WAYNE, NJ – When it comes to dedication, determination and effort, PCTI students Michael Calixto and Connor Wang are at their top of their class. Not coincidentally, the two are also, academically, the top two students of the class of 2020; Calixto is the Valedictorian and Wang is the Salutatorian.
Boasting GPAs of 4.6 and 4.5, Calixto and Wang are examples of students whose curiosity, resilience and drive has led to high academic achievement.
But it wasn’t just their academics that sets them apart. The two graduating seniors were both heavily involved in extracurricular activities on top of the multitude of AP and honors classes they were taking.
Calixto served as a Class of 2020 representative, Parliamentarian of HOSA (Health Occupations Students of America), and a Saturday tour guide at PCTI. He is a member of Gifted and Talented, World Language Honor Society, and National Honor Society, and has participated in Boys State and attended the New Jersey Governor’s Schools in the Sciences. Calixto has also become one of the leaders of PCTI’s Academy of Medical Arts E & E Fundraiser, raising money for organizations which provide physical and mental healthcare to those in need.
Wang has earned the prestigious National Merit Scholarship, served as President of the History Club, and is involved in the National Honor Society, the World Language Honor Society, Gifted and Talented Club, Environmental Club, Asian-Pacific Heritage activities, and the boys’ fencing team. In the SeaPerch Regionals, he placed second, and his team earned first place in the Teen Summit video competition. Wang was also involved with the Lindsey Meyer Teen Institute TI@TI at PCTI.
While Calixto also focused on community service, Wang had an intense desire to learn beyond what was taught in the schools he has attended.
The Valedictorian has volunteered through his youth group at St. Anthony’s of Padua church, taught woodwinds to children at Passaic’s Gifted and Talented Academy, volunteered at Eva’s Village and the Clifton Public Library. At PCTI, Michael has assisted with the “Wreaths Across America” initiative and participated in the patriotic 9/11 and veterans’ ceremonies.
Inspired by his brother who was diagnosed with severe autism, Wang became incredibly responsible and self-disciplined from a young age. His longstanding passion for science, history and linguistics launched a commitment to learning that would pave the way for his academic success. From watching Discovery Channel documentaries at a young age to teaching himself German, Connor has repeatedly proven himself as an academic powerhouse in the classroom as well as a curious and self-motivated young man. During his high school career, he has earned superb scores on twelve AP exams, four of which were completely self-taught topics.
“My time at PCTI taught me many lessons and played a significant role in my development as a student and individual,” said Calixto. “Inspired by accounts of families caring for loved ones with cancer, I've decided to pursue a career in oncology.”
Calixto’s mother, who bravely battled cancer, as well as his own health hurdles were also inspirations for the young man to pursue a career in medicine. He will be attending Brown University on a full, four-year Questbridge Scholarship where Calixto will major in Biology and continue to pursue his career goal.
After graduating from PCTI, Wang plans to attend Johns Hopkins University to study Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. His goal is to earn an MD-PhD and make strides in the field of Genetic Engineering while also fostering his passion for the academic field of humanities.
He feels that much of this was made possible by his time spent at PCTI.
“At PCTI, I have met and connected with more intelligent, caring, free-thinking teachers than I could ever expect from high school,” he said. “I love to spend time asking my teachers questions about our society, the future, philosophy and, culture.”
The instructors at PCTI were equally impressed with these two students.
“Michael Calixto is one of the most resilient students I have ever had the honor of teaching,” said Miriam Chaon, one of Calixto’s instructors in the Academy of Medical Arts at PCTI. “He has demonstrated the ability to persevere despite the many challenging obstacles he has had to endure over the past four years. I believe that he is a special young man, wise beyond his years and truly a remarkable person.”
“Connor was a student who changed the dynamic of any classroom he was in, for the better,” said Meghan Carey, Wang’s English teacher. “His endless curiosity and his desire to look at things from a perspective different from his own challenged not only the other students but also me as an educator. This is a young man who will change the world, and whatever he does with his future, it will be a great one.”
Dr Michael Parent, the PCTI principal added: “Michael and Connor are exemplars of the type of students PCTVS has; they are academically driven, focused on goals, demonstrate excellent character, and are graduating with a skillset that will prove beneficial in college and in whatever career pathways they elect to follow.”
“These hardworking young men have made tremendous contributions to the PCTVS community and we are filled with pride as we recognize their many accomplishments,” said Diana Lobosco, the Chief School Administrator. “I am confident that Michael and Connor will continue to be upstanding citizens and diligent students as they achieve success in their future endeavors. Congratulations!”
Sarah Auerbach contributed to this article