2017 Newark High School Grad Ian MacTaggart speaks at Academic Excellence Dinner

Without question, Ian MacTaggart made the most of his years at Newark High School.

Before he spoke at the annual Academic Excellence Awards Dinner November 5th, NHS English teacher Chelsea Fladd, who coordinated the event, enumerated MacTaggart’s myriad accomplishments at NHS during his remarkable high school career that culminated with him being the choice of staff and peers to receive the annual Merit Cup award at commencement.

“This NHS alumni has left a lasting impact on this school,” Fladd said. “He is currently attending the University at Buffalo and is in his second year in Biomedical Sciences with a minor in Public Health. Continuing his trend of excellence in academics from high school, 3 years on High Honor Roll all 4 quarters and Principal’s list his senior year, Ian has made Dean’s List all four semesters his past two years at Buffalo.

“Aside from Ian’s accomplishments in the classroom (while at NHS), his accolades outside of the classroom were astounding,” she continued. “Ian has played a role in nine theater productions, six of which he was cast as a lead role. He also was a member of the Concert band, Jazz Band and Wind Ensemble and participated in All-County during his junior year, in addition to participating in the the Hochstein School of Music Wind Symphony.

“Furthermore, Ian was president during his junior year of Health Occupations for Students of America (HOSA) and went from Junior Member to Corporal in the Newark Arcadia Volunteer Ambulance (NAVA) group.

“Anyone who knows Ian knows he is very social and wants to include everyone whenever possible. His contagious smile and jubilant demeanor has been shared through his part time job at Wegmans, his church, internships at local hospitals, and on athletic teams where has won several awards. His Script N citations are more than one can easily count which helped attribute to his success on earning the Merit Cup . . . Ian is the type of leader who wants to reach out and help influence others, which he did while involved in the Link Crew program as a Link Leader, welcoming the incoming Freshmen class and assisting a small group of Freshmen as a mentor the entire year. His genuine

concern for others is not only contagious but also refreshing, which he demonstrated as a team player on Newark’s first ever Unified Basketball Team.

“All of these outstanding achievements and qualities led Ian to be the leader he is today. He is the quintessence of accomplishing his ambitions and following his dreams of achievement which have led to his success. He started out in the same way you all did: as students in the same desks you sit in every day! Ian set goalsin his life and took charge of how he was going to accomplish them. He is the epitome of personal victory.”

But MacTaggart’s talk at the dinner at which students in grades 10, 11 and 12 who earned an average of 90 or better during each quarter of the 2017-18 school year were recognized for their outstanding achievement, touched on, well, something rather unexpected.


“Failure does not follow a strict definition and nor does it care to try,”MacTaggart said. “Even though I am only a year and a half out of high school I want to share how failure has affected my life and academic career and how it has made me more successful than I could have imagined.

He’d had his heart set on attending Binghamton University where he and his best friend Nick Tarplee wanted to major in biomedical engineering on a pre-med track. Tarplee, also a 2017 NHS grad was accepted, but to MacTaggart’s utter disappointment, he was put on a waitlist. That news “flipped his world upside down.”

“I simply could not fathom that I was waitlisted. Luckily I had people in my life like my parents and several faculty members like Mr. Flanagan and Ms. LaPaglia to pull me back to earth. All of their advice echoed the same message, that this is not the end of the world and that there are other options,” MacTaggart recalled.

Having applied to four schools, he was accepted at his second choice _ Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, but the $40,000 annual tuition he’d have to come up with in spite of being awarded at $100,000 scholarship, was way too steep. Stony Brook University, his third choice also put him on a waitlist. But his least favorite choice, UB (University at Buffalo) accepted him right out of the gate.

Heeding the advice he’d received, MacTaggart toured UB again and decided to attend there in the fall of 2017, knowing he could transfer to another college if he didn’t like it. No sooner had he sent his housing and tuition desposit to UB, Binghamton University called, saying he could join their liberal arts school the following spring. He declined.

