MMI Preparatory School honored the Class of 2020 during its 128th commencement ceremony on Tuesday, July 7. Seniors received their diplomas from MMI Head of School Justin Kleinheider and Chairman of the 2019-2020 Board of Directors John H. Hersker '76.
The ceremony was held in the MMI Gymnasium and was available via a live stream on MMI’s website for anyone to watch.
This year’s graduating class of 28 seniors were accepted at more than 79 percent of the colleges they applied to and amassed more than $7.6 million in merit scholarships and awards.
“All of us at MMI Preparatory School are extremely excited to be able to provide our graduates with a commencement ceremony that allows us to celebrate them and their accomplishments with their families in person. While we typically would have celebrated the class of 2020 in late May, we felt it was important to try to gather the class together one last time in a safe and controlled environment. Maintaining as many of our long-standing graduation traditions as possible was vital for MMI and our community. Moving the ceremony to accommodate the green phase of reopening was our best option. We have a very talented group of young people at MMI who may not have had a traditional senior year but demonstrated considerable poise in a challenging environment. No matter what path they take, success will follow,” said MMI Head of School Justin Kleinheider.
During commencement exercises, valedictorian Benjamin Putnam shared what he learned about wisdom through his favorite childhood cartoon and encouraged the Class of 2020 to find wisdom in their own lives. “In one episode, an old man said to his nephew, ‘It is important to draw wisdom from many different places. If you take it from only one place, it becomes rigid and stale.’… So, my challenge to you is to draw wisdom from not just many places, but the places nobody would expect. It could be the smallest flower or the tallest skyscraper or the darkest night or the brightest sunrise, but just know there is wisdom, knowledge, and understanding in everything,” Putnam said.
Salutatorian Emily Ankiewicz expressed to her classmates the need to persevere through adversity and find true happiness. “As humans, we place an expectation on our life to bring us the fulfillment of happiness and we fear that without it we won’t ever feel as if we lived the life we truly wanted to live. The danger in that expectation is that personal happiness will never be handed to us. We won’t wake up one day and realize that we suddenly have everything we’ve been waiting for right in front of us. It is the gradual changes, the daily growth, the frustration, the life lessons that slowly allow us to become capable of experiencing true happiness. More importantly, our lives don’t begin on the day we feel as if we’re capable of being happy, it begins when we learn that happiness resides within us and our journey, and not what surrounds it,” Ankiewicz said.
Class President Kai Mele remarked on how the Class of 2020 grew from 16 sixth graders who got to know each other by sharing every class together to the family of 28 that is graduating today. “Over the years, our tiny class grew into our family of 28 diverse and talented individuals, each of whom have made an impact on my life, and I am grateful for the memories we have created together. I used the word family to describe our class because, ultimately, that is what we are, and not without our share of problems. We are a band of misfits at times, but a family nonetheless; a family that I will never abandon, betray, or forget,” Mele said.
Macy Zenier, who designed the Class of 2020 banner, spoke about how her design went from originally reflecting a perfect vision of 2020 to a clear, but ultimately better, one. “As humans, we can spend so much time trying to figure out why certain things happen to us, but, in reality, we are not the ones in control. Accepting that is hard, but once we do, it is easy to see that our perfect 2020 vision may not have been what we all wanted and were expecting. But it may have been what we needed to strengthen us and grow our positive mindset, which will ultimately help us to change our world for the better. Now, when I look at this banner, I no longer see a shattered version of our 2020 vision. I see adversity that will now help us understand the world in a new and powerful light and hopefully encourages us to use our voices to fight for positive change in our world. Our 2020 is not about having perfect vision, but clear vision to create a positive change in the world,” Zenier said.
During the ceremony, Benjamin Alfred Putnam was honored with the Faculty Award and the Joseph A. Chaykowski ’48 Memorial Prize for Mathematics and Science. The Faculty Award is presented to the student who displays basic goodness and honesty while being a good example for their peers in his or her own way. The student is emotionally mature and treats others with empathy, compassion, and concern. The entire faculty selects the recipient from a number of worthy candidates. The Joseph A. Chaykowski ’48 Memorial Prize for Mathematics and Science is awarded to a member of the class who has the highest combined average grade point average in math and science throughout their four-year upper school experience. The award is named for a distinguished alumnus of MMI who studied engineering at Penn State and was an outstanding professional engineer. The award was founded in the memory of Joseph A. Chaykowski by his daughter, Ms. Lisa Chaykowski Merlo’80, a member of the MMI Board of Directors until her unexpected and untimely passing.
Andrellie Puntiel was honored with the Freeland Rotary Club Rotary Service Above Self Award, which recognizes and acknowledges a young person who by his or her actions has personified the Rotary Motto of “Service Above Self” in their school and community.
Members of MMI’s Class of 2020, their parents, and their hometowns are as follows:
Lieth Abdulrahman, son of Jihad and Basema Abdulrahman of Hazleton; Emily R. Ankiewicz, daughter of Carl and Gwendolyn Ankiewicz of Mountaintop; Elias Zachary Bachman, son of Tammy Bachman of Thornhurst and the late George Bachman; Callain Adelina Blasko, daughter of Andrew Blasko of Freeland and Renee Lapchak of Drums; Brandon Crockford, son of Keith and Dawn Crockford of Drums; Jessica Meredith Flynn, daughter of Richard and Karen Flynn of Mahanoy City; Carter Jacob Frask, son of Corey and Hope Frask of Drums; Joshua Robert Galbiati, son of Brian Galbiati and Cortney Repanshek of Drums; Ryan Francis Halterman, son of Gary and Kathleen Halterman of Drums; Catherine Christine Havrilla, daughter of Emily Havrilla of Mountaintop and the late James Havrilla; Madyson Leigh Hornack, daughter of John and Jeanie Hornack of White Haven; Alexander James Jordan, son of Robert and Teresa Jordan of Drums; Marcus Daniel Kassick, son of Angel and Danielle Morales of Freeland; Harrison Louis Kress, son of Jessica Holliday of Drums and Joseph and Tracy Kress of Sugarloaf; Paige Madison Machulsky, daughter of David and Renee Machulsky of White Haven; Kai Michael Mele, son of Michael and Laurie Mele of Jim Thorpe; Josiah Daniel Pacchioli, son of Marc and Nancy Pacchioli of Barnesville; Katharine Anne Pinto, daughter of Karen Pinto of Mountaintop; Andrellie Puntiel, daughter of Pedro Puntiel of Monroe and Jose and Yeseria Rivera of Hazleton; Benjamin Alfred Putnam, son of Benjamin and Andrea Putnam of Sugarloaf; Maya Ann Rizkalla, daughter of George Rizkalla of Wilkes-Barre and Sandra Rizkalla of Freeland; Josue Rafael Rodriguez, son of Jose and Dulce Rodriguez of Hazleton; Joshua Michael Serock, son of Paul and Erin Serock of Drums; Hugh Armani Soltau, son of Sharon Perkins of Freeland; Adam Tron, son of Dr. Eduardo Tron and Dr. Graciela Bianco of Mountaintop; Grant Adam Warren, son of Atty. Rebecca Warren of Beaver Meadows and Richard Warren of Danville; Christian John Yamulla, son of Atty. Ann McCluskey of Doylestown and Dr. Robert Yamulla of Sugarloaf; and Macy Ann Zenier, daughter of Tedd and Judith Zenier of Conyngham.