The Class of 2020 Top “Quaran”-TEN

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The Red & Black asked this year’s top 10 some questions to get to know them more.

Question 1: What was the LOWEST grade you’ve ever received? Tell us something surprising about that experience.

Sarah Varghese: My lowest grade was a 30 (or 47… I can’t remember) on a Chem test. It was kind of funny because almost the entire class had failed that test and we were all sobbing in extra help. Our teacher was so kind and about it. He wasn’t mad and told us that it was nothing to worry about. Surprisingly, all of us crying in class was a bonding moment. Our teacher and the experiences we had in that class created friendships that lasted all the way to senior year. We ended up conquering high school together as a team. And to be honest, I still quite frequently get low grades. I even got a 65 on an open-notes quiz this year. If you get a bad grade, don’t be upset. They happen, just make sure you work hard to pick yourself back up.

Alexa Maggiacomo: To be completely honest, I don’t specifically remember the lowest grade I ever received but I am sure that we have all had our fair share of bumps in the road throughout high school when it comes to tough AP classes. Ironically, Mrs. McKeough is the teacher running this Red & Black interview and her AP Language class gave me the biggest run for my money! (Note from Mrs. Mckeough – “Don’t let her scare you. AP Lang is a challenging but, rewarding class.” 

Francine Tongol: The lowest grade I ever received was a 50 on my second AP Chemistry test. I wasn’t the only one who received a low grade that I wasn’t used to which made me feel better about the whole ordeal, but it was all still shocking. What I thought was surprising is that I still managed to finish the class with a quarter average above 90 unweighted. I had spent the rest of the quarter studying to make sure the rest of my tests had high marks, as they did count for 50% of my grade. If anything, I just learned that a downfall isn’t going to ruin everything I worked for as long as I don’t let it dictate my actions afterward. There’s more to school than grades and Mr. Daughtery is one of those teachers who really helped me value learning from your mistakes.

Emma Remien: The lowest grade I ever received was a 35 in AP Chemistry. This was one of my first AP courses and I was completely shocked by the difficulty of the material. Most of my classmates did not do well on that exam either, and I think we all realized after those grades were given back, that we were in for a fun ride.

Amber Mullins: I don’t remember the exact grade but I do know that I failed an AP Chem test in tenth grade. I pretty much blocked that whole experience out of my mind. I still did well in the course which just goes to show you that one bad grade is not the end of the world.

Elizabeth Niemiec: 70…it was a few days ago on Schoology. 

Meghan O’Leary: 4%. Honestly, the most surprising thing about that experience was that I actually spent a decent amount of time studying too. 

Joshua Espinoza: A 40 on a quiz and I thought I did good and was shocked that it was that bad luckily that would be the last and only time for a grade that low. Overall my grades for each class have always been high as well. 

Alexander Genna: A 30 on a “Multiple Choice Monday” quiz in AP Lang. They were really hard questions, and I consistently had really low marks on those weekly AP review quizzes. In the end, my teacher was kind enough to give us all tons of bonus points for corrections which saved my grade. The quizzes worked, I scored a 5 on AP Lang as a result of my struggles.

Question 2: What’s your go-to study snack? 

Sarah Varghese: Graham Crackers or Doritos.

Alexa Maggiacomo: Strawberries!

Francine Tongol: My go-to study snack is strawberries with condensed milk poured on top.

Emma Remien: My go-to study snack is probably popcorn.

Amber Mullins: I try to avoid eating while I study but when I do it’s usually cashews.

Elizabeth Niemiec: Frozen Fruit!

Meghan O’Leary: Cucumber slices with cayenne pepper.

Joshua Espinoza: Any fruit.

Alexander Genna: Rice cakes

Question 3: With whom do you credit your achievements besides yourself (obviously)? 

Sarah Varghese: My family. They are my biggest support system! For example, they will wake up and listen to me read my essays and newspaper articles late at night. Even though it may be 1 in the morning, they give me suggestions and heartfelt compliments to show their loving support. I couldn’t be more grateful. Or if I am really stressed my mom and dad will do everything they can to help me feel better. There was this one time I was having an absolutely terrible week. I was a mess for seven days straight so to help me feel better my parents let me stay home for a day and bought me ice cream to remind me to breathe. My parents are the best… it’s undebatable hahaha.

Alexa Maggiacomo: My parents have always pushed me to never stop working and always do everything to the best of my ability. With that said, the constant effort and work ethic I demonstrated I completely owe to my parents.

