Student Feature Fridays

Samantha Paquette

43454This week’s Student Feature Friday is senior Samantha Paquette whose limitless academic potential is matched by her unbounded compassion for others. Her recent staring role in Footloose highlighted her beautiful singing voice and her strong acting talent. Samantha began participating in theatre at Prana summer camp when she was 4 or 5 and and has found a noticable difference to her happiness when she is on stage. When speaking about singing, a large smile comes across her face and she says, “chorus lifts me up.” From the moment she started performing she was able to bring the characters to life through song in a way that allowed her to connect the words with the underlying message and share her talent with the world. Whether it is performing for large audiences or at small parties for young children, she is at home in the world of music.

Combining her love of theatre with her love of working with young children, she has worked with a friend to create her own business called Starlight Kids Parties. What is impressive about her business model is that not only does she create princess themed entertainment to the amazement of young children, but she also incorporates charity into work by donating 10% of the proceeds to a charity chosen by the family who has hired her.

As Samantha thinks about her future she is looking to continue her love of working with young children by majoring in communication and psychology. She “wants to use psychology to make a difference, especially with kids.” Her goal is to “help foster the child’s light, not smother it.” It is clear that Samantha will make a large difference in the lives of so many children.

Q: It is so clear that you love theatre and, in particular, singing. What is it about being on stage that you love so much? How have singing and acting helped develop you as a person?

A: The stage has always been one of my happy places, for several reasons. First, performing is a culmination of so much hard work towards something you are proud to be a part. To get to share that with a supportive audience is so special. Second, singing, acting, becoming immersed in a character’s world is something I love and am fascinated by – I have been since I was little. When I was in elementary school, I was extremely shy, and performing allowed me to borrow the confidence of the character I was playing. Over time, I began to source confidence not from characters, but from myself. Getting that confidence from the roles I’ve played and the supportive casts I’ve been a part of, however, provided a foundation for my own confidence to grow from.

Q: During our conversation, I was impressed with your desire to give back to the community, especially by helping younger children. How did you develop the concept for the Braveheart club and what do you hope to accomplish through this process?

A: The idea for Braveheart came through connecting with younger kids. Whenever kids I know are upset about something, they normally only think about what is wrong in their immediate circumstances – there is very little understanding or perspective about what there is to be grateful for. I also wanted to help kids understand that they can make a difference at any age. Through working with high schoolers, I hope that they’ll understand both these things and really take them to heart. I hope they’ll see the difficult situations around them, understand all they have to be grateful for, and be empowered to help the people who have less than they do.

Q: When you think about your high school career, is there anything the school could have provided more of to support your interests or to help develop your passion?

A: I know a lot of teachers are beginning to implement ‘mixed’ classes, where two subjects are combined into one curriculum. I love that idea, and I think it would be even more supportive of students’ interests or passions if students were able to have some voice in what classes were created. If students were able to suggest topics for classes, there would be classes available to better meet their interests.

Q: What advice do you have for students who have yet to find their passion or find an activity that they love?

A: Give yourself permission to not know what you want to do for the rest of your life. I used to think I was going to major in Musical Theater because it was such a huge passion. I was sticking to that plan so tightly that I wasn’t able to see anything else. I didn’t want to go without a plan for the future. Once I did let go, however, I realized Musical Theater wasn’t what I would be happy doing as a career. Now, I plan to major in psychology and communications, but I have absolutely no clue where they will lead – and I’m fine with that. I’ve found that you discover your passions when you stop putting pressure on yourself to find them.


Student Feature Fridays

Lauren Salley

This week’s Student Feature Friday is senior Lauren Salley who is a force to be reckoned with both on and off the athletic field. Lauren is a very strong athlete, participating on Indoor Track, Lacrosse and Cross-Country where she is a co-captain. She has been nominated as a Tri-Valley All Star during her sophomore, junior and senior years of high school. Lauren recently attended the MIAA Sportsmanship Summit where she represented HHS to learn more about leadership, the importance of teamwork, and how to be a role model to others.

