Jeremy is a second generation graduate, according to Assistant Principal for Academics Christopher Cassaro. “His father Vincent is a member of the Class of 1985.”
Jeremy played a number of roles in this class, from athlete to president of the Marist chapter of the National Honor Society. He was also president of the school’s Model UN, and he will be attending Assumption College in Massachusetts in the fall. Ranked second in this class, he finished first in merit in religion, English, science and second in history.
Although he has had academic success, Jeremy said he has also known failure.
“In art, the line I could never draw straight, or the math problems I would get wrong by one decimal point,” he said. “However, success, not failure is what our parents and teachers expect of us. Success is what we expect of ourselves. If we attain it, we get that proverbial pat on the back and walk away fulfilled. But, when we fail we are told ‘you can do better’ or ‘I’m disappointed in you.’ Well, over time I have come to a different conclusion. I’m not disappointed when I fail; after all, I am a human being, and have the same human foibles as everyone else. In fact, the more mistakes I make the more human I become.”
This talk of failure was overshadowed by the fact that Jeremy also collected other top honors at the school, including being named as the Royal Knight of Marist High School (for excellence in academics, athletics, and school environment), a Marcellin Champagnat Scholar, and served as co-captain of the soccer team all four years and co-captain of the swim team the last two years.
“As his Dad, obviously he never ceases to amaze me, but what impressed me the most about Jeremy's four years at Marist was his passion and dedication to grow as an individual, but also his willingness to grow into an incredible leader and role model to his classmates and the faculty at Marist,” said his father, Vincent Virga.
Marist graduated 86 students, and these qualified for more than $3.7 million in scholarships and grants toward the next level of their education, said Principal Alice Miesnik.
Students from this class, according to Craig Carbone, assistant principal for students, have been accepted into many prestigious colleges such as the University of Notre Dame, Fordham University, Assumption College, St. Johns University, Rutgers University, Marist College, Hampton University, and other schools.
The 86 graduates have received 150 acceptances from more than 60 colleges and universities.
“My hope for you is that you feel a true sense of accomplishment,” Carbone said. “However, it is my job to offer you advice. First, remember this, life has no core curriculum. Everything is an elective.”
Second, he said, students up to this point have been in a safe, nurturing environment.
“Now the time has come for familiarity to be challenged,” he said. “You will be faced with many difficult choices and the foundation has been set on which you can build a very solid future. Don’t stand in someone else’s shadow; create your own spotlight in which to shine.”
This class had a number of academic stars, including Armina Figueras, Marvin Josef, Ricardo Pereira, Sylvia Riley, Kyra Hughes, Daniel Piskura, Rebecca Marmolejo, and Samantha Llanes. Arthur Yap had perfect attendance over four years. Jasmine Medrano won the Marist Student-Athlete Award, Josef Johnson won The Marist Parent Council Book Scholarship Award, Brian Mukhaya won the Fireman’s Mutual Benevolent Association Science Award, and Alexis Wilson won the NJUSIAA Scholar Athlete Award. Tyler Rana was first in Spanish. Maxima Quintos was first in MedQuest.
A long way from home
This year’s Valedictorian, Fangling He, made a great impact on the school, said Cassaro. A native of China, she finished first in history, second in English and Mathematics.
“Just a few short years ago, she was a student in her native China,” said Cassaro. “It’s truly amazing how quickly she adjusted to life not only in America, but here at Marist. She amazes students and faculty alike with her work ethic, her positive attitude, and more importantly of all, her wonderful personality.”
Fangling, who will be attending Rutgers in the fall to pursue a career in medicine, lived with her aunt and uncle in Jersey City while at Marist, although her mother traveled to Bayonne from Mississippi to attend graduation.
“I came to this country from China just three years ago,” Fangling said in her speech. “As you can imagine, the Chinese culture is very different from the one in the United States. In China, a person’s success is never to be applauded or honored with ceremony. Humility is something expected of all Chinese people. In America, humility, at times, is viewed as a sign of weakness.”
But she said as she stands there, she was truly humbled by the honor as befit her Chinese upbringing.
“Nonetheless, the Americanized me certainly appreciated this honor and the fact that this most perfect ceremony is offered as a celebration of my success.,” she said. “My parents left China so that I could take part in a dream that is truly American, where hard work and sacrifices are rewarded. They didn’t come to this county with the expectation of becoming millionaires. Materialistic gain was the furthest thing from their minds. They came here for me and I am truly grateful to them for that.”
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.