A Close Race to the Top: Hina Shah and Jesse Kass named Valedictorian and Salutatorian


Gordon Chu and Meheresh Yeditha

When Hina Shah found out she was the class of 2015 valedictorian, she felt “really excited” that “all those late nights of studying and hard work were paying off.” Over these past four years, Hina has diligently strived to put her best into everything she does, which is quite a feat considering the variety of academic and extracurricular activities in her daily life. Hina has played volleyball and tennis for Morris Hills, and is currently a varsity senior on the tennis team. Sporting a broad range of interests and talents, Hina is a part of Project LEAD, academic decathlon, LEO club and FBLA. Not only is Hina a member of the national, social studies, science, and math honor societies in which she regularly engages in volunteering efforts, but she also donates her time at the St. Clare’s Hospital in Dover and participates in Girl Scouts.

Hina’s proudest accomplishment is earning her adult first degree black belt in karate. According to Hina, the test was “very strict and intense,” and she takes great pride in her achievement, a culmination of 10 years of training. Her advice for success applies to not only aspiring valedictorians but all high school students. Hina believes that “getting good grades is about studying hard and not slacking off, but people ultimately need to find what works for them.” She encourages breaks and other means of having fun to “avoid stressing yourself out.” As she attends Cornell University’s College of Arts and Sciences in Ithaca, NY this fall, Hina will miss the “really nice students and teachers who are so kind and help me whenever I need it” at Hills.

Jesse Kass is the salutatorian of the Morris Hills Class of 2015. Jesse has been a member of the Academy Decathlon and Key Club for four years, and is also involved with the Big Brothers Big Sisters program run through the school. Jesse is also president of Social Studies Honor Society and a member of the Math Honor Society, Science Honor Society, and National Honor Society. In addition to these stellar activities and achievements, Jesse is also a state-licensed EMT. “I was pleased that all my hard work paid off,” he said when asked how it felt being salutatorian. “The race was close right up until the end.”

Jesse also has advice for potential valedictorians and salutatorians. “I got good grades through many hours of hard work each night,” he said. “Whenever I felt the pressure of classes I would take a breath and study until I knew the information.” He advised aspiring class-toppers to set goals and objectives for themselves very early on in their high school career so that they can broaden their experience and strengthen their skills more easily. Jesse also stated that his years at Morris Hills were the best years of his life thus far, stating that “The lessons that I learned both academically and socially will help me greatly on my path to becoming a doctor.” Jesse will attend Brown University this fall with plans on pursuing a pre-med track. Given Jesse’s excellent work ethic and outstanding achievements, he will most certainly succeed in any direction he chooses to take.