Francine Tongol: I credit my achievements to my 7th-grade social studies teacher, Mrs.Lao. Without her, I wouldn’t know who I would be today. She helped me through a rough time in my life that affected my mental state negatively. I know that I always had the drive to excel academically, but it’s hard to put in the work when mentally you’re struggling with other aspects of your life. If she never sat down to let me destress, vent, or simply have her motivate me, I don’t think that I would have the healthy mindset I have today that’s made it easier to go after my ambitions.

Emma Remien: I credit my achievements to my parents for always supporting my decisions and dealing with all the late night studying. I would also like to credit my accomplishments to my fellow peers who always pushed me to be the best version of myself and who never let me take the easy way out.

Amber Mullins: My older sister, Chrisann. She gave me advice on good classes to take and was supportive of me even while she was away at college. I’ve looked up to her ever since I was little and, as cliche as it sounds, I really wouldn’t be who I am today without her. 

Elizabeth Niemiec: Everything that I have achieved in high school, and throughout my whole life for that matter, has been possible because of my mom and my older sister, Nicole. They have always provided me with love, support, and encouragement to help me with everything that I do!

Meghan O’Leary: I definitely credit my friendships with past high achieving upperclassmen. Coming into high school, I was both unmotivated and unsure of what I was doing. I can say without a doubt I wouldn’t have had nearly the academic success I was able to achieve if i didn’t have them directing me and answering my questions.

Joshua Espinoza: My mom.

Alexander Genna: My various teachers and my parents.

Question 4: What is your best memory of PMHS?

Sarah Varghese: My favorite memory is playing pit (the card game) after school in Mr.D’s class after AP exams were over.

Alexa Maggiacomo: Even with all of the incredible bonds I made with my teachers and classmates, my best memories of PMHS are the unforgettable times I was fortunate enough to have with my teammates on and off the field. I would not trade my time with them for the world and these special bonds created a balance that minimized the stresses of school greatly for me.

Francine Tongol: My best memory of PMHS would have to be whenever the AP exams were over. After all the work I put into those classes over the year, this was the time where we could just relax, snack, and play some games. We were congratulated for how hard we worked, and I was able to kick back and enjoy family feud with Mr.Daughtery along with the rest of my friends or have the science class kickball tournament!

Emma Remien: It is really hard to choose just one memory at PMHS. I would have imagined that some of the best ones would have been made in these next few months if we were still in class. I have made some great memories with my classmates, teachers, and advisors, but many of the highlights of my high school years were on my sports teams. Whether we were winning or losing, my teammates became a family and every second I spent with them was a memory I will never forget.

Amber Mullins: Although it wasn’t at the high school, my best memory was this year’s Science Olympiad Regional Competition. Specifically, the awards ceremony is something I will never forget. With this year being only our second year, it was amazing to see all the awards students got. At first, we only had one medal but once we got to the events in the middle, the awards started rolling in. It was so great to see how excited everyone was and watch our hard work pay off.

Elizabeth Niemiec: My favorite memory of PMHS was being a part of the musical productions for four years, as a member of the pit. It was an incredible experience to see so much talent in the cast, pit, and crew all come together, after months of hard work, to produce something so special each year.

Meghan O’Leary: I think some of my best memories come from going away on Robotics trips. I loved getting to spend time with my friends and watch the robot compete.

Joshua Espinoza: Everything was amazing I can’t just pick one.

Alexander Genna: A road trip I took to Rhode Island with the XC team in senior year. I was able to win a medal, represent our school, and set a 20 second PR. The stay in the hotel and the activities the day prior to the race made it the trip of a lifetime.

Question 5: In a single word, how would you describe this school year?

Sarah Varghese: Unforgettable.

Alexa Maggiacomo: Unforgettable.

Francine Tongol: Bittersweet.

Emma Remien: Unforgettable.

Amber Mullins: Bittersweet.

Elizabeth Niemiec: Unresolved.

Meghan O’Leary: Chaotic.

Joshua Espinoza: Crazy.

Alexander Genna: Hectic.

Question 6: Where are you headed in the fall? What are you most looking forward to? What frightens you about this?

Sarah Varghese: I am going to Stony Brook as a double major in biology and computer science. I am both excited and frightened to meet new people. Going to college is a great opportunity to make new friends and that is something I am really looking forward to, but I also get really nervous talking to new people. If there is a word for feeling both nervous and excited, that is what I am.

