The student news site of Patchogue-Medford High School

The Red & Black

The student news site of Patchogue-Medford High School

The Red & Black

The student news site of Patchogue-Medford High School

The Red & Black

10 Questions for the Top 10

We joined PMHS’ Top Ten from the 2024 graduating class and they answered our questions!
Photo by Samantha Baldwin
The Patchogue-Medford Class of 2024 Top Ten students seen here with the Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Donna Jones, and high school principal, Dr. Randy Rusielewicz.


The time has come, the announcement for the top 10! This year, two students tied* for number 3 position. In honor of this group’s many accomplishments, The Red and Black asked them 10 questions each. Let’s look at their responses.

*Please note that for organizational purposes, the tied students (Carlo Costigliola and Isabella Salducco) are listed alphabetically in this interview.

Question 1: What was your initial reaction and who did you tell first?

Rithika: Euphoric yet relieving. I immediately texted my greatest supporters — my parents.

Andrew: When I found out about my rank, I felt ecstatic! But you know what made it all the more special? Sharing that moment with my mother and twin sister, Mallory. There’s just something about sharing good news with them that makes it even better. It’s moments like these that remind me how lucky I am to have them both by my side, cheering me on through every high and low.

Carlo: I was happy that my hard work these past few years had paid off, but I was more relieved that the rest of the school year would be less stressful now that everything was announced. I was also sad since this meant that the year was coming to a close, and what lies ahead is frightening, to say the least. I texted my parents and sister first. They’ve been my rock through all of this, and I could not have done it without them

Isabella: I was very excited when I found out and couldn’t wait to tell my family.

Mallory: I was very happy when I first heard that I had made it into the top 10 and I was glad that my hard work was going to be acknowledged. The first person I had told was my mom.

Bryan: I was shocked when I first heard my rank this year. The first person I told was my sister Maddy.

Ceania: Honestly, I was so shocked. I had never thought about being in the top 10. I immediately told my sister as soon as I found out.

Lara: I was extremely excited when I first found out I was in the top 10 because it was unexpected for me. I immediately texted my mom and she had almost the same reaction as I did.

Maria: I was very shocked and overjoyed to have made the top 10. I couldn’t believe it and didn’t expect it, but I was grateful that my hard work paid off. The instant I found out I quickly texted my sisters in our group chat.

Brenna: My initial reaction was definitely one filled with excitement. I know I can speak for all of us when I say it was something that we have been working out entire high school career for, so it was a very rewarding feeling to see that my hard work allowed me to reach my goal. The first two people I told were my parents.

Question 2: What was the lowest grade you have ever received?

Rithika: 81 in physics…

Andrew: The lowest grade I ever received was a 60. At least I can laugh about it now!

Carlo: I got a 1 out of 6 on an argumentative essay in AP Gov this year. Not my finest moment, but everything worked out in the end, and that’s really all I can ask for.

Isabella: On a quiz in AP Lang.

Mallory: The lowest grade I have ever received was in the 50’s. Whoops!

Bryan: The lowest grade I have ever received was a 60 on an AP Lang quiz.

Ceania: My lowest grade ever was actually this year; it was a 1/6 on my argumentative essay in AP Gov. However, my lowest grade that really pushed me to work harder was my first AP Chem test, which was a 54. It was heartbreaking at first, but everything worked out in the end, and I ended up doing really well in the class thanks for my teacher’s help.

Lara: The lowest grade I’ve gotten was on an AP Lang quiz, I believe it was a 50 that ended up getting curved.

Maria: The lowest grade I have ever received is probably a 58. I was very disappointed, but I soon got over it.

Brenna: I wouldn’t be able to pinpoint one grade that was the lowest for me, but I was not perfect throughout my high school career. I definitely had some grades that were less than ideal, but all that goes to show is that one bad grade does not define you and does not determine your overall trajectory.

Question 3: If there was one person you could thank, who would it be?