Lauren already excels in these areas and is a shining example of what it means to care for others. As Co-President of NHS she takes the pillars of Character, Scholarship, Leadership and Service to heart and is always looking for ways to improve the lives of her classmates and those of her community. Whether it is running a youth lacrosse clinic for middle school students, participating in the Metrowest Youth in Philanthropy program, helping to organize the HHS Non-Profit Fair, or creating a prom dress event to reduce the cost for other girls, she is always looking for ways to give back. When asked about which of her past and current experiences have affected her outlook on life, one of the experiences she discussed was her current work at the Residence at Valley Farm where she works as a waitress. Working with elders has given her “a new appreciation and different outlook on the experiences of others.” Lauren wants to make the world a better place through helping others and there is no doubt that she is already on her way.

Q: During our conversation you spoke about your love of all sports and your participation in cross-country, indoor track and lacrosse. Can you expand a little on your feelings about the individual and team aspects of the sports and why that matters so much to you?

A: Cross country and track are both sports that put such an emphasis on the individual, and what each person’s fastest time is, but what most people don’t see is how both of those sports are really team sports too. You can’t win a race by yourself, it is impossible because the top 5 runners count toward your team’s overall score, so it is so important that not only the fastest runner has a great race but for the next four girls that follow her, as well as the rest of the team. Training with the girls on the team makes getting through the toughest workouts much more enjoyable! As runners, being talented is great but in my experience, its having the support from your teammates that is so important to your success! And of course lacrosse is one of the most team oriented sports out there in my opinion. As a midfielder, I play on the offensive and defensive aspects of the game and communication among everyone is so critical to the team’s success! Working together is the only way to win and it makes the journey to winning so much better when you are among teammates and not alone.

Q: You have taken on a leadership role in many of the activities you are engaged in at HHS and in the community. What is it about being in a leadership role that you find meaningful? Why do you gravitate towards these roles?

A: I am a person who likes helping others, and when I’m involved in something I’m all in and give it all I have. So for me being a leader is something I gravitate to. I always want to make a lasting impression on everything I do. Being a leader allows me to voice my opinions and enact change when I see fit. As a leader on the sports field (and course and track), as well as in the building through clubs, I have learned the importance of hearing others and different ways I can be a role model for others to look up to.

Q: What was the motivation for you behind creating the Prom Dress Event on January 12th? What do you hope to accomplish with the event?

A: The motivation behind creating the Prom Dress Event was, one, to help girls in Holliston attending prom have the opportunity to save money because it can be quite expensive. In addition, hopefully this event will help eliminate some of the stress in texting several different girls around town to ask to try on their dress and borrow it. This event allows for all the dresses to be in one spot for girls to come to, look at the dresses and hopefully find their dress. My hopes for this event is to have as many girls as possible to walk out with a dress that fits them that doesn’t cost a fortune!

Q: Where does your passion for helping others come from and what advice would you have for others if they have yet to find their passion?

A: My passion to help others was ignited on my first mission trip to Mississippi. After that trip volunteering and service had a whole new meaning to me. I feel blessed to have the family, friends, education, and home I do and I feel a responsibility to help others and give back in any ways I can. My advice to others who have yet to find their passion is to keep an open mind and try lots of new things. Each day brings new opportunities and to find your passion it is crucial to capitalize on those opportunities and to not be closed off to new things.


Student Feature Fridays

Roy Mitri

IMG_1897This week’s student feature Friday is Roy Mitri who is currently a student at Holliston High School receiving post-graduate services. Roy has been developing many skills throughout his time at HHS and has found a strong passion for cooking. He has earned his ServSafe Food Handler Certificate, Food Equipment and Safety Training Certificate (Feast) and Mass Food Allergen Certificate. Roy just recently accepted his first paying job at Bertucci’s, working in the kitchen washing dishes and is looking forward to developing his role as an integral member of the team. In addition to working at Bertucci’s, he works at the Residence at Valley Farm, an independent Living, assisted Living & reflections memory care facility, Framingham Union and TC Scoops.

