high school career, Eric has advice for students on how to succeed in high school. “This sounds obvious, but study before tests and make good friends,” he emphasizes, reasoning that tests are typically weighted the most in academic classes and thus comprise a majority of the grade. Eric additionally says that befriending people who were just as focused as he was on academics helped with school projects and built a positive academic atmosphere. Interestingly enough, Eric also says that a huge factor that motivated him to succeed was laziness. Eric stated, “When I was a kid, my parents wouldn’t let me play videogames or hang out with friends until my homework/studying was done. I only ever wanted to relax, so I made sure I did everything I needed to efficiently so I could relax.” He explained that this drive to unwind pushed him to do work well and efficiently. Eric will attend the University of Rochester this fall and plans to major in evolutionary science and political science. With his outstanding achievements, he will excel in whatever endeavors he pursues.