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5 MTHS ShopRite STARS Honored By Montville BOE on April 27

Five MTHS ShopRite STARS Keshvi Damani, Academics; Thomas LaScala, Athletics; Hannah Mikelis, Arts; Christopher Mejia-Gonzales, Community Service; and Ja’Lisa Williams, Leadership.

At the Montville Township Board of Education (BOE) meeting on Tuesday, April 27, 2021, the Montville Township High School (MTHS) Assistant Principal, Kenneth Nadzak, introduced to the members of the BOE, and the community at large, the 2020-2021 ShopRite STARS for the third quarter marking period. The five seniors, each with extraordinary achievements, have displayed dedication and passion for helping others. Each has had a positive and lasting impact on MTHS and the community beyond.

Those who wish to view the BOE presentation are encouraged to do so at the “Montville Township Board of Education Meetings” YouTube Channel. (https://youtu.be/g07nOnt_YKw?t=609 )

Normally held in-person at a Montville Board of Education meeting, the April event was held virtually during the board’s regular meeting. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all Montville BOE meetings are streamed LIVE, on the “Montville Township Board of Education Meetings” YouTube Channel. BOE meetings are also broadcast via Zoom webinar for those who wish to participate.

“I am excited to have the opportunity to present our ShopRite STARS for the 3rd Marking Period,” Nadzak said.

MTHS ShopRite STARS are nominated by faculty members in one of five different categories, and the winners are selected by an administrative committee.

In addition to recognizing these students in their store, Sunrise ShopRite in Parsippany will also generously donate $1,000 to the Class of 2021.

Keshvi Damani was honored in the field of Academics.

If there is any question about the career goals Keshvi has set for herself, all one needs to do is take a look at her current schedule, and notice that she is taking AP Physics, AP Biology, and Research in Molecular Biology,” Nadzak explained. He noted that her lifelong goal is to work in the medical field, and she prepares to achieve that goal every day. 

“Keshvi attended a six-week summer program at Cornell University, and took courses such as Explorations in Biological Research and Biomedical Epidemiology,” he said, adding: “Keshvi has also volunteered her time at Bayer Pharmaceuticals, the Morristown Medical Center, and participated in charities that funded cancer research.” 

In addition to her studies, Ms. Damani also makes time to participate on the JV softball team. The senior also holds the position of Team Manager of the Varsity Softball team, is secretary for the MTHS Key Club, works part time jobs, tutors, dances competitively, and recently completed a remote marketing internship with a dance studio. 

“This Fall, Keshvi will attend Northeastern University and major in Bioengineering and Biochemistry on the Pre-Med track,” Nadzak concluded.

In the field of Athletics, Thomas LaScala was honored. 

“Tommy was a driving force behind last year’s successful wrestling season,” explained Nadzak. “He is one of the main reasons why MTHS won its first ever Group 3 Championship. Tommy was rewarded for his contributions by being named Captain this year.” 

Mr. LaScala’s teammates describe him as: “the leader and heart of the team,” and regularly mention that he goes out of his way to support his teammates, on and off the mat. 

“As much as Tommy enjoys celebrating the success of those around him,” continued Nadzak, “he also has several individual achievements, including: District finalist, one of the state’s top wrestlers, and, recently, was selected as a participant in the super region.”   

In addition to training, Mr. LaScala also volunteers his time in Pathways for Exceptional Children, and works at a local landscaping company. 

“Tommy is receiving calls from colleges and universities recruiting him to wrestle,” Nadzak added, noting that the senior is weighing his options and plans to make a decision in the very near future.

Hannah Mikelis was named in the field of the Arts,

As Editor in Chief of the MTHS literary magazine, “The Muse,” Mikelis submitted an edition of the publication to a national competition: REALM.

“For the first time in the club’s history ‘The Muse,’ was submitted to a national competition. There the MTHS publication received a prestigious Merit Award,” explained Nadzak.

In addition to studying the Humanities, Ms. Mikelis’ true passion is finding ways to give back to the Montville Township community. The senior has volunteered at, or donated to, organizations such as Hearts and Hands, Avon Youth Crew, Locks for Love and REACH. 

“In addition to REACH, Hannah is also a member of the MTHS History Club, and has participated in the National History Day Competition where she advanced to States three times,” said Nadzak. “She also went to the National competition last year.” 

Ms. Mikelis will attend the University of Pittsburgh in the fall, and plans to pursue a major in Psychology. 

In the field of Community Service, Christopher Mejia-Gonzales was honored for his dedication. 

“Much of Christopher’s volunteerism is quiet and humble,” Nadzak noted, “which is the most admirable kind of community service one can strive to perform.” 

Nadzak provided many examples of Mr. Mejia-Gonzales’ dedication to community.

“For example, Nadzak said, “Christopher assumes the role of greeting and welcoming students who are transitioning to our high school.  He does some of this work through participation in PAL, but on other occasions, he is called upon by members of our School Counseling Department to specifically welcome students who transfer from other high schools.  Recently, Christopher was called upon again to be a guest speaker at a School Counseling Department evening program, where he offered advice on how to be successful to 10th and 11th graders, and their families.”

Mr. Mejia-Gonzales also serves his community outside of school. Through his church, he has helped at local soup kitchens, senior living facilities, and even on a mission trip to New Orleans. 

“Through it all,” added Nadzak, “Christopher is most proud that he is a first-generation Guatemalan-American, and the first in his family to attend college.” 

Mr. Mejia-Gonzales will major in Genomic Medicine on the Pre-Med track at Temple University in the fall. 

Ja’Lisa Williams was honored in the field of Leadership.

“Ja'Lisa embodies the best that MTHS has to offer,” Nadzak stated. “She is a natural leader who inspires her peers, whether it be in the classroom, in cheerleading, or in PAL.”

Nadzak also noted, “In the newly formed Peer Coaching program, Ja'Lisa was one of the first students to volunteer to take on a role of mentoring and supporting an underclassman.  She is a regular, active, participant in debriefing meetings, and has set a very positive tone in regards to the vital importance of relationship building and mutual respect in order to work effectively with struggling students.”

A student with strong interpersonal instincts, Ms. Williams has emerged as a leader amongst MTHS’ group of student leaders. 

“Ja'Lisa is also insightful and reflective, and has demonstrated an awareness of other kinds of social emotional factors that affect student engagement; this reveals a maturity beyond her years,” Nadzak said. 

Outside of PAL and Peer Coaching, Ms. Williams also exhibits outstanding leadership skills through her employment at ShopRite and her volunteering interests such as Make-A-Wish, Homeless Bus and St. Jude’s Club. 

“Her proudest accomplishment,’ Nadzak shared, “is being the oldest of 4 siblings.” 

Currently Ms. Williams is visiting colleges and plans to make a final decision on which to attend in the near future.  

The ShopRite STARS program is sponsored by Sunrise ShopRite of Parsippany. MTHS has been involved with the program for over 16 years.

The ShopRite STARS Awards are designed to recognize the most consistently active and engaged students in a school population. Students are chosen each marking period throughout the school year. Seniors are most often nominated for outstanding performance in their field over time. The MTHS ShopRite STARS have their photos displayed on a plaque in the school and also at the Parsippany ShopRite. ShopRite donates $1,000 to the MTHS graduating class’ senior activities annually.

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