MMI Preparatory School celebrated the Class of 2021 during its 129th Commencement ceremony on Thursday, May 27. Seniors received their diplomas from MMI Head of School Justin Kleinheider and Board of Directors Chair Llewellyn F. Dryfoos III ’82.
This year’s graduating class of 40 seniors were accepted at 80 percent of the colleges they applied to and amassed more than $8.1 million in merit scholarships and awards.
The ceremony was held in the MMI Gymnasium and was available via a live stream on MMI’s website for anyone to watch.
MMI Head of School Justin Kleinheider said, “The Class of 2021 set a great example for every student at MMI, with smiles under their masks, focused determination to learn and succeed, and most importantly having fun.”
Todd Alan Schell ’80, Senior Project Manager at Ivanti, delivered the Founder’s Day Address. Schell has had a successful career in cybersecurity and shared several experiences that helped shape his career and he hopes will also be beneficial for this year’s class. The fundamental theme of his message was to “surround yourself with good people, take the lead towards your goals, and success is almost sure to follow”.
During commencement exercises, valedictorian Louis Paul DeAngelo said, “Now that our time at MMI is coming to a close, we can look back on what we have learned together. I would like to thank all our teachers, not just for teaching their subject, but for going above and beyond to help us grow as people. With their help, we have learned to work both independently and cooperatively….Most importantly, I hope we have all learned that the most important thing in the world is people. The connections between you and others matters more than any house or any job. The future may be uncertain, but we all get to be part of it.”
Salutatorian Katherine Taylor Lewandowski remarked, “When I first learned I would be giving this speech, one piece of advice I was given was to talk about something I could share that I had learned from my time here. Of course, there are the skills that we gained, such as being able to give a speech like this or even balancing my commitments, but I think the true lesson that I learned was to live in the moment and make the most of the time that is right in front of us…. I realized, especially this last year, that while I was so focused on the exciting things the future had to offer, I would sometimes forget how much I had to be happy about that was right in front of me. So, take the time to live in the moment and find joy in even the smallest of things.”
Class President Colin Michael Williams stated, “The graduates that sit before you are some of the most well-rounded, hardworking, and dedicated individuals I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. During our time at MMI, we have achieved countless numbers of awards in the classroom, academic competitions, and our respective sports. This upcoming fall, members of the Class of 2021 will attend prestigious universities including Ivy Leagues, Honor Colleges, and many more. The classes’ determination to do things in the most decisive and effective way possible is a clear standout.”
Morgan Lindsey Allen, who designed the Class of 2021 banner, said, “The idea for the Class of 2021’s banner stemmed from the senior class masking up to face the challenges ahead of us. Throughout the year, we have faced many setbacks, including staying close while being six feet apart. Yet the new struggles brought by COVID-19 have not only caused individual growth, but also growth as an MMI community. Although the senior class grows our own individual ways, we still belong to the same MMI family represented by the vines. But we couldn’t grow without help. The faculty, staff, and our mentors can be seen as the butterflies helping us along our journey. Without them our growth wouldn’t be as significant which is why I honored them in our banner. Although our class will forever be known as the class that fought through COVID-19, I believe we should also be known for our growth and resilience through these tough times.”
During the ceremony, Louis DeAngelo was honored with the Joseph A. Chaykowski ’48 Memorial Prize for Mathematics and Science, Darren Zheng received the Faculty Award, and Christian Badamo was the recipient of the Freeland Rotary Club Rotary Service Above Self Award.
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.
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 Freeland Rotary Club Rotary Service Above Self Award 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 2021, their parents, and their hometowns are as follows: Morgan Lindsey Allen, daughter of Brian and Allyne Allen of Freeland; Irene Helen Altmiller, daughter of Charles Altmiller and Mary-Lynn McBride of Drums; Julie Ann Amentler, daughter of John and Kristine Amentler of Hazle Township; Kimberly Marie Amentler, daughter of John and Kristine Amentler of Hazle Township; Thomas Anthony Ansilio, son of Thomas and Roselle Ansilio of Pocono Lake; Christian Robert Badamo, son of Anthony and Jessica Badamo of Sugarloaf; Hunter Sebastian Blasko, son of Mark and Susan Blasko of White Haven; Lindsay Braunstein, daughter of Larry and Kimberly Braunstein of Mountain Top; Alexis Marie Dalesandro, daughter of Dustan Dalesandro and Kimberly Mumaw of Drums; Marcus Daniel Danchision, son of Daniel and Wendy Danchision of Ringtown; Louis Paul DeAngelo, son of Grete and Aaron Floryshak of Sugarloaf and Louis DeAngelo of Hazle Township; Hannah Marie Falatko, daughter of Robert and Christine Falatko of Freeland; McKenna E. Gallagher, daughter of Shawn and Jennifer Gallagher of Drums; Natalie Marie Graham, daughter of Ryan and Heidi Graham of Tamaqua; Aaron John Haber, son of John and Cathryn Haber of Tresckow; Morgan Elizabeth Hosier, daughter of Barry D. and Marcianna Hosier of West Pittston; James Albert Kelly, son of James and Chris Kelly of Mountain Top; Kyle Hojun Kim, son of San and Jenny Kim of Jim Thorpe; Dominique G. Kline, daughter of John and June Kline of Mountain Top; Sydney Marie Kohl, daughter of Peter and Jina Kohl of Mountain Top; Jordan Nathaniel Kulsa, son of Jeffrey and Alvita Kulsa of Hazle Township; Gregory Francis Leonard, son of Gregory and Karen Leonard of Hazle Township; Katherine Taylor Lewandowski, daughter of James and Nancy Lewandowski of Mountain Top; Noah William Long, son of David and Theresa Long of Mountain Top; Ryan Patrick McNelis, son of Edward and Florence McNelis of Conyngham; Kevin Kenneth McNulty, son of Timothy and Kimberly McNulty of Forty Fort; Hiba Muhammad, daughter of Ikram and Alia Muhammad of Mountain Top; Violet May O’Connell, daughter of Michael and Genevieve O’Connell of Coaldale; Robert Joseph Rinaldi, son of Robert and Catherine Rinaldi of Sugarloaf; Cole Lewis Rinehimer, son of Albert and Patricia Rinehimer of Pocono Pines; Emily May Ryan, daughter of Sam and Susan Ryan of White Haven; Juliana Rose Salio, daughter of Tracy and Joseph Kress of Sugarloaf and Sylvester Salio of Swoyersville; Jacqueline Rose Snyder, daughter of Christopher and Jill Snyder of Sugarloaf; Zander Dominick Lockwood Spear, son of William and Marylynne Spear of Hazleton; Ethan Thomas Stine, son of Jeffrey and Tracy Stine of Mountain Top; Millie Ann Symbula, daughter of Jill Symbula of Drums; Peter Thomas Walko, son of Lawrence Walko and Debbie Brenner-Walko of Drums; Colin Michael Williams, son of Richard and Shannon Williams of Mountain Top; Alexandra Young, daughter of Christian and Nicole Young of Freeland; and Darren Zheng, son of Hongzhi and De Zheng of Jim Thorpe.