County association honors 'best of best' students

By Danielle Camilli -

WESTAMPTON — The star students honored at the 25th annual Burlington County Academic Achievement Dinner have conquered the classroom, but they were encouraged to be lifelong learners and go “gung-ho” into the future.

The Burlington County Principals and Supervisors Association honored 67 students from the county’s 21 high schools during Tuesday’s dinner at the Burlington County Institute of Technology. Eight of the honorees were three-year winners being recognized as the top students while they were 10th-, 11th- and 12th-graders.

All the students received award statues and proclamations from the New Jersey Legislature delivered by local Assemblymen Herb Conaway and Troy Singleton and New Jersey State Board of Education member Joseph Fisicaro of Evesham.

Haasya Kanamarlapudi of Bordentown Regional Middle School received the eighth-grade $750 scholarship award. Alexandra Potts of Seneca High School in Tabernacle received the $2,000 Dr. Gerry Archuletta Memorial Scholarship for high school students.

The night brought out parents, principals, superintendents and other administrators to celebrate the achievements of their top learners. Each year, the association honors students who, as of the end of the first semester of the school year, represent the highest standards of academic achievements and educational excellence in the county.

New Jersey Superintendent of the Year Christopher Manno, the top administrator at the Burlington Township School District, delivered the keynote speech that challenged the students to live the principles featured in the book “Gung Ho!”

Those principles, and their associations with squirrels, beavers and geese, got the dinner crowd’s attention. Manno urged the students to tap into “the spirit of the squirrels” and find work that matters.

“Worthwhile work is important work that we know makes our piece of the world around us a better place,” he said. “Worthwhile work has its foundation in our core values and core beliefs.”

And like beavers, the students were challenged to be team players and bring all their talents to the job.

“It’s about knowing our place in the world and being the best at it,” Manno said.

The high achievers, many of whom also fill their high school lives with sports, community service and other activities, also were told they could learn a lot from the geese in the sky as they encourage one another to take the lead in the V formation.

“The geese are actually cheering each other on. … It’s about building them up rather than tearing them down, and bringing enthusiasm to our work and supporting and encouraging others,” Manno said.

Finally, the superintendent encouraged the teens to serve others, set goals and find joy in what they do, read something worthwhile every day, and take time to breathe and smile.

“After attending this event for so many years, I have come to the conclusion (that) it is truly you the students who inspire us the adults, the leaders and the policymakers to be our best,” he told the crowd.

Willingboro junior Joshua Fulton said it was exciting to be recognized for his achievements and for valuing his education.

“It gets you ready for the real world, and if you have a good work ethic in school, that will continue into the real world. It prepares you,” Joshua said. “It feels good to be here and feels good to be appreciated for all the hard work we put into school. It’s an honor to be here.”

Burlington Township senior Abigail Tootell said that she was ready to select a college to attend in the fall and that the dinner was a nice honor for all the hard work she and the other students put in.

“It makes all the time studying worth it,” Abigail said.

She also said she enjoys learning something new in her Advanced Placement classes and being challenged by the work.

For Riverside’s Marcela Bosco, the dinner was her third in her years at BCIT-Westampton. Marcela wants to use her cosmetology talents and skills and her academic know-how to open her own salon. She will attend college for business administration or management in the fall, she said.

“Our education and high school is really the first steps into our future,” she said. “We learned the value of hard work, and I’m very grateful to my parents, teachers and principals who helped me along the way and got me here tonight.”

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