Singhal and Simkins Take Top Honors


MH Val and Sal pose in front of Morris Hills Entrance

Once again, it’s that time of year when we celebrate the accomplishments and milestones of our graduating senior class. After many years of diligent work and dedication, seniors Nehal Singhal and Adam Simkins were recently announced as the respective Valedictorian and Salutatorian of the Morris Hills class of 2023. Their journey through Hills was definitely not a usual or normal one due to the coronavirus, but they persevered and every one of them has accomplished the incredible feat of graduating high school.

Nehal is part of the Magnet program here at Morris Hills High School and her own ambition, combined with the support she received from her community, has allowed her to succeed in high school. She never focused on being valedictorian, but knew that she always wanted to challenge herself. She had a mindset of wanting to learn and always do the best she could for herself, hence why she took rigorous classes that let her both learn and pursue her passions. Nehal loved AP Literature with Ms. Yaeger. She knew that it was going to be a hard class going in, but she really liked the class because of the way it was taught and the passion her teacher brought to the class everyday. Nehal did have to take some very difficult classes too, such as AP Physics C. But, because of her passion for science and her hard work, she was able to learn and do well in the class. Regardless of the class, Nehal put in the effort and her dedication allowed her to succeed. She also wants to thank all of her teachers who guided her through her journey during these four years.

Besides a rigorous academic schedule, Nehal has also been a key leader in the community. Mrs. Michelle Uhler, teacher of choirs, writes that, “Nehal is such a well rounded student who, as an honors music student with a lovely voice, has been a leader in many choral groups.” Nehal has been part of the 2021-2022 NJ All State Treble Choir, a competitive honor choir. She has also participated in multiple different extracurriculars such as being in HOPE Club and being part of the leadership committee for Operation Holiday and herLIFT. She is also the captain of the women’s foil squad, which placed 3rd in the state and were NJAC champions! Nehal is the Historian of the National Honor Society and co-advisor Ms. Yvonne Doyle praises Nehal’s natural leadership and poise, both in NHS and in her AP Chemistry class. Outside of school, she also volunteers at a medical center in Livingston, and is an assistant teacher at her Sunday school, teaching Hindi to children.

Nehal has been a keystone member of Morris Hills’ Academic Decathlon team. She is the co-captain of the team, and as a junior, placed first individually both at the regional and state championships. She has also won two scholarships at the state championships. Ms. L Santucci, advisor of the team, said that she was very lucky to not only have Nehal as part of the team, but also as a student freshman and senior year. She is very proud of Nehal, who was able to overcome the daunting challenges of Academic Decathlon, which is where students need to compete in seven different academic subjects, each with a different theme each year! Nehal, as Ms. Santucci remembers, was an integral member and was a mentor to the novice decathletes. She was the one who read through the textbooks, creating crash courses for the rest of the team. Ms. Santucci remembers Nehal’s winning speech on Dark Matter, her working tirelessly to organize events and also being the highest scoring decathlete during her junior year. She is very proud of Nehal and cannot wait to see what Nehal does in the future.

Speaking of the future, Nehal is going to be attending UC Berkeley and will be majoring in bioengineering with a pre-med track. She plans on getting involved in research, interning at a biotech company in the Bay Area, and having an on-campus job. Her dream vacation is to go to Italy. She may have already been there, but she loves the environment and would want to go again and again.

Nehal wants to thank her entire family for supporting her throughout her entire life. Her mom and dad have always encouraged her to push herself and commit to things she wanted to do. Her younger sister has been her best friend since she was born. Nehal knows that she would not be the person she is today without them. Nehal also cannot wait to spend more time with her family and friends and start reading again because the school year’s coming to an end. She loves binging shows on Netflix, hanging out with her friends, baking, and hiking. Her friends, Audrey Kuo, Vanshika Pahilwani, Riya Jain, and Ugonna Egbuchulam are all very proud of her and glad to call Nehal their friend. Vanshika writes that Nehal is the most hardworking and intelligent person she knows and Audrey notes that Nehal is one of her closest friends, who always puts her best foot forward. Riya has known Nehal for years and loved to play cops and robbers with her when they were young. Ugonna wants to thank Nehal for being her first friend and Hills and for helping her whenever she needed it, whether it be academically or personally. 

Nehal wants to leave one last message for both the Class of 2023 and the future classes graduating from Morris Hills. She notes the importance of balancing one’s priorities and says to, “make sure you take classes and pursue interests because they’re truly meaningful to you, not because you feel pressured to for your grades or because of others’ expectations.”

Like Nehal, Adam can describe his experience at Morris Hills as “unbelievable” and “unforgettable.” When asked to name an impactful class he has taken at Morris Hills, Adam recounted his Block 1 APUSH class, where he was class captain and delivered motivating speeches, baked food, and created a class flag to pledge to in the fight to determine which APUSH block reigns supreme. In fact, Adam says that if he could, “he would do it [APUSH] all over again” because of how much fun he had!

Adam has been an integral part of our community since coming to Hills, not only through his impact in the classroom, but through his leadership in extracurricular activities. According to Mrs. Paulson, who is the adviser of the school’s HOPE Club, Adam’s “dedication to his leadership role as an Eagle Scout and a member of MH HOPE” led to great improvement and renovations to the school’s HOPE Garden, which provides healthy and organic foods to Morris Hills families facing food insecurity. Several of those renovations have included rebuilding the raised beds and the addition of additional plants, mulch, and seating areas to beautify the garden.

Adam has further made an impact on Morris Hills as Co-Chancellor of Pride Club. He was instrumental in a new edition of the club’s display case in the science wing that features LGBTQ+ gamers. He also helped oversee a Pride Club trip to Stonewall, as well as a club tour of Strand Bookstore. Adam also has a leadership role in French Club as Secretary, and he was successful in helping the club run a Paris Fashion Week, a en plein air painting event, a crêpe sale, and other activities. He and French Club heavily advocate for everyone to add the Belgian singer Stromae to their daily playlist. Adam is a percussionist in the school’s Jazz Band, among other activities. 

In the fall, Adam will be attending Northeastern University, and will be part of the school’s Explore Program for students with undecided majors. Adam’s excitement about the Explore Program mirrors his advice for Morris Hills students: “don’t dismiss something until you’ve tried it.” Adam believes that by not diminishing or dismissing new activities, he was able to have such a successful and memorable experience in high school.

Congratulations to both Nehal and Adam. All of us at Morris Hills are excited to see what you and the rest of the Class of 2023 will accomplish!