Rithika: I am deeply appreciative of the love and sacrifices my parents have made for me. Their dedication knows no bounds. They stress with me. They laugh with me. They cry with me.

My parents have instilled in me the values of perseverance, respect, and resilience, guiding me through life’s challenges with wisdom and compassion. I feel incredibly fortunate to have parents who not only believe in me but also strive to build a life where I can pursue my dreams. They embrace my aspirations as their own, providing unwavering motivation and support as I journey towards achieving them. I love you Amma and Appa.

Andrew: If there’s one person I could genuinely thank for shaping my academic journey and helping me navigate the challenges along the way, it would undoubtedly be my sister, Mallory. If there’s someone backing me up, believe me, you’d spot her. Whether it’s tackling Calculus together or sharing a laugh about our school day, she’s consistently there by my side. So, to my dear sister, thank you for being my rock, my confidante, and my partner in crime!

Carlo: My mom. I could talk about her forever, but I’ll keep it short. She is the best mom I could ever ask for, putting my needs before hers and caring for me and our family each day. Any accomplishments I have are due to her work in instilling core values within me. I would not be who I am today without her. She’s just the best.

Isabella: I would thank my parents because they are the ones who have always pushed me and believed in me to do great things.

Mallory: One person I would thank would be my brother Andrew. He has always supported me and encouraged me to do my best.

Bryan: One person I would like to thank is my sister. She has always been my inspiration for all the things I do, not only in school but out of school as well. She has always been there for me, if it be helping me with a calc problem I don’t understand or just to talk about my day.

Ceania: I would like to thank my sister, Reah, for always being there for me and having my back. She’s always been my #1 supporter (even though sometimes we fight over the dumbest things), and she’s the best study partner. She’s also small but mighty, and she’s arguably the coolest person I know. I’ll forever be grateful for all the times she’s helped me study for my AP Gov quizzes on the drive to school, for the nights she’d hang out in my room for moral support while I did my homework, and for putting up with my crankiness in the mornings after I’d stayed up late the night before from studying.

Lara: I want to thank my parents for always motivating me to do my best, make the right choices, and for supporting me through all my decisions.

Maria: Picking one person would be difficult, first a shoutout to Ang for always humbling me and reminding me how much of a procrastinator I am. I would then like to thank my other sisters and parents, they never pushed me to be top 10, but they have always supported me throughout my personal and academic life. I would also quickly like to thank all my teachers who I have had along the way for teaching and being the foundation I need for my future.

Brenna: Although I wouldn’t be able to thank just one person, the first two people I would thank would be my parents. Although they may not have always had to push me so hard, they allowed me to live in an environment where I was allowed to be whoever I wanted to be with complete support. Not having to worry about disappointing anyone and simply just working hard for my own satisfaction is something I am so grateful for, and I owe that completely to my parents.

Question 4: What is some advice for someone trying to reach the top 10?

Rithika: Work hard for every point. Be very organized and plan ahead. Challenge yourself. Most importantly, always go to extra help and ask questions — curiosity is the first step to deeper knowledge.

Andrew: I’m all about setting clear goals and working smart to achieve them. Staying organized is key and when I hit roadblocks, I’m not afraid to ask for help. Balancing work and hanging out with my friends keeps me sane, yet staying motivated is most important. Every setback is just a chance to grow, and I believe in myself every step of the way. Consistency is key, and celebrating even the smallest victories keeps me going strong. Stay motivated by visualizing your success and surrounding yourself with positive influences. Trust me, you got this!

Carlo: My best advice for those trying to reach top 10 would be to simply put in the work for it. One thing that you will never tell yourself is that you wish you didn’t put in as much effort, so I would say to give it your all for the 4 years you are here because they definitely go extremely quick. Also, take as many AP classes as you can, as they defiantly help to improve your grade with the weighting!

Isabella: I would remind them to always work hard and that no one is perfect. Try not to be discouraged from minor setbacks.

