WARREN, NJ - Watchung Hills Regional High School (WHRHS) Senior Elizabeth Wood of Gillette was among nine students from Somerset County high schools honored by the Somerset County School Boards Association (SCSBA) at the 2019 Unsung Heroes Student Recognition Program, Tuesday, April 3, in the Performing Arts Center (PAC) at WHRHS.

Robert Morrison, who is a member of the WHRHS Board of Education and president of the SCSBA, hosted the event. He was joined at the recognition by numerous members of the SCSBA, as well as various members of local Somerset County school districts board members, school officials from the schools attended by the honored student unsung heroes, and by parents and families of the honored students.

The awards recognize students who make outstanding contributions to their schools and communities, but who may be overlooked under traditional student recognition guidelines. Honorees may have overcome academic or personal challenges, modeled good citizenship, or shown a spirit or quiet strength that inspires others.

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Other students honored along with Elizabeth Wood are: Abina Nimalashanthan of Bridgewater-Raritan Regional High School; Natasha Ishaq of Franklin High School; Victoria Franco of Hillsborough High School; Maria Castro of Manville High School; Chilly Wallace of Montgomery High School; Jeiner Betancourt Quintanilla of North Plainfield High School; Grant Hilton of Bernards High School; and Justin Krishnamurti of Somerville High School.

Called To The Stage

When Elizabeth Wood was called up to the stage as the ninth student recognized, she was by no means a stranger to calls to the PAC stage during her academic and co-curricular career at WHRHS.

Earlier this school year, in October, she was one of 97 students called to the stage to be inducted into the National Honor Society. Likewise in December, Elizabeth Wood was among the more than 200 choral music students who responded on cue to the stage for the annual Winter Choral Concert. Audiences at the annual Winter and spring choral concerts are by now familiar seeing Elizabeth Wood on stage as a member of the Advanced Choir in the group’s Alto section.

She was among the student singers who brought to life at this year’s Winter Concert a broad array of songs in various musical genres and styles, from tender remembrances to rock-and-roll anthems and empowerment statements. Among them were: A set from the movie, “Frozen;” the anthem from “The Greatest Showman,” titled, “This is Me;” a Tribute to Queen; a medley from “Disney on Stage;” and John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s by now annual seasonal favorite, “Happy Christmas (War Is Over).”

Elizabeth Wood is also no stranger from being an empowering inspiration to all who marveled at her achievement as a WHRHS Warrior. She was born with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), a genetic disease affecting the part of the nervous system that controls voluntary muscle movement. Nevertheless, Elizabeth Wood has shown a lifelong thirst for knowledge. She has aspirations, after crossing the graduation stage in Tozier Stadium this June, to continue her academic journey, possibly at The College of New Jersey, Ewing Township, or Seton Hall University, South Orange. She hopes to study pre-law.

In introducing Elizabeth Wood to the audience at the Unsung Heroes Recognition Ceremony, WHRHS Superintendent Elizabeth Jewett cited the student’s exceptional achievements in her rigorous course of academic studies at WHRHS, as well as her active participation in and contribution to: The WHRHS Choir; the school’s Mock Trial team; and Student Government.

“I am honored to have the opportunity to speak about Elizabeth Wood, Watchung Hills’ nominee for the Unsung Hero Award,” said WHRHS Superintendent Jewett. “Not only has  Elizabeth performed exceptionally well in some of our high school’s most rigorous courses, but when the bell rings at the end of the day, Elizabeth is active in Chorus, Mock Trial, and Student Government.”

The superintendent continued, “Her classroom teachers marvel at her intelligence, wit and engagement.  Her calculus teacher describes her as a ‘student who works extremely hard, asks appropriate questions, and cares about helping fellow students to succeed.’  Her physics teacher remarked he had never seen a rising junior as excited to get started with AP Physics questions.  

“Elizabeth is not only a STEAM disciple, her humanities teachers also marvel at Elizabeth’s many talents; one of her junior teachers misses having her in class because of her intellectual ability, but more importantly, this teacher recalled the ‘assiduous preparation’ Elizabeth completed before class. Another social studies teacher describes Elizabeth as a ‘class leader, team player who is funny and kind to others.’”

In co-curricular activities, Elizabeth Wood is also a stand-out, Jewett said.

“The student government advisor describes Elizabeth as ‘a peer leader who not only shows up for every commitment with a positive ‘can do attitude,’’ but one who is committed to service beyond our school community- always modeling appropriate behaviors for our younger students.” Jewett said. “The Mock Trail Advisor will remember Elizabeth not only for being named earlier this year as ‘Best Witness,’ at the Somerset County Courthouse, but also for her knowledge of each case file and her insight into planning our strategy for competition.  Elizabeth read carefully and could recall details precisely, but she also understood how to synthesize witness statements to frame a larger argument.”

As Elizabeth prepares to graduate, the Superintendent said, “Our administration, faculty and student body believe her determination, engagement and ethical code will continue to illuminate her path.  No one will be surprised to hear that she makes a transition to college and post-college education seem seamless.”



WHRHS CAPTIONS 2019 Unsung Heroes Student Recognition Program


WHRHS PHOTOS Elizabeth Wood and WHRHS Officials

Watchung Hills Regional High School (WHRHS) Senior Elizabeth Wood, seated, is congratulated by WHRHS officials after she was recognized as an “Unsung Hero” by the Somerset County School Boards Association (SCSBA) along with eight other students from high schools across the county. The ceremony was held in the WHRHS Performing Arts Center (PAC) on Tuesday, April 3. The WHRHS officials are: Standing, from left, WHRHS Board of Education member Susan Ober; WHRHS Superintendent Elizabeth Jewett; WHRHS School Business Administrator Timothy Stys; WHRHS Board of Education President Peter Fallon, and WHRHS Board of Education member Robert Morrison, who is also the President of the SCSBA.




WHRHS PHOTOS Wood Family With WHRHS Officials

In addition to being congratulated by WHRHS Superintendent Elizabeth Jewett, standing left, and WHRHS Board of Education Member and SCSBA President Robert Morrison, standing right, Elizabeth Wood, center, WHRHS’ own 2019 Unsung Hero, is congratulated by her sister, Emily, dad, Jeff, and mom, Lisa.




WHRHS PHOTOS Unsung Heroes and Their Sponsors

The Nine students from Somerset County High Schools, including WHRHS’ own Elizabeth Wood, first row, fourth from the end, were each introduced by sponsors from their home high schools, who are standing behind them. Introducing Elizabeth Wood was WHRHS Superintendent Elizabeth Jewett, standing behind her in polka dot dress. Jewett said she was honored to introduce Elizabeth Wood, and cited the many accolades shared by her teachers and co-curricular faculty advisors. Jewett said Wood has had exceptional achievements in some of the school’s most rigorous courses, such as Calculus and AP Physics. She has been a peer leader who has a “can do” attitude and has earned recognition as “Best Witness” in Mock Trial competitions. One advisor reported that Elizabeth Wood always models appropriate behaviors for our younger students, Jewett reported.


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