Roy has worked hard to find ways to get to work without a license and has found the MWRTA, which he takes to and from the Residence, so he doesn’t have to rely on his family and friends. He enjoys working at the Residence because of the cooking he is able to do but more so because of the people he works with and the sense of accomplishment he feels from the work.

Q: What is your favorite thing about cooking or working in kitchens?

A: I really enjoy working in a kitchen.  I do lots of different things. Sometimes I work with food.  Sometimes I do the dishes. I like it all. It is hard to pick a favorite thing. I like making things.  I did a cooking class last spring and it was really fun. I learned a lot of new things about cooking and being safe in a kitchen.

Q: What skills did you have to practice in order to be able to take the MTWRA bus by yourself to the Residence?

A: I had to know when to get to the bus stop, what stop I was getting on at, and what stop I was getting off at.  I also need to know when to pull the cord to signal to the bus driver that I am getting off. We looked over the MWRTA schedule a lot to practice. I also practiced riding the MWRTA with teachers before, and pulling the cord,  but I like riding by myself. Another skill I had to learn was to use the alarm on my phone so that I knew when I needed to stop working and walk to the bus stop.

Q: You recently were able to get your first paying job at Bertucci’s. What was the job interview like? What did you do to prepare to meet with the manager and what type of responsibilities to your have in your new position?

A: I met with Nick.  He asked me questions and showed me around Bertucci’s.  I practiced going over interview questions with Mrs. King and Heidi from the Metrowest Center for Independent Living. We practiced questions about where I had volunteered earlier, what certificates I have for the kitchen, when I can work, and what experiences I have.  In my job I wash the dishes and the roll silverware.

Q: You clearly love working in kitchens. What advice do you have for other students who haven’t found something that they love to do yet?

A: I would tell them keep on trying new things until they find something they like.


Student Feature Fridays

Will Flanagan

image1This week’s Student Feature Friday is senior Will Flanagan. Five minutes into our conversation it was hard not to be impressed by his maturity, genuine desire to improve his community and his love of learning. Will is currently the senior class president, athletic captain, club president, Eagle Scout, swim instructor and all around great person. Yet with all of these accomplishments he remains humble and ready to serve his community. Through tennis, which he describes as being introduced to by his grandfather when he “started walking”,  and diving on the swim team he fulfills his need to be active and sees his constant improvement as incredibly rewarding. Will’s academic focus is met through his rigorous courses, participation in Model United Nations and his membership in NHS.

Although his academic and athletic accomplishments are impressive, it is his drive to help others through community service that sets him apart. Will just completed his Eagle Scout project which focused on renovating the garage of a group home for adults with Autism and turning it into a multipurpose room. Although he does not have a background in construction, with the help of his father and other members of the troop, he successfully turned a two-car garage that was not being utilized into a welcoming space where residents of the home could come together to socialize and play games with one another. The renovation was not easy and required patching and rebuilding walls, painting, electrical, flooring and design layout for the best use of the space. Will persevered and when asked about his experience he stated, “Hard work does pay off.”

Q: We spoke a lot about your Eagle Scout project and the significant commitment it took to complete. What was the most meaningful aspect of the project for you? What was your biggest takeaway?

A: The most worthwhile aspect of the project for me was knowing that I was making a difference in the current and future residents of the home. I was able to make a meaningful impact in the lives of the young men.

Q: So many of the activities you are involved in require strong leadership skills. Why do you gravitate towards rolls that require you take on this responsibility? How did you first begin to develop those leadership skills and what do you view as the role of a strong leader?

A: For me, I have always wanted to make sure I left a mark in whatever group I participated in. I have always believed there is always room for improvement, and I want to make what I am part of better than it was before. I first began developing my leadership skills in boy scouts when I became the youngest Senior Patrol Leader to lead the troop. I have carried the skills I have learned in scouting and continue to develop them as a captain for my two sports teams, president of the class, president of two clubs, and a teen leader on the mission trip I went on this summer to Texas. I am always looking for opportunities to learn and grow as a leader and as a person. A good leader to me has to be able to put themselves out there. Not only should they be good role models, but someone not afraid of failure and taking risks.