Alexa Maggiacomo: In the fall, I will be attending Iona College to play women’s lacrosse and major in finance through their Honors Program. I am looking forward to the new opportunities and memories I will get to make while continuing my journey as a student-athlete. One frightening aspect of this experience is leaving behind the life I have been so used to at Patchogue-Medford. Although the drastic change is scary now, I am so excited to move forward with the incredible foundation that I was lucky enough to build at PMHS.

Francine Tongol: This fall I will be attending Syracuse University as a Communications Design and hopefully Marketing major. I’m most looking forward to being able to have a concentrated education on what I want to do for my career and know what it’s like to live independently. It’s scary to think that we’re all growing older, and although we get more freedom, we also have more responsibility. However, I believe this is all just an opportunity to grow myself as a person, and no matter what frightens me, it’ll all be worth it.

Emma Remien: I will be attending the University of Michigan in the fall. I am probably most looking forward to meeting new people from different walks of life and also the huge sporting events. I am frightened that the coronavirus will take away some of my college experience that I have been waiting my whole life to enjoy. Besides that, I am up for any other challenge that comes my way.

Amber Mullins: I will be attending Stony Brook University in the fall and am looking forward to starting a new chapter in my life. I’m not the most outgoing person but I am excited to be able to meet new people and figure out exactly what I want to do next. I’m most concerned about the possibility of not being able to be on campus and having online classes but I try not to worry about it for now.

Elizabeth Niemiec: In the fall I will be headed to Northeastern University to study biochemistry and chemical engineering! I am looking forward to living in Boston and taking advantage of all of the new opportunities that I will find there! I am most intimidated by the adjustment to college, i.e. learning to navigate a completely new environment and schedule away from home.

Meghan O’Leary: Cornell! I’m somewhat worried because I’m still not too sure about my major or what job I want to pursue, and I don’t like not knowing what I’m doing. That aside, its been my dream school since I was young and so far I’ve become friends with a couple of other people going so I can’t wait!

Joshua Espinoza: I’m going to Hofstra. Im looking forward to meeting new people and learning new things. What frightens me is meeting new people and a new way of learning.

Alexander Genna: I’m going to SBU as a bio major. I look forward to the independence I will gain during the college experience, but this is also a bit scary because it will be the first time I’m entirely independent in my studies, the professors won’t give us any safety nets, It’s just up to me from fall onwards.

Question 7: Name a teacher that inspired you (HS, MS, or Elementary) and provide a memory you have of their class.

Sarah Varghese: In high school, there have been so many teachers that have had a profound impact on me. Each one of them in their own way has inspired me. But if I had to name one, it would be Mr. Daugherty. In Mr. D’s class, we didn’t just learn Chemistry, we learned how to handle life in general. He is so kind and supportive it makes my heart hurt. His character is something so rare and precious. It’s not every day you meet a person like Mr. D and I am so lucky to have had him as my teacher. I cannot emphasize enough how memorable he made chem. From buying us our favorite snacks and board games after APs were over to supporting us when we cried over acid and bases, Mr. Daugherty and his class is something I will truly never forget. He has been there for us since 10th grade. Visiting him in his classroom was something I looked forward to every morning for the past 2 years. Trying to explain how much Mr. D means to me in words is impossible. There is so much I could say about it him and all the memories I have but I think my text box has a word limit.

Alexa Maggiacomo: Starting with when I had her in ninth grade, Mrs. Most has always been an amazing teacher that has inspired me. She has not only been an incredible support system for me, but has radiated positivity and honesty throughout high school. One of my favorite memories of her is from my first day of ninth grade when I walked into her class and immediately saw orange traffic cones that blocked off the area behind her desk. She claimed that her cleanliness, to put it lightly, was a quirk of hers and one that she was not ashamed to have. She never failed to genuinely be herself and her sincere nature has always inspired me to stay true to who I am and stick strong to my beliefs while still being able to laugh at myself once in a while.

Francine Tongol: Mrs. Barresi definitely inspired me during my time at high school. Rather than the memories in her class, I’m more fond of the times when I saw her after-school or the time in between periods when I had her for World History and Psychology right after. She hasn’t just motivated me in my academic intelligence, but she has also helped in the growth of my emotional and social wellness. My conversations with her expanded to topics far beyond school, and they were insightful ones that made me feel pretty philosophical at times. Other times though we also goofed around or made jokes about her history or psychology memes. All in all, Mrs. Barresi has inspired to open my eyes to all the other beauty that life has to offer aside from memorizing the words of a textbook.

