Crowned during Quarantine: Valedictorian and Salutatorian Announced

Kithmy Wickramasinghe and Annie Lin

After four years of hard work and dedication, Ryan Nguyen and Steven Sack were declared the Valedictorian and Salutatorian, respectively, of the Morris Hills class of 2020. This award is based on their grades for the past three years, plus their first, second, and third quarter grades of senior year. About his achievement, Ryan said, “Becoming Valedictorian was never a goal I had when I came to Morris Hills. I just tried to do the best of my ability in every class, and I’m glad that my hard work paid off.” Steven is honored to be Salutatorian as “I know that I am representing a class full of some of the finest and most talented young adults that I know, people that will truly do great things and change the world for the better someday.” 

During his time at Morris Hills, Ryan was involved in a variety of activities, including being a part of Science Olympiad and Physics Olympics, playing violin for the All-North Jersey High School Orchestra, and working as a part of the Hugh O’Brien Youth Organization, for which he participated in seminars and leadership conventions. Steven has been heavily involved in music as he had auditioned for and participated in the Area, Region, and All-State Band for New Jersey alongside the NAfME All-Eastern Band while being a member of the school’s marching band, pit orchestra, and jazz band. In addition, he has been a part of Trail Life USA—achieving the Horizon Award in 2019—and has volunteered as a mentor for the Parsippany Baptist Church’s “Kids for Christ” during the summer.

In the fall, Ryan will be attending Stanford University. He is planning on double-majoring in Mechanical Engineering and Product Design with a minor in violin performance. Steven will be attending the Stevens Institute of Technology and is planning on majoring in Mechanical Engineering. He will be participating in the Stevens Pinnacle Scholars Program which serves as an honors college/seminar-style environment for the top five percent of the incoming class.

Looking back on his high school experience, Ryan said, “Taking Fundamentals of CAD in sophomore year was the class which really developed my passion in mechanical engineering. This was undoubtedly the best elective class that I took.” He also had some advice for other students: “Don’t strive to be “good enough” in your classes, but strive to be the best that you can be. Master the material so in college you have a strong foundation.” Steven would like to emphasize the importance of  “not getting too stressed out over trivial things” and that “it is up to you to determine what type of intelligence you possess and refine and curate it to a point of mastery.” Over these four years, he learned how to communicate with his teachers when struggling and found that it was not as intimidating or stressful as he initially thought. 

Ryan expressed his sentiments about his senior year being cut short, saying “having high school cut short and missing prom, the senior picnic, and an in-person graduation is undoubtedly not the way I wished to end my senior year at Morris Hills. However, I’m glad that the administration is taking this crisis seriously to protect the families of Morris Hills, and I trust that they are trying very hard to find ways for our senior class to celebrate our four years at Morris Hills in the future.” Steven feels that “ it truly is what it is” and is proud of the strength Morris Hills has shown through our cooperation and resiliency during this pandemic. During quarantine, Ryan has been playing board games and card games with his family to pass the time. Steven has been occupying himself by practicing his various musical instruments, writing music, playing strategy games, going outdoors, and enjoying the company of his family.

Ryan would like to thank all the teachers and faculty and Morris Hills who made his four years here a wonderful experience. He would like to give a special shoutout to Dr. Doyle who gave him a spot in the Magnet Program four days before freshman year started. 

Steven would like to thank his mom, dad, and brother for helping him develop into the person he is today; his friends for always being by his side and helping him when he needed it; his grandparents for always having him in mind; his grandfather for sparking a love of music within him; and all of his music instructors throughout the years for helping him develop his greatest hobby and biggest dimension of his personality. He also wants to thank all of his teachers, because you can learn something valuable from every teacher in your life, even if it’s something completely unrelated to the subject of the class. Steven especially wants to thank Mr. Hartsuiker for supporting one of the best high school music experiences he could have asked for and Mr. Bermel for reminding him what hard work is.