Q: What interests you about pursuing International Relations or Global Studies in college?

A: My travel experiences and the French Immersion has given me a thirst for knowledge on global news, issues, and cultures. Having been through the French Immersion program at Holliston, this has broadened my view of the world and has made me interested in francophone regions such as West Africa. Traveling to Peru for three weeks with the school two summers ago was one of the best experiences of my life. I was able to study the global issue of climate change while getting to immerse myself in a completely new culture, and I hope to take advantage of similar opportunities in college. I want to pursue an interdisciplinary degree in college with a global focus such as international business, international relations, or global studies. I have always been fascinated by the world, and I want to learn about the cultures of places so different from home. With the world becoming a smaller place through technology and travel, I think it is very important to be well educated about the world around us and the many issues at hand.

Q: You have clearly found many activities that you are passion about. What advice do you have for students who haven’t found their passion yet?

A: I think the best advice I could give is to get involved with an assortment of activities that look interesting and see which ones stick. Taking risks and trying something completely out of your comfort zone may be nerve-wracking, but can have amazing outcomes. If someone had told me 5 years ago I would end up class president, I would have thought they were crazy. I took a risk and put myself out there, and I could not be more happy with where I have ended up.


Student Feature Fridays

Jack Garvey

imageOur first Student Feature Friday this year is sophomore Jack Garvey and I could not think of a better student to start of the year. Multiple people recommended Jack for this segment and after spending a few minutes chatting with him, the reasons for the recommendation are clear. Jack is mature, thoughtful and kind and is already a role model for his peers. He spoke of two main passions: sports and working with Best Buddies. Jack is insatiable when it comes to sports. When asked why he loves sports so much he spoke about having vivid memories of attending his 1st Patriots game against the Bills over Winter Vacation and his 1st Red Sox game with his father in 3rd grade. However, his favorite sport to watch is college football! Jack is interested in all things sports is currently looking forward to continuing track & field during the winter and spring seasons.

Jack is also passionate about working with Best Buddies which “…builds one-to-one friendships between people with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), through school and community friendship programs that provide socialization opportunities to help erase the invisible line that often separates students or adults with and without IDD.” ( After joining last year he “was hooked” and looks forward to attending the meetings, eating lunch with his Buddies, and participating in the events (basketball clinic, board games and a potential field day in the Spring). Jack is already making a big impact in Best Buddies. One of his teachers stated that, “Jack’s Buddies are always excited to see him, whether it be in the hallways at school or working at Outpost.” Another teacher described Jack as going “above and beyond to include students in everything.” After spending any time with Jack it is clear that his compassion for others will make a significant difference in the community.

Q: You mentioned your favorite thing to do is play sports, listen to sports radio, talk about sports …. anything involved with sports.  What is it about sports that fascinates you so much?

A: Sports are a great outlet, they bring me a lot of inspiration and I like the camaraderie that sports provide. Sports are a source of motivation and hope for me. In a world that seems like there are so many things that divide us, sports bring us together and I don’t think anyone can argue with that.  For example, after the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, the Boston Strong movement began. I also like when I get to watch a game in person, and I get to forget about school and all of my responsibilities because I am so focused on the game.

Q: Can you describe your work with Best Buddies and why you are so passionate about joining this Chapter?

A: Joining Best Buddies is a great way to meet new people and the atmosphere is always happy because everyone is always welcoming at Best Buddies. The goal is to make everyone feel included. There are a lot of good friendships that form and it is nice to be a part of something that is doing a lot of good. It is also an organization that I believe in.

Q: Although you are still planning out what your independent study will look like, why are you interested in this type of learning environment?  Why are you interested in creating this different type of class for yourself?

A: The opportunity to take my passion for sports and make it my own little class is really cool. I am grateful to Mr. Calais for suggesting this to me and I am looking forward to working alongside Mr. Bailey, who is my advisor for this adventure of an independent study. Mr. Bailey and I have a sports talk radio show on WHHB 99.9FM and I have learned a lot from him. I am grateful for the opportunities that everyone around me has provided. I would also like to thank Mr Hickey, who goes out of his way to talk sports with me.