To his amazement, MacTaggart said the waitlist decisions and moments of panic and hopelessness launched him into a school and area that he loves.

“I have excelled academically, met life-long friends, like my current roommate Nimish from Mumbai, India; became vice president of one of the largest student clubs and along with my executive board, brought in one of the most popular political pundits in the country to an audience of 700,’’ he continued. “And most importantly I have enjoyed and will continue to enjoy my time there.”

Despite his successes at UB, MacTaggart said there were also some other setbacks along the way.

“Before I even started at UB we had to sit through a 3-hour session specifically on our major. Long story short, I was not a fan of biomedical engineering and the kind of work that it entailed. It wasn’t what I thought it would be and I realized that I wouldn’t be able to keep my GPA up if I took on the difficult coursework in something I didn’t enjoy learning about. So at the end of the session when the biomedical engineering advisor asked the room ‘Does anyone know that they want to change their major?’ I was the only one to raise my hand. Now I am in biomedical science, a major I very much enjoy and still kept me on the pre-med track.

MacTaggart also noted he’d been waitlisted last year after applying to be a resident assistant in his dorm complex. But instead of letting it rock his world, he decided to pursue backup plan he’d had in mind.

“I enjoyed my time at Newark Arcadia Volunteer Ambulance during high school so I took an EMT course and got my EMT certification last summer at FLCC. I applied for a job a month ago with an agency (Twin City Ambulance) that covers the suburbs of Buffalo and was denied employment mainly due to my availability during the school year. So now I am going to work as an EMT here in Newark over winter break to get more experience and reapply over the summer with Twin City Ambulance.

MacTaggart said what initially seemed like negatives, have proven to be just the opposite.

“All of these occurrences and more have only led to better opportunities and I still have done very well throughout my short time in college and plan on continuing on that path. I think it is important to talk about failure because it is going to happen and I feel that I should have been more prepared for it. I did not hear it enough in high school and I hope the experiences that I shared with you here tonight show you what it showed me _ that everything happens for a reason. The path you follow may not be the one you imagined but that may be for the better. My advice to you is to keep your mind open and if a door closes, do not stare at it but look for others that may be open.

In closing, MacTaggart congratulated all the students being recognized at the Academic Excellence Awards  Dinner.

Seniors I wish you luck in wherever you go in next year and sophomores and juniors good luck in these next few years and do not forget to have a good time.”

NHS Principal Tom Roote spoke after MacTaggart, welcoming everyone and congratulating students being honored.

Class of 2019 students recognized included: Natalie Acquista, Abigail Belliveau, Haley Brown, Jasmine Bueso, Megan Bullock, Sierra Caldwell, Liam Childs, Caitlin Chopan, Alexander Collom, Emma Correia, Anabel Darling, Madison Dillion, Jayden Durfee, Amanda DuVall, Casey Fox, Jacqueline Furfaro, Elizabeth Henniger, Jake Huber Bryson LaBerge, Joseph Malach, Bailey McCormick, Alberto Morales,  Emma Perrone, Chastity Reynolds, Connor Robbins, Zachary Rodrick, Damon Rogers, Colin Steiner, William VanDusen, Medina VanDuyne, Alexandra Ventura, Mallory Williams and Dylan Wong.

Class of 2020 students recognized included: Phoebe Bates, McKenna Briggs, Adria Brown, Kelsie Bushart, Benjamin Cepulo, Sami Chamberlain, Jenna Duffy, Hannah Fisher, Cherylanne Garrett, Andrew Greene, Lynzee Havert, Emma Healy, Stephen Hughes, Matthew Hutteman, Evelyn LoTempio, Lauren MacTaggart, Cameron McAllister, McKinley Miller, Luis Ortiz, Nadia Rothpearl, Deborah Szarek, Emily Tang, Madeline Tulloch, Elana Verbridge-Day, Emily Wells and Kayla Williams.