Mallory: My advice for anyone who is trying to reach the top 10 or is looking to perform well academically is to write out all of your tasks and obligations. I use a paper calendar in my room to write down any long-term commitments and I use the notes app on my phone to make a daily to-do list.

Bryan: The advice I would give to someone would be to keep pushing yourself. It could be something small like studying for 5 more minutes or something like taking an extra AP class. Don’t let one hiccup along the way stop you from reaching your goals.

Ceania: While it’s an amazing achievement, it’s not everything. There is nothing wrong with working towards being in the top 10, but never let it control your life. Remember, you’re still in high school. Some nights are worth studying a little less to grab food with friends!

Lara: Always try your hardest, advocate for yourself, and don’t stress too hard about all the little things. I took a lot more unweighted classes than many others in the top 10 and didn’t perform my best in AP classes until junior year; yet I still reached my goal. However, I made sure I was always on top of my work and performing my best on any assignments, which really got me where I am now.

Maria: Some advice I would give someone trying to reach the top 10 is just to try your best. Focus on yourself, and always produce your best work. However, a number will never define who you are as a person or your success in the future, so regardless of your rank you should always be proud of yourself and hard work.

Brenna: My best advice for those trying to reach top 10 would be to simply put in the work for it. One thing that you will never tell yourself is that you wish you didn’t put in as much effort, so I would say to give it your all for the 4 years you are here because they definitely go extremely quick. Also, take as many AP classes as you can, as they defiantly help to improve your grade with the weighting!

Question 5: What are your plans after high school?

Rithika: To kick off summer, my family and I will be touring Europe! In the fall, I will be attending Princeton University to study biomedical engineering and computer science. I am looking forward to learning about AI engineering and BCI development.

Andrew: After high school, my plan is to attend college and major in computer science. With the rapidly evolving tech industry, I know there will be plenty of opportunities for growth and innovation in this field, and I am excited to see where this takes me!

Carlo: I will be attending Johns Hopkins University to study Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and Mathematics. I’m not exactly sure what I’m going to do after that, but I’m glad to have the immediate steps figured out.

Isabella: I plan to attend college and major in biomedical engineering.

Mallory: My plans for after high school are to attend college and major in finance.

Bryan: I will be attending Saint Joseph’s University with a plan to major in chemistry education.

Ceania: I plan to major in neuroscience in college on a pre-med track. As far as what college I will be attending, hopefully I’ll know by May, but I know where I end up in the fall; it’ll be where I’m meant to be.

Lara: After high school, I plan to study exercise science in college and enter the field of sports medicine. I am considering physical therapy or being a physician’s assistant.

Maria: My favorite memory of high school is making new friends with different interests and backgrounds. Also, traveling to Mexico twice a year to go visit family and friends. It would give me something to look forward to and in a way kind of motivated me to keep going knowing my break in Mexico would come soon.

Brenna: After Highschool, I plan on attending Sacred Heart University in the fall to complete my four years of undergrad in Biology. After that, I want to attend PA school to hopefully one day work in the medical field as a Physician’s Assistant.

Question 6: What is your go to study snack?

Rithika: This is a tough question. I always have either green tea or ginger tea with me when I am studying. If I am craving something salty/savory, I will have a bowl of croutons. If I want a sweet treat, then I’ll have a spoon of Nutella.

Andrew: Goldfish! I need a snack that smiles back at me while I study.

Carlo: Just like Mr. Buccinna, I get all my snacks from Costco. They’ve changed over the years, but most recently, I’m a big fan of Costco’s dark chocolate-covered dried mandarin.

Isabella: My go to study snack is pretzels.

Mallory: My go-to study snack is goldfish and a diet coke.

Bryan: I don’t really have study snacks I have study meals. My go to meal is a chicken burrito from Mexican 2000.

Ceania: I usually don’t eat while studying, but before a long study sesh, you can’t go wrong with peanut butter, Nutella, and banana slices on toast.