Q: What advice do you have for other students who haven’t yet found a club or activity they are passionate about?

A: There really is something for everyone and If you have not found a club or activity that you are passionate about then you could create your own. You could go to a few meetings and give them a try to see if the club is something you are interested in. I was a little nervous the first time I went to Best Buddies but now I look forward to it every month.  You never know if you will like something until you try it.


Student Feature Fridays

Nandini Mandaloju

image1This week’s Student Feature Friday is sophomore, Nandini Mandaloju who has devoted her time, energy and passion to helping others and exploring her culture through dance and music. Since she was 6 years old, Nandini has practiced one of the classical styles of Indian dance called Kuchipudi. By her 4th or 5th year, she was developing her talent and love for dance. She describes being on stage as “acting as different characters, allowing her to express her emotions in new ways.” In addition, Nandini is an avid singer of classical Indian music. “Singing and dancing allow me to stay closer to my heritage by singing in multiple Indian languages. It’s a culture blast and lets me feel closer to my ethnicity.”

Nandini is also passionate about helping others. Last summer she volunteered at a senior center where she served food to elders. The experience was life changing for her and she describes “an inner happiness you get from working with them.” She felt that she was able to bring a little happiness into their lives through service to others and it has inspired her to pursue a career as a doctor. Although she derived inspiration from this experience, she is truly an inspiration to others by her compassion and selfless devotion to the community. She plans to explore her love of art and science by studying medicine and continuing with multiple forms of art as a hobby.

Q: During our conversation you discussed your passion for art and science. How do you see yourself incorporating both into your life for the foreseeable future?

A: Art and science are often considered as polar opposites, but I always believed that I can incorporate both together in my life. Since childhood, I have developed a passion for art. Similarly, science had been a big area of interest which I wanted to pursue when I get older. Finding a way to blend my two favorite passions, I decided to create a science integrated art camp for elementary and middle schoolers. This way, I could satisfy both areas of interest and help elementary and middle schoolers develop a love for art and science as well. Running this camp inspired me to make art my leisure pastime in which I would be able to raise money towards philanthropic purposes. I see myself making science my career and art my hobby.

Q: You were chosen to participate in the Metrowest Youth In Philanthropy and had to work with other students to identify two non-profit organizations to donate money to through fundraising and money from the organization. Can you explain what this process was like and why you wanted to be involved?

A: After an interview with Youth in Philanthropy over the summer, I was chosen to participate in a 15-week long program which lasted throughout the first semester of the school year. Youth in Philanthropy (YIP) is an experiential leadership development program designed to empower and educate local youth to become our community’s next generation of philanthropists–those who give their time, talent and treasure for the common good. The project in YIP is to award two nonprofit organizations $5,000 each. The Metrowest Foundation will provide $9,000 while as a group we have to raise $1,000. After reviewing about 7 grants, we selected and visited four potential grantees, and cut it down to two organizations. We ended up raising $1,050 to go towards Waypoint Adventure and Horizons (Dedham). As a group, we made a major board presentation to convince the Metrowest Foundation to approve our decisions. Once the decisions were approved, we went ahead and awarded two nonprofits.

I wanted to be involved in YIP because I was always in love with humanity. I always wanted to give back to my community and see how local nonprofits work. Also, I saw this as a great opportunity to develop more leadership skills, see the needs of my community, and learn to work in a professional environment by participating in the grant evaluating process. YIP was an eye-opening experience because I got to see many communities work together to make a difference. This program has inspired me to give the proceeds of the science-art camp towards a local animal shelter and possibly open a nonprofit organization when I get older. The biggest takeaway from YIP is that philanthropy comes from the heart.

Q: What leadership skills have you developed through your participation in so many different activities and what have you learned about yourself?