Emma Remien: A teacher who has probably inspired me more than any other is Mr. Daugherty. Mr. D made me truly discover my love for science as a whole and the desire to learn. He was always there before and after school to help us on any chemistry or life related question. One of my favorite memories in his class was after the AP exam when we would play Pit (card game) all period long, and it would get intense… Even though AP Chemistry was one of the hardest classes I ever took, Mr. Daugherty made it so enjoyable and fun to learn.

Amber Mullins: Mr. Daugherty has definitely inspired me. His class helped me realize that I can do well in difficult science courses and solidified my resolve to major in a science field. One memory I have of Mr. Daugherty’s class was on Halloween. He dressed up as a mad scientist and we got to see some really cool experiments with dry ice in person for the whole period.

Elizabeth Niemiec: My AP Chemistry teacher, Mr. Daugherty, inspired me to want to continue to study chemistry. The passion that he has for teaching his subject was evident whenever you stepped into class. My favorite memory of his class was on Halloween, where did multiple Halloween related demonstrations that involved theories of chemistry.

Meghan O’Leary: I was always inspired by the clear passion and understanding Mr. Daugherty had for chemistry, and how much of his personal time he was willing to dedicate to students. He was always available whenever I had a question, and it was clear how much he genuinely cared about his students.

Joshua Espinoza: All my teachers inspired me and gave me the push and drive to do things I thought I couldn’t.

Alexander Genna: Mr. Cole, or coach Cole as the XC and Track teams call him. He inspired me to push my limits in running, always giving me advice and support along the way. the best memory I have of Coach Cole was when we were all talking to him during the warm-ups for a practice on a really hot August morning. We were all in a circle around him and we were laughing and joking around, all with huge grins on our faces. It was a small moment, not particularly of note to most, but it’s something I like to look back on now and then.

Question 8: What advice do you have for incoming seniors?

Sarah Varghese: To cherish every moment while they can. Don’t take for granted the time you have with your friends and teachers. I know at times we complain about school but the time we have here is limited. So as seniors, take your last year and live it to the fullest. If there was a club you wanted to join or an event you wanted to go to…do it! Don’t hold back. Senior will be your best and last year, so cherish it.

Alexa Maggiacomo: I would advise incoming seniors to take advantage of their last year at PMHS and enjoy every opportunity that comes their way. Speaking from experience, I was not prepared to say goodbye to all of my amazing years at Patchogue-Medford this early. Incoming seniors should not take a single day for granted because every time they walk into the school, they are one day closer to never getting the chance to do it again. I would tell them to soak it all in now because senior year was one of the most memorable years I have had and I would do it all again if I had the chance.

Francine Tongol: My main advice would just be to manage your time. You’ll hear this tip over and over again, and it holds a lot of truth. It’s easy to get caught up in the stress of all the aspects of your life mentally, academically, socially, physically and etc. However I’m a firm believer that if you write it down, and see for yourself what you have to do, and what you want to do, it’ll be easier to control and manage. Seniors. You. Have. Time. Relax, and take a deep breath. You’ve been doing this for the past three years, and you’ll be fine for the last one.

Emma Remien: Enjoy every second of this year like it’s your last, because you never know what will come tomorrow. Study hard, don’t procrastinate, go to class (even though you might want to spend two more hours in bed), but most importantly, have fun. Go to as many senior events as you can and continue to make memories. High school is about the academics, but it is also about the experience. Later in life, you will look back at high school and mostly remember your senior year, so make these memories the best and enjoy the time you still have left. It will be over before you know it started.

Amber Mullins: Don’t worry if junior year was rough for you, senior year will be much better. If you haven’t been that involved in clubs before, it’s okay because it is never too late to start. Make sure to take your time and enjoy the year once you get back in school but don’t slack off just yet! The seven months of senior year we had were great and I’m sure the ones you will have will be great too.

Elizabeth Niemiec: Take advantage of and fully experience all of your “lasts” with you classmates. These are the moments that you will remember and cherish the most.

Meghan O’Leary: Just roll with whatever happens. Obviously, there was a lot of unexpected aspects to my senior year, but if it’s out of your control, just accept it.

Joshua Espinoza: Always try your hardest but ask for help and take breaks and relax.

Alexander Genna: Don’t focus on school, grades, or any of that “important” stuff, not to say give up, but don’t think about it too much. Just live it in the moment, go out late with friends, go to that party, join that team/club, enjoy the moment, because these are the years that all of us will look back on when we’re older.