Lara: I love eating popcorn while I study, normally with iced tea or a big cup of ice water.

Maria: My go-to study snack is any type of fruit, my favorites are apples, strawberries, and blueberries.

Brenna: I have always been a fan of eating fruit while I study, as it is something that keeps me energized and is also not bad for me.

Question 7: How would you describe this year in one word?

Rithika: Challenging.

Andrew: Rewarding.

Carlo: Bittersweet.

Isabella: Exciting.

Mallory: Crazy!

Bryan: Eventful.

Ceania: Fruitful. Although there were many long, stressful, late nights, I’m happy to say this year was extremely productive, and I’m glad all the work I’ve done has paid off.

Lara: I would describe this year as scary; there have been so many changes this year and to come with the college process and graduating.

Maria: One word I would use to describe this year is challenging.

Brenna: If I could describe this year in one word, I would say rewarding. Seeing all the work I have put in for the last few years, along with the success of my pears has been such a rewarding feeling.

Question 8: What was your favorite memory of high school?

Rithika: I’m truly grateful for all the memories I’ve made in high school, and it’s tough to choose just one favorite. But if I had to pick, Homecoming and Raider Bowl would be at the top of my list! So much sweat, tears, and tissue paper went into these events, but it all paid off in the end. I’ll never forget the chariot race, where I got dragged around in a bedsheet – that’s a memory that’ll stick with me forever!

Andrew: My favorite memory is definitely Rider Bowl! It was hands down my favorite memory of high school. The atmosphere was electric, filled with endless school spirit and energy. As I walked into the gymnasium, the roar of the crowd echoed off the walls, and the group of all my friends dressed in our school colors created an unforgettable sight.

Carlo: Too many to name, but one of the best was last year’s graduation. A lot of friends and family graduated that day, and it was sad to see them go, but I was happy to think of what they were going to achieve.

Isabella: My favorite high school memories come from playing basketball. I loved my team and coaches and will forever cherish every moment spent with them.

Mallory: My favorite memory of high school was my senior night for field hockey. It was such an amazing experience to celebrate the night with family, friends, coaches, and fellow players. Field hockey has been such an important part of my life, and I was glad to reflect on the amazing memories that had come from the 6 years of playing!

Bryan: My favorite memory was in lab when we were told to be very careful with the liquid iodine during the period because it can stain skin and clothes. I managed within 10 mins to spill the iodine all over the entire lab table.

Ceania: It’s so hard to pick a specific one. One that easily comes to mind are pre-game warm-ups during tennis season. I don’t think there was ever a time where I wasn’t laughing with my teammates, whom I love so much. Another memory I have is of String Ensemble with Gabby, who’s been the best stand partner a girl could ask for. I also loved my lunch table in 11th grade; that table alone holds probably half of my favorite moments in high school. As far as major high school events go, Junior Prom and this year’s Raider Bowl will always hold a special place in my heart. Overall, it’s so hard to choose a favorite, but those are just some honorable mentions.

Lara: One of my favorite memories of high school was going to playoffs for the first time in many years with the Varsity Soccer team. We lost in a very close game to Commack in the second round, but winning our first game on our home turf was such an incredible experience.

Maria: My favorite memory of high school is making new friends with different interests and backgrounds. Also, traveling to Mexico twice a year to go visit family and friends. It would give me something to look forward to and in a way kind of motivated me to keep going knowing my break in Mexico would come soon.

Brenna: I would have to say that my most memorable memory throughout the years was the relief that I felt after the AP testing and the weeks following. Putting in the work was hard, but being able to finally relax and feel proud of what I had accomplished was definitely worth it.

Question 9: Who is a teacher that has inspired you?