Class of 2021 students recognized included: Ashley Allegretti, Jalen Bel, Alexandra Briggs, Faythe Burns, Jensyn Cintron, Michaela Colacino, Phillip Collom, Isabelle Figueroa, Rachel George, Ryan Hermanet, Morgan Hildreth, Nicholas LaVilla, Leah Lockwood, Joshua Mercer, Layla Naschke, Preston Precourt, Emma Robbins, Ryan Rossell, Stephen Skvarek, Jacob Stalker, Brenna Stefanides, Carter Steve, Julius Teabout and Cameron Watson.

“It is with deep gratitude and special pride and honor that I have the chance to address you here this evening as we celebrate the accomplishments of our most academically gifted,” Roote said. “Unfortunately for our honorees, this recognition does not represent the closing of a difficult chapter only to be replaced with a simpler one. Instead, this is really a turning of the page to more perseverance and grittiness.

“When considering what message to share with you tonight I was drawn to the calendar as I often am when seeking inspiration,” Roote continued. “Two dates drew my attention. First, was November 6 or Election Day. In the United States, Election Day is the day set by law for the general elections of federal public officials. It is statutorily set as “the Tuesday next after the first Monday in the month of November” or “the first Tuesday after November 1”. The earliest possible date is November 2, and the latest possible date is November 8. This year, we are looking at November 6. Election Day is a public holiday in some states. Some other states require that workers be permitted to take time off with pay. There you have it, a few fast facts about Election Day.

“The second date that caught my attention is a bit more somber,” he said. “On February 14, 2018, a gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killing seventeen students and staff members and injuring seventeen others. It was the deadliest shooting at a high school in United States history, surpassing the Columbine High School massacre which took place April 20,1999. The shooting was the deadliest mass shooting of 2018 and came at a period of heightened public support for gun control following the attacks in Las Vegas, Nevada and Sutherland Springs, Texas.

“Given your bright futures in our democracy and the impact social issues are having on today’s young people, I ask you to do what many students impacted by the Parkland Shooting are doing and consider how you can have an impact, how can you turn lofty dreams into realities?

“Several news outlets have reported, ‘Parkland students are finally facing the moment they’ve been leading up to with marches, school walkouts and voter-registration events throughout the country: their first Election Day. The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student activists set their sights on the 4 million U.S. citizens turning 18 this year. They’re hoping to counteract the voter apathy that’s especially prevalent among the youth during midterm elections. Jaclyn Corin, one of the founders of the March For Our Lives group states, ‘This is truly the moment that young people are going to make the difference in this country.’

“I will close by asking you to use your voice, use your intelligence to be powerful! Whether it is readying yourself for your first election or whether it is simply sharing a smart, well crafted opinion to effect some change, I dare you to have a voice and make a difference in this country.

Then Roote and Assistant Principal Robyn Ross-Squirrell presented students with certificates of recognition for their academic achievement. Not all students were able to attend the event.

Dinner guests, included Superintendent Matt Cook, Krista Lewis, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction, Jennifer Singer, Director of Pupil Services, Monica Stadler, Assistant Director of Pupil Services; Board of Education President Russell Harris and BOE member and parent Yvonne MacTaggart; other parents and guests. Fladd thanked everyone involved in the Academic Excellence Awards Dinner.

“This is the fourteenth year that the Rewards and Incentives Committee has hosted the Academic Excellence Awards Dinner,” Fladd said. “Tonight’s dinner will be served by the following members of our faculty: Becky Hauf, Danielle McGavisk, Lindsey Lapaglia, Lori Reed, Elaine Esan, Haley Curley, Justin Fladd, Alex Hennessy, Becca Yuhas, Shannon Hersh and Mark Eakins.”

She also noted that students who had been recognized for two or more consecutive years at the Academic Excellence Awards dinner would receive an athletic pass. This pass will allow these students to attend all athletic events for the upcoming year at NHS for free.

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