Recorder: "Eight students named cream of crop"

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Eight students named cream of crop


Recorder Staff

Thursday, December 07, 2017

TURNERS FALLS — Walking into Greenfield High School earlier this week, Holly Sears-Therrien knew she was late. Before she could get to class, Holly was told to go to the principal’s office.

She headed over to Karin Patenaude’s office only to be greeted with flowers, under the pomp and circumstance of the announcement of an award for her academic excellence.

Thursday evening, Holly was among eight students from across the region who gathered at the Franklin Technical School for the annual awards dinner, where the Franklin County Area Superintendents’ Association honored the top seniors at the eight area high schools.


Mercedez Young’s accomplishments are long, from being the top-ranked student at the high school, with a 4.38 cumulative grade point average, to winning the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association’s Award of Excellence to taking part in the Massachusetts Life Science Center High School Apprenticeship Challenge at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

She intends on serving the country in the United States Navy, where plans on working as a nuclear engineer.

“Wow, did I actually do all of those things?” Mercedez said. “It sounds so impressive when you say it like that, but I was just doing what I enjoy doing and pushing myself to my best.”

But ask her favorite accomplishment while at Athol — a 5-foot by 3-foot oil painting of Clint Eastwood that now hangs in the Athol Public Library.


While at Turners Falls High School, senior Snejana Lashtur has excelled in academics — the top in her class with a GPA of 110.53 on an 100 point scale — but she points to her time on student council and the field hockey team as her greatest educational experiences.

“You can be a good leader by listening to others and leading by example,” Snejana said.

She has held various leadership positions, from student council treasurer to senior class vice president to secretary of the National Honor Society at the school. She is also captain of the field hockey team.


Holly, a to-be first-generation college student, holds a cumulative weighted GPA of 4.2 and ranks second among a class of 84 seniors. She is hoping to pursue a degree in the STEM field, of science-technology-engineering-math.

“My grandmother just knew it would happen. She just thinks very highly of me in a way that I don’t always,” Holly said.

Holly has made a commitment to language and culture, from her time as the president of the school’s French club to helping to organize a trip to Paris and Barcelona. She took part in a trip to Nicaragua that a select group of rising seniors went on this summer.

Franklin Tech

Superintendent Richard Martin began to speak, or at least attempt to speak, in Spanish to Kevin Cardona-Cruz while at the podium. He spoke of the mentorship and teachings that Kevin has given him.

Born in Puerto Rico, Kevin’s first language wasn’t English and he didn’t arrive to Franklin County until July 2013. “It was such a rough road getting here,” Kevin said, but here he was being honored as the top senior at the Franklin Tech.

Kevin decided his junior year he wanted to study Japanese in Japan. His stepmother found a school for him there, and he raised the money to go by washing dishes at the Green Fields Market.

After graduating, Kevin plans on taking a gap-year before pursuing a career in computer animation.


On her way to an honor she has hoped for since ninth grade, Angela Self accumulated a 4.30 GPA at Frontier, became a representative for the Massachusetts Governor’s Statewide Youth Council, was captain of the girl’s soccer team and helped to write an immigration ordinance for Conway.

One of Angela’s greatest achievements though came when she completed an internship at Mount Holyoke College and had a chance to audit a graduate level class in existentialism. “Just to know I could do it was really validating,” Angela said. She hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in the romance languages and philosophy.


Hannah Birch acknowledges that her family has struggled financially, but “it’s just surreal to hear that I’ve done a lot for my situation.”

The Mahar senior takes many Advanced Placement courses, including AP Computer Science through the Virtual High School.

Hannah has been a member of the robotics club since seventh grade and a club captain throughout high school. She’s a member of her mock trial team, a part of the newspaper club and on the student council. She has performed in the school musical every year since eighth grade. Hannah also has played field hockey since seventh grade, acting as the captain this year.

“To find out that I stood out from the class was shocking and caused me to reflect on everything I’ve done,” Hannah said.

Mohawk Trail

Violet Jharsten Twist Rawlings and her friends were all in the running for the superintendent’s award. When she found out she won, she was happier than she thought she would be. Joining her at the dinner was one of her closest friends.

Violet has the second highest average at Mohawk Trail with a 3.87. She is taking courses at Greenfield Community College, and was the recipient of the Smith College Book Award and the Western Mass Student Council of Excellence Award.

Her most proud accomplishment came as the host and co-founder of the “Beatnik Open Mic.”

“It’s something we created out of nothing and we filled a space in our community that needed it,” she said.


Dana O’Reilly-McRae is a well-known face at Pioneer Valley Regional School from attending School Committee meetings for the last two years. He is a member of the band and captain of both the boy’s soccer team and ultimate Frisbee team. He is also a track athlete.

All the while, Dana holds a 3.97 GPA, among a plethora of Advanced Placement courses.

“This is the result of everyone that has helped me to this point,” Dana said. “I won’t attempt to claim credit for having others guide me.”

You can reach

Joshua Solomon at:

413-772-0261, ext. 264

On Twitter: @therealjsolo