Rithika: I feel incredibly lucky to have been supported by exceptional teachers during my high school years, each of whom has shown genuine care for me and faith in my abilities. They’ve played a vital role in guiding me toward my goals, and it’s difficult to pick just one so I am naming them all. Here are a few names, listed in no particular order, who have made a significant impact on my journey: Mr. Daughtery, Ms. Hanley, Mrs. Dailey, Ms. Kuhn, Mrs. Vollaro, Mrs. Schaefer, Mrs. Wesnofske, Mr. Petker, and all of the guidance department of course!

I would especially like to express my gratitude to my school mom, Mrs. Romani. She’s one of the strongest women I know, teaching me countless life lessons that has helped me throughout high school. She taught me to know my worth and never give up on my goals. Most importantly, she showed me the importance of advocating for myself and what is right. She’s a true superwoman and I cannot thank her enough for her unwavering support.

Andrew: Ms. Hanley, of course! Her passion for chemistry and dedication to her students were truly remarkable. She had a way of making complex concepts understandable and engaging, which made me excited to learn each and every day. Her willingness to engage with other students and I, even outside of class, showed just how much she cared about our well-being and success.

Carlo: I truly feel that all my teachers have inspired me and that there are way too many to mention. However, I must pay tribute to some:

-Mr. Daugherty: You believed in me as a freshman and made me realize what I was capable of. Part of what I have done and who I am today is thanks to you and your guidance. I will most certainly look forward to visiting you in the future.

-Mr. Buccinna: I genuinely had such a fun time in your class and will always remember your lessons in HUG. The fun activities always made my day and all the projects, while tedious, were pretty cool. Thank you for giving me real motivation to learn.

-Mrs. Mckeough and Mrs. Sullivan: I was never crazy about my writing, so I thank you both for helping me become more confident in it. I’m also grateful that you both allowed me to play a big part in the Red and Black this year. I know it was a gamble since I was new, but I appreciate the opportunity and hope I did not disappoint.

Isabella: Mr.D has inspired me to always be myself and work hard for what matters to me. He has taught me many valuable life lessons over the years that I still live by today.

Mallory: A teacher that has really inspired me is Mrs. Sacco. She constantly participates in school events whether it is her involvement in sports, clubs, or the classroom she is always looking out for her students.

Bryan: One teacher that has inspired me is Ms. Hanley. I met her in 9th grade. Even though there was a pandemic, and we couldn’t do any of the fun labs in class she still found a way to make chem interesting. It is because of her and her AP Chem class that I am going into chem education.

Ceania: This might be cheating, but they’re a package deal, so it really isn’t cheating, but the teacher(s) that have inspired me are Mrs. Mckeough and Mrs. Sullivan (they’re probably editing this right now). They’re the ones who gave me the opportunity to be Editor-in-Chief of the Red and Black, which is something I’ll always be thankful for. Both of them have pushed me to reach my highest potential and have helped me grow confident in my writing. They always keep it 100% real and stay true to themselves, which is something I will always admire about them. Mrs. Mckeough, thank you for your sarcastic jokes and funny stories. Mrs. Sullivan, thank you for giving the best advice and letting me crash your third-period study hall. You’re both girl bosses. I’ll miss having both of them as a teacher, but most of all, I’ll miss our R&B meetings and seeing them in the hallways.

P.S. Sorry, not sorry, I’m majoring in STEM, but I promise to join my school newspaper in college.

Lara: One of my most inspiring teachers is Mrs. Sacco. On top of having her as my Spanish teacher for 3 years, she advises two clubs I have been involved with throughout my years at the high school. Mrs. Sacco has always seen potential in me and has never been doubtful of my abilities, which has truly inspired me to be active in my community through service and excel in my classes.

Maria: A teacher that has inspired me is Mr. G. I have taken his class for 2 years now and I will never regret taking his class. He is 100% my go-to person whenever I just need to talk or rant. Also, his life advice has helped me on several occasions, whether that’s for school or my personal life. SHOUTOUT TO MR. G!!!