A: My participation in so many different activities definitely helped me improve my leadership skills. Working at Kumon with children of ages 3 to 9 expanded my knowledge on how to take initiative in order to help students achieve their highest potential while making their learning environment fun. This gave me a sense of enjoyment and connection with them. I took responsibility in making the students finish their work on time. With improved communication skills, I motivated students to do well by having them set a goal every week I see them. Spending positive time with them helped me gain more confidence.

Also, dance and music gave me a rising sense of achievement and taught me humility and grace. I learned that hard work pays off with great perseverance. Lastly, volunteering at the senior citizen center made me realize that most seniors have life experiences and a wealth of knowledge much different than other younger generations. Furthermore, I noticed that smiles are universal – a smile can make one’s day. Altogether, all the activities I participated in made me a better person.

Q: Through dance, music, and volunteerism you have clearly developed a strong sense of who you are, what you are passionate about and where you see yourself in the future. What advice do you have for students who have yet to find their passion or direction?

A: It is okay if you haven’t found your passion yet because it is never too late to start. Try to stay open-minded and savor a different experience every day because you never know when something strikes a chord within you. Also, stay true to yourself and choose activities which lead to your happiness. Finally, focus on yourself and let go of any inhibitions you have.


Student Feature Fridays

Jayden Seto

IMG_0007This week’s Student Feature Friday is senior Jayden Seto. It is very apparent from talking to Jayden that he has a clearly articulated plan for the future, a plan that he has worked hard to create. As soon as a conversation with Jayden begins, it is hard to miss the maturity and self-awareness he exudes. Jayden is a self-described conversationalist and has found a path that will leverage his strengths and love of interacting with people, combined with a passion for politics. Next year he plans to attend Norwich University, participate in the ROTC program and major in political science. After graduation he looks forward to law school and feels that his time spent working with Mr. Marsden during his senior internship this year has solidified his decision to practice law.

In addition to his senior internship, Jayden dedicated a portion of the school year to designing and creating a website geared towards helping students understand the political arena and educate themselves on the different political parties in the United States. The project encountered its challenges along the way but Jayden persevered and felt it was a huge learning opportunity for himself. He has a bright future for himself in law and politics and looks forward to continuing to develop his leadership skills so that he can help others along the way.

Q: Earlier in the year you completed a senior project, creating a website to inform students of different political views of each party. Can you provide a little background on the website, what you were hoping to accomplish and why this project resonated with you?

A: When I elected to do a senior project, I knew that I must do something exciting that would also help better Holliston High school. One way I was able to personally connect with a wide range of people, is through American politics. I had the opportunity to take the lead in making something that I am passionate about. My ultimate goal was giving the students of Holliston High School a way to formulate their own political opinions during such a turbulent time in American politics. Although that was my goal, unfortunately, I am not able to push this project further or keep it to date, because I am graduating and cannot find students that are willing to continue this project.

Q: During our conversation I was struck by how clearly you were able to articulate your vision for the future. How did your internship with Mr. Marsden affect your desire to study law?

A: Working at my Internship with Mr. Jay Marsden was one of the best learning experiences I have had in my high school career. Articulating the future is one of the most important things anyone can have; it allows you to choose your own future, and do what you want to do. This internship helped me to look toward the future and see what I want to do for the majority of my life.

Q: How did you develop such strong self-advocacy and leadership skills during your high school career?

A: Although I have a learning disability, I was able to compensate in areas that I wasn’t as strong in. I also learned how to self-advocate for my needs in order to gain access to all of what our educational system offers. Leadership, leadership is a whole different ball game. Leadership skills are something that some people are born with, and others need to learn over time. I don’t see myself as a leader, but I have an undeniable thirst for learning and trying new things – if that entails taking charge and being a leader, then that is what I will do.

Q: What advice would you have for other students who are still trying to identify their passion/area of interest?

A: The best advice I can give other people, is to go out and meet new people. If you know what you want to do, go out and meet different types of people within the field/with the same interests. You never know, one/some of these people might end up helping you in your endeavors/open up doors, teaching/showing you things you did not know, or being your colleague/boss.