Small size reaps benefits
Secaucus High School Assistant Principal Frank Costello gave a basic breakdown of his school.
"We have about 546 students in our school," he said. "Our graduating class stands at 120 students."
Costello sees serious benefits in having a relatively small student body.
"There are a lot of advantages," he said. "You tend to know the students a lot better than you do in a large school. The students also know the teachers a lot better. They know more of what we expect from them, and therefore they respond better."
Two graduating seniors responded particularly well over the years to the call to learn: 2006 class valedictorian Courtney Waters and 2006 class salutatorian Amit Tilani.
Valedictorian Courtney Waters
Valedictorian Courtney Waters graduated with a 4.23 average. When asked how she obtained a grade point average over 4.0, she simply stated "Advancement Placement classes", explaining that the four A.P. classes that she took were given more weight in her G.P.A. Waters is also the senior class president. She will be attending Fairleigh Dickinson University at Madison in the fall.
Waters plans on being a biology major. "I want to be a pediatrician," she said. "I love working with kids."
During her years at Secaucus High School, Waters played three sports: basketball, softball and volleyball. She is very proud of participating on those teams. "We won league championships in all three sports," the volleyball captain said. "That's the first time that happened in the history of the school."
The realization that she could wind up valedictorian crept up slowly on Waters.
"I wasn't really thinking about it until the end of sophomore year, but once I was first for a while, I wanted to stay that way," she said.
Waters believes that her serious participation in sports helped her to stay on top.
"Playing sports helps make you a better student because you learn better time management skills," she said. "I would recommend it to other people."
Besides her family, there were other people that helped Courtney on her way. "My economics teacher Ms. Wilson - I love her so much," she said. "She teaches economics, but she teaches us so much more than that. You could talk about everything with her. I just kept on taking her courses so that I could have an excuse to hang out with her."
Waters looks forward to what comes next.
"I've lived here my whole life, so it's going to be a little different living somewhere else for the next four years," she said. "But I think that I'm up for the challenge."
Salutatorian Amit Tilani
Salutatorian Amit Tilani finished close behind Walters, achieving a 4.17 G.P.A. over four years. He will attend Pace University in New York City in the fall, where he wants to study international business management. "When I pick up the newspaper, business is the first section that I usually read," Tilani said. He also came into his own academically over four years and worked hard to achieve his goal. "I hadn't really thought about grades too much until the end of freshman year. Then I saw that I was doing well. It made me strive to achieve a goal that would make me proud of myself and make my parents proud."
Tilani was involved in many school clubs. He was president of Mu Alpha Theta, the math honors society. "The Mu Alpha Theta dinner had 450 people attend this year," he said. "That's the most any extracurricular activity ever had."
Tilani was also secretary of the high school's branch of the National Honor Society, treasurer of the American technology honor society, and the vice president of the foreign language club.
The 2006 Secaucus salutatorian speaks foreign languages at home. He speaks Hindi and Sindhi with his parents, who are natives of India. Tilani gives his immigrant parents a lot of credit when it comes to the reasons for his success.
"My parents came from India 20 years ago, and they didn't get to finish their educations," he said. "I saw how they both struggled and how much they wanted my siblings and I to achieve. That really got to me. It makes me want to get somewhere."
Tilani also wants to point out someone else who helped him get somewhere.
"Ms. Foley is my calculus teacher and is the advisor for Mu Alpha Theta," he said. "If I ever needed to ask her about anything or talk to her about something happening at home, she was there."
With college looming before him, Tilani feels ready.
"I know it's a whole different experience, but I want to see exactly just how different it is," he said.
Final thoughts on the final days of the Class of 2006
Assistant principal Costello points with pride to all the scholarships awarded to the Class of 2006.
"There were 74 scholarships given out to Secaucus High School students that totaled over $1.5 million," he said. "Academically and athletically we did just great. This school is very well regarded, and it's been a great class. Their achievements have been far and above what we could have hoped for."
As he closes the book on the Class of 2006, Costello made one final observation.
"Whatever their indiscretions were, they were discreet, to their credit," he said with a smile. "The Class of 2006 represented us very well. We're all very proud of them."
Both the valedictorian and salutatorian have to give a speech at graduation. Amit Tilani's reply as to how he thought his speech would go reflected both the pathos and pride of all graduating seniors everywhere.
"It's hard to say goodbye in such few words," he said. "But I'll do it."