WARREN, NJ - Some 106 seniors at Watchung Hills Regional High School were inducted into the National Honor Society at a ceremony attended by the students and their families on Thursday, Dec. 4, in the school’s Performing Arts Center.
Students received the congratulations of administration and faculty members, and were each called on stage and presented with the National Honor Society Gold Honor Cord, which they will wear next in June on graduation day.
The National Honor Society was founded in 1921 and is designed “to recognize academic achievement while developing other characteristics essential to citizens in a democracy,” according to the program distributed to everyone who attended the ceremony. The Watchung Hills chapter is one of 13,500 chapters in the United States.
The new members took the National Honor Society Pledge: “I pledge to uphold the high purpose of the National Honor Society to which I have been selected. I will be true to the principles for which it stands: To maintain my high scholastic standing, to hold as fundamental and worthy an untarnished character, to endeavor intelligently and courageously to be a leader, and to give myself freely in service to others.”

New student members lit four candles representing the society’s four preeminent virtues: Character, Scholarship, Leadership and Community Service. Katherine Briski of Watchung lit the candle for Character. Jaytin Gupta of Watchung lit the candle for Scholarship. Michaela Brandon of Warren Township lit the candle for Leadership. Kimberlie Chao of Warren Township, Karen Chi of Warren Township, and Anh Ngo of Green Brook Township lit the candle for Community Service. All also gave short talks about how they have seen these virtues work in their lives and influence their futures.
Briski explained how character is at the center of achieving the other three virtues. “Without a measure of selflessness, of caring and duty, we would not be able to fulfill the pillar of service,” Briski said. “Without a sense of responsibility and dedication, we would not be such successful scholars. If we were not ambitious or trustworthy, we would not have become the leaders of our class, whether by official roles or by example. Still, as much as we have achieved, our lives are still wide open, with many opportunities and duties to continue to embrace.”
Gupta said that like highly valued pieces of jewelry featuring precious gems, the value of scholarship is not simply the accumulation of high grades and scores on tests, no matter how important they are to acquire. Like the prize ring, the real cost of the hand-crafted jewelry comes from the skilled labor it takes to produce it. The real value of scholarship comes from “what happens behind the scenes – not so much the product as much as the process.” He added, “What holds the real weight is the development of a discipline to study hard and try to learn.”
In speaking about leadership, Brandon encouraged her fellow National Honor Society members to recognize and embrace the qualities as the “natural born leaders” she knows them to be, whether it be conducting an orchestra, heading a club or organization, being class president, being the team captain or even being the oldest sibling.
“Leadership is about taking responsibility,” she said. “I know that some of you have been that person in the group who ended up doing all the work for the group project, or have been asked by one of your peers for help on number 17 on page 232 of the calculus homework. We all have talents, and ultimately feel confident doing things that interest us, therefore we should feel obligated to help others and lead the way.”
Referencing comments by legendary Civil Rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Brandon said leadership includes sharing influence to do the right thing.
“It should be a goal of ours, as it has been mine, to influence others in the pursuit of maintaining leadership roles and values,” she said. “We’re all capable and ought to be willing to boost each other’s self-esteem, or provide support or help when needed.”
Chao, Chi and Ngo said community service is “the perpetual push to improve and contribute to society.”
“With service,” Chao said, “we are able to cross the threshold and enter new land – new domains – to explore communities unfamiliar to us. We become leading scholars of wholesome character, aware and valuable… because the more we serve, the more people we touch, and the more we interact, the more we learn and the more we participate in the betterment of the world.”
Principal George Alexis congratulated the students for having been inducted into the National Honor Society. He cautioned that there is nothing easy about living up to the values espoused by the National Honor Society or practiced by its members. “Give your best energy every day,” he said. “And above all, do the right thing.”
Joseph Pecoraro of Millington was named chapter president. Kevin Guo of Warren Township was named vice president. Andrew Wang of Warren Township was named secretary. Faculty co-advisors are Guidance Counselor Laura Dunn and Chemistry teacher Michelle Madigan.
Every year, students are asked to select a teacher they have had at Watchung Hills who should be named honorary member of their National Honor Society chapter. Social Studies teacher Ken Karnas was selected by the students to be so honored, and new student member Charlotte Kwon made the presentation.
Kwon said that Karnas teaches with an enthusiasm that is contagious, and that he makes learning fun. He also goes beyond merely teaching the subject matter. “He spoke to us about the importance of having a faith and confidence in our knowledge and ourselves,” she said.
Karnas thanked Kwon for her remarks, and characterized her talk as “very thoughtful.” He stressed the requirement to succeed at any enterprise: Exercising one’s ability and talent, fueling one’s passion and bringing one’s tireless work ethic. He concluded by reminding the students that they are all talented well beyond their ability in the classroom as students. He said he has come to know that so many of his students at Watchung Hills are active in the community, in activities, sports and more.
Karnas pointed out that as the newest members of the National Honor Society, the students have likely responded to a whole host of “external expectations,” that is: Expectations established by others, the encouragement to succeed and the requirement for grades and scores. Going forward, he recommended the students start listening for their own “internal expectations,” that is: To find and nurture what is most passionate to them, and to let their work become their passion and their passions become their work. He concluded by telling the students, “See you in school tomorrow.”
The newly inducted students are: Catherine Alapatt, Kristina Alfano, Mark Armanious, Camille Bahr, Nicholas Berger, Shayna Bezozo, Tuhina Bhat, Marlene Blajsa, Melissa Bonaccorso, Remy Borinsky, Mikaela Brandon, Katherine Briski, Nicholas Briski, Aaron Bu, Michael Carlucci, Brian Corneiro, Avery Carrico, Kimberly Chao, Karen Chi, and Anthony Cuonzo,
Also, Joseph Da, Helen Dai, Kaila Davis, Jessica DeLuca, Laura DeAngelis, Alexa Deo, Benjamin Devico, Alexa Farrah, Carina Farrah, Hannah Feldman, Elizabeth Fogarty, Olivia Fogel, Mitchel Fung, Simran George, Jason Gerber, Jennifer Gilmore, Andre Gou, Ashay Grover, Kevin Guo, Jaytin Gupta, Amanda Halper, Brandon Hao, Claudia Hirsekorn, Amy Hu, Matthew Hunt, Allison Ivan, and Garrett Jochnau,
Also, Eshan Kaul, Jacquelyn Keyasko, Stuart Ki, Matthew Kiel, Jacob Krowicki, Sarah Kweit, Charlotte Kwon, Amanda Larson, Joy Li, Christina Liao, Devin Lin, Lucy Liu, Sharon Liu, Amanda Marques, Katherine Mathison, Jill McInerney, Ashley Metzler, Dana Nara, Anh Ngo, Rebecca Novik, Benjamin Overzat, Rebecca Pasch, Joseph Pecoraro, Matthew Peer, Isabella Perone, Rachel Pester, Andrew Piccirilli, and Claudia Przybylski.
Also, Patrick Qi, Jason Regimbal, Brittany Rica, Evan Riddell, Cara Rosamilia, Paul Roushdy, Lynette Santhakumar, Valeria Saro-Cortes, Anoushka Saxena, Katrine Schechter, Grace Schwartzstein, Ryan Shen, Angeline Shieh, Victoria Sipe, Elizabeth Skrobacz, Sarah Smith, Samantha Snyder, Hannah Song, and Abhay Srinivas,
Also, Valerie Tan, John Tekin, Ashley Thach, Andrew Tu, Colin Vergilio, William Vorius, David Voychuk, Andrew Wang, Shawn Weng, Brooke Werner, Justin Xia, and Emma Zeng.