Brenna: The teacher that inspired me the most is Mrs. Vollaro, my AP Biology, and AP Environmental Science teacher, has by far been my most inspiring teacher. Not only did she help me decide what I want to spend my next 4 years studying, but she also was always there for me during my stressful times trying to balance all my classes. She is someone I will be grateful to for the rest of my life.

Question 10: Any advice for incoming seniors?

Rithika: Make a to-do list every day. Take advantage of the summer to get ahead in college applications and plan out your responsibilities for the Fall/Winter because things get busy quick. The toughest part of applications is staying organized with supplements and completing the activities list due to the limited space to express your hard work. Remember, don’t give up and always ask for help when needed.

The beginning of senior year might seem tough. Feeling overwhelmed and genuinely worried is normal – after all, we’re making some major decisions at just 17 or 18! But remember, your peers are in the same boat. Take time to talk things out and relax with friends. Have some fun and let loose. You’ll start to feel the stress ease up. Keep working hard and look forward to the good times ahead. I believe in you!

Andrew: Hey, incoming seniors! Here’s some advice from someone who’s been there: Stay organized, take care of yourself, and stay focused. Make the most of your final year by balancing work and fun. It’ll fly by faster than you think, so enjoy every moment

Carlo: Try to get college apps done early so you don’t have to stress over them, but also ensure that you’ve done all your research on where you want to apply and what you want to study. They are 100% the most important part of senior year, so don’t mess them up! The year will be tough, but you will get through it. Stay strong and have faith that everything will work out in the end, because it will if you put your mind to it and believe. Most importantly, though, have fun. It’s your last year. Don’t forget that.

Isabella: Enjoy it. And know that all of your hard work will pay off. You are in the final stretch of your high school career and the future holds many great things for you.

Mallory: My best advice for the incoming seniors is to work on your time management! Having to balance the workload of senior year as well as wanting to participate in the many senior year events can get overwhelming, but don’t forget to enjoy the last parts of high school.

Bryan: Just enjoy the fun things. Go to all the events you can and be involved with something because before you know it the year is going to pass. This is the last time you will ever be a highschooler so make it worth it.

Ceania: It sounds cliche, but it’s your last year of high school; make the most of it. The year truly flies by, and you don’t want to miss out on anything. I will say it’s stressful, especially with college app season, but don’t let that take away from the time you can spend with friends.

Lara: I would tell incoming seniors that everything happens for a reason and to trust the process. With the college application process being so uncertain, decisions are extremely stressful, and you may not always be happy with the results. However, once you have been through the process, you realize why you ended up where you did, and it is one of the most rewarding feelings. Even if you are not planning to go to college after high school, there are so many possibilities that it can be overwhelming, but everything will fall into place. I wish them all the best of luck with their senior year and all their future endeavors!

Maria: Get an early start on college applications, don’t wait until the last moment to finish them!! Your senior year does go by really fast, so enjoy every moment and take risks. Spend time with family and friends, go to school events, and make as many new memories as you can to look back at with joy.

Brenna: To incoming seniors, my biggest piece of advice would be to simply enjoy your year and soak it all in. Although obviously effort has to be put in at times, but this year is the last year you will see most of these people so make sure that you spend time with the people around you and go to every event.


I also had the opportunity to speak with the parents and family of the top 10 to ask how they would describe their child in one or a few words.

Rithika’s family: Dedicated and amazing.

Andrew and Mallory’s family: Andrew as driven and Mallory as the whole package.

Carlo’s family: Determined

Isabella’s family: Someone who never gives up and does everything with her heart.

Bryan’s family: Extraordinary.

Ceania’s family: Responsible and supportive.

Lara’s family: Passionate.

Maria’s family: Goal driven and hardworking.

Brenna’s family: Hardworking.

The whole community is proud of these 10, Dr. Rusielewicz says, “The brunch was awesome, like every class each person has their own expertise regarding their areas of study for college. I could not be more proud for their accomplishments as they add to the fabric of Patchogue-Medford High School.”

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