By KOREY WILSON
Hour Staff Writer
NORWALK — More than 350 students are expected to graduate from Norwalk High School this year.
Within the Class of 2015 are a number of students who have demonstrated the ability to excel in the classroom and through a variety of extracurricular activities and community service projects.
In recent years, about 96 percent of graduating seniors have advanced to higher education, according to Dan Sullivan, Norwalk High guidance department chairperson.
Two-thirds of the school’s college-bound grads go on to attend a four-year institution while the remaining one-third of college-bound graduates attend community college, Sullivan said.
Senior Fairi Galicia, a first generation college student, will major in marketing at Suffolk University in Boston.
“I was born in Mexico and my family sacrificed a lot to come to the United States to give me and my siblings a better life. I want to do good for myself and my family for all the sacrifices that they made so that it wasn’t in vain,” she said.
Galicia is currently enrolled in Advanced Placement (AP) courses in calculus, Spanish, English and Computer Science. She’s a member of the National Honor Society, where she is currently helping to organize a blood drive and a fundraiser for the Norwalk/Nicaragua Sister City Project.
Graduating senior Claire Rudden is currently working towards opening a café at the high school.
“I wanted to leave something behind at Norwalk High so that I’m not just another graduate. The café would be my legacy,” said Rudden. “A lot of people here are leaving behind something and our names will still be in the building years from now.”
Rudden, who takes AP classes in English and psychology, is president of Best Buddies and Bears Beating Cancer, which recently raised $5,000 for cancer research. She plans on studying nutrition in the fall at either James Madison University or the University of Delaware.
Lea Lecaj, a native of Kosovo, came to the United States for the first time four years ago. Her family separated during the war in Kosovo in 1999, reunited 10 years later and came to Norwalk.
Lecaj wants to become a doctor and plans to study medicine in college.
“With the way my family was separated for 10 years, being present during the war and the aftermath of the war, it inspired me to volunteer in a lot of hospitals. I like to help people and I would like to do it through medicine.
Lecaj currently takes AP Biology and is a member of the school’s National Honor Society and Spanish National Honor Society. She’s also a student advisor of the peer tutoring program at Norwalk High School.
Harry Soriano recently won a full scholarship to Columbia University in the fall, where he will study accounting.
A member of the varsity soccer team and the Spanish National Honor Society, Soriano will be the first in his family to attend college.
“My main motivation has been my mother,” he said. “I’m a single child and she’s a single mother. I was born here but she took me back to Mexico at an early age. Our family background is mostly of poverty. When she decided to bring me back here just for the education, I decided to make sure I achieved my full potential knowing all the sacrifices she made. It showed me that I wanted to be something and I needed to work hard.”
Soriano takes AP classes in English, Spanish, calculus and physics.
Quinn Robinson is a finalist in the National Merit Scholarship Program, who plans to study viola performance and has played with the International Youth Orchestra at United Nations.
“I’m focus on the viola because I think music makes the world a better place,” said Robinson. “It helps other people and it definitely helps me. I’m lucky that I found what I’m passionate about.”
Robinson’s top college choices are Indiana University, Oberlin College and the Cleveland Institute of Music. He is taking AP classes in English, physics and European history.
Senior Valeria Rojo plans to study education when she graduates in June. She’s been accepted to Eastern Connecticut State University, Lynchburg College and Hofstra University.
While working as a camp counselor at Horizons Enrichment program in New Canaan, Rojo discovered that she wanted to become a teacher after working with fourth graders in the program.
Rojo, who plays varsity lacrosse, is president of Safe Rides and station manager of the school’s news broadcast, Bear Country News. She also takes AP English and Spanish.
Mariyann Soulemane, a senior, spent last summer volunteering in Thailand, teaching English to young students. The experience was the basis for her college application essay and she was recently accepted to Trinity College.
She discovered Trinity College during a college tour with the Matthew Gaffney Foundation.
At Norwalk High, she’s a member of the school’s Build On program and takes AP classes in calculus, English and comparative politics.
Kasey Hogan may possibly be this year’s valedictorian as she is currently ranked first among the Class of 2015. She plans to major in mathematics and would like to attend the University of Notre Dame
A varsity athlete in soccer and softball, Hogan is vice president of Norwalk High’s National Honor Society and takes AP courses in European history, English, calculus, physics and macroeconomics.
Derek Sawicki plans to study computer science and was waitlisted by Princeton University. Earlier this school year, he was recognized by the National Hispanic Recognition Program and he takes AP classes in calculus, English, physics, European history and Spanish.
Samantha Bartush was recently accepted at Merrimack College where she will major in mechanical engineering and play field hockey.
Bartush is captain of the varsity field hockey team and takes AP courses in English, physics, statistics and calculus.
Courtney Tapper was recently accepted at Northeastern University in Boston, where she plans to study journalism. She is editor-in-chief of the Paw Print, Norwalk High’s school newspaper and a member of the school band’s Color Guard
Tapper also takes AP courses in French, English, and government.
“I think they’re all compelling in their own way,” said Sullivan of the 11 seniors. “That is what’s great about Norwalk High School. Everyone has a story and comes from different backgrounds and they come together to make this great mosaic.”