"It's been hectic all year long," Pierre said. "But it's really beginning to get crazy."
Before the commencement frenzy reaches fever pitch, Pierre was able to enjoy a moment last week when she was among several Weehawken High School students to receive awards at the 20th annual Academic Awards Night at Schuetzen Park in North Bergen.
Pierre was recognized as the top senior with the Academic Award of Excellence. "It's definitely important for students to get recognized for what they do academically," said Pierre, who will head to the College of William and Mary in the fall. "So many times, you see athletes get recognized for what they achieve. This is something that we work hard to get for four years. We've been preparing since freshman year. It didn't just happen overnight. It's nice that our parents don't have to wait until graduation for us to receive awards."
Not only was the evening a chance for the seniors to receive their medals of excellence in their respective classes, but it was also a chance for the new members of the National Honor Society to get sworn in, as well as a chance to honor two prestigious alumni as members of the Academic Alumni Hall of Fame.
This year, the honorees came from the world of politics, as Assemblyman Anthony Impreveduto (Weehawken High School Class of 1967) and State Senator John Mathenssen (Class of 1971) were inducted into the school's Hall of Fame.
"These are probably our two most prestigious politicians," said Weehawken Principal Dr. Peter Olivieri. "We've been honoring our alumni since 1984, when we began with John Diebold, who invented the drive-in windows at banks. This time, we honored a Democrat (Impreveduto) and a Republican (Mathennsen, who ran for the United States Senate against Doug Forrester three years ago), so we covered both parties."
Added Olivieri, "This is the first step in a series of culminating activities that lead up to graduation." The students agree.
"It's kind of surreal knowing that graduation is just around the corner," said Elizabeth Kallert, who served as the vice-president of the National Honor Society. "It's hard to believe that graduation is coming. I guess this was a way for us to get ready for graduation. It's also nice that there is one night that we can all focus on graduation." Kallert will head to the University of Delaware and study elementary education.
Jorge Janampa, who is the class salutatorian, received three awards for social science, science and music.
"It's definitely a good feeling," said Janampa, who will attend Boston University in the fall. "Sometimes, you almost feel that what you do gets unrecognized. When you have a night like this, it makes you feel better about yourself and what you've accomplished. I might get other awards in my life, but none will be as important as this."
Desiree Romaguera received the English Award for being the top senior in English.
"I didn't even know I was getting the award," said Romaguera, who will take pre-med classes at the College of New Jersey in the fall. "I was looking through the program to see if my name was there, and Dr. Olivieri was describing me, so I knew I was getting something. I'm happy because English is my forte. Even though I'm going to study medicine, I always like to write and loved the opportunity to express my writing style. I'm even going to be able to take a poetry class in college. I think this is an emotional time for all of us."
Jose Ospina received the Art Award.
"I wasn't expecting to receive anything," said Ospina, who will study graphic design at Bergen Community College in the fall. "It feels good to get recognized."
Three-sport athletic standout Danny Lopez received the Math Award, as well as the award as being the school's top scholar/athlete.
"A lot of people don't realize how hard it is to take AP classes and play three sports," said Lopez, who plays football, basketball and baseball for the Indians. "To maintain that schedule and still do well in the classroom requires a lot of hard work. I think there's a little more respect that comes with winning an academic award. I might not be able to continue with athletics in the future, but I have a future in college and in life to worry about."
Just last week, Lopez signed a national letter of intent to attend Seton Hall University on a baseball scholarship.
Olivieri has always stressed the importance of having a night to honor the school's best students.
"I think they need to have some sort of recognition for their hard work," Olivieri said. "Some schools just honor athletes, but we feel we have a great group of students, a very distinguished group, who deserve recognition."