4 Tips for High School Success from Graduation Speaker Emma D’Amico ’12

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4 Tips for High School Success from Graduation Speaker Emma D’Amico ’12

The graduation address for the Class of 2016 was delivered by Emma D’Amico ’12, a recent graduate of Sparta High School.

While at Hilltop, Emma was in the Instrumental Ensemble playing trumpet and violin. In her eighth grade year she was the student council president and was the recipient of the presidents volunteer service award Gold level in her seventh and eighth grade year and the Daughters of the American Revolution citizenship award in grade 8. While at Hilltop, Emma was also a member of the Sussex County Youth Orchestra, playing the violin.

Emma’s accomplishments at Hilltop were just the beginning of a storied tenure at Sparta High School. Emma is graduating with a 3.67 average and is currently a teaching assistant in graphic design. She is truly a community-oriented person. She was involved in the marching band, the strings club, the Honors Philharmonic orchestra, the bowling team, and was a peer development leader. During her years at Sparta, has been involved with track, golf, and the recycling club to name a few. You can see that Emma does not sit still for very long. It is in her DNA to try, to do, and to succeed- and succeed she does. During her years at Sparta High, Emma has been the recipient of the gold medal olympiada of spoken Russian, wasa member of the Russian honor society, received The Sean Distefano Spartan spirit award for the marching band, was the SHS June student of the month for technology and career and consumer service,was the principal scholar honor roll student, and received the bronze level president’s volunteer service award.

Emma will be attending Drew University this fall, majoring in business with minors in Russian and social media.

The following are excerpts from her address:

Thank you Mr. Gordon, for that introduction and invitation to speak to this year’s graduates. It is an honor to be on this stage on graduation day at Hilltop. Congratulations Class of 2016, you are a very unique group of students and it is my pleasure to be here and share this special day with you.

I attended Hilltop for eight years before graduating in 2012. My experiences were by far some of the most significant in my education. Hilltop awarded me opportunities in learning that I always enjoyed but at the time did not know how influential they would be in my education beyond Hilltop. Throughout my time at Hilltop I formed lasting relationships with friends and teachers, participated in student council where I became quite involved with volunteerism. While at Hilltop I had teachers who provided a nurturing atmosphere for learning, provided challenging curriculum and numerous opportunities to build interests and skills that became passions of mine such as music, world language and public speakin.

Graduates, you will share your speeches in just a few minutes. The eighth grade speech has traditionally been an opportunity to reflect on your time here at Hilltop, share your favorite memories of teachers, classes, projects and maybe even tell a joke. I too have many of those same Hilltop memories. I would like to tell you that these memories we share tell the stories of the skills we have been taught and of the tools the Hilltop teachers provided. Yes! You have been given a gift of a great education that has prepared you to communicate, work together and have excitement about learning.

The time leading up to high school can be filled with excitement and anxiety in anticipation for a new school, new routines and the unknown. If this graduation class is anything like mine, I know many of you today believe and will tell us you are prepared and ready. Let me assure you, whether you’ve been at Hilltop for two years or 11, Hilltop has made a positive impression on your life.

No matter what high school you are attending, a Hilltop education will come through in some of the following ways:

  • You will consistently be the student who eagerly raises your hand to respond to the teacher’s questions, and you will most always be the first one to present your project to the class. You can thank the small class sizes at Hilltop, Monday Morning Meetings and Mrs. Katzenbach’s engaging class discussions for this eagerness in the classroom.
  • Over and over again you are going to be asked to work in groups – it begins right away with your summer reading assignment. I can confidently say you will be required to participate in book talks, gather a group for a collaborative project or prepare for a group test.  You will lead the discussion group and nine out of 10 times be the group project coordinator. Be grateful for Mr. Umstead’s science labs, Science Night and student council meetings for creating leadership qualities.
  • Public speaking is going to continue whether it is in front of your classmates, on a stage performing, leading small groups, addressing your teachers or the school administration. You are quite prepared for this – think of your experiences with morning announcements, the lower school closing ceremony, advisory meetings and certainly your reflections today.
  • The P.E.A.K.S. Program, student council activities, eighth grade peer leader program and special projects you may have devoted time to during homeroom saving wildcats, collecting eyeglasses, or helping at the local food bank have introduced you to the wealth of initiatives that are available to volunteers, mentors or peer leaders – you are ready to advance your efforts you began in these programs.
  • The hands-on learning, individual attention and relationships you have built with teachers at Hilltop have provided the foundation needed for the most challenging of high school classes.

I would like to give a bit of advice on a few things that I wish I acted on sooner in high school:

  1. Join a sport. It is more than fitness, teamwork and competition. Participating in a sport is about persistence, practice and patience. Sports provide another opportunity to build friends and you will certainly have more opportunities to build critical time management skills.
  2. Participate in high school events and activities. There are hundreds of after clubs to choose from. Don’t miss out or wait to your senior year to try something new, like a strings club or something familiar such as a Peer Leader Program. This is a great way to meet people and develop new interests. There will be dances, proms and pep rallies – be sure to participate in these events too. They are fun and make amazing memories.
  3. At Sparta High School, it is called academic assistance. Take advantage of whatever academic help a teacher offers. Academic assistance provides the opportunity to solidify concepts, brainstorm ideas or provide assistance in passing the next quiz. Mostly it gives you the opportunity to build relationships with your teachers like the ones you had in the small Hilltop environment.
  4. Always be on time for school, classes, and with your homework and assignments. Late work is hardly ever accepted.

Graduates, enjoy your next four years – it goes by quickly. Parents, keep that in mind too. Yes, you are going to face challenges in high school but remember you have been given a Hilltop education. Apply all that you have learned and you will succeed. Go for it! Lastly, here’s a shout out to my P.E.A.K.S. buddies, Chloe and Corrine.

Congratulations, Class of 2016!