WOONSOCKET — It takes a lot of hard work to earn top scholastic honors in high school and Justyna Pietrus certainly did that on her way to become the high school’s valedictorian for the Class of 2012.
And like Hailey Kadisevskis, a Woonsocket Area Career and Technical Center student claiming the title of class salutatorian, Pietrus also graduates from high school with much more than just the top marks from her classes.
Pietrus spent her time at the high school playing the flute with the school’s concert and jazz bands, running on the cross country and track teams, and also serving as captain of the math team, treasurer of Future Business Leaders of America, and president of the school’s National Honor Society.
And as a senior this year, she capped her high school experiences with a trip to Rwanda with four of her classmates to learn about that country's experiences during the 1994 genocide claiming the lives of 800,000 people and its recovery in the years since.
It was all part of a philosophy Pietrus maintained to achieve her success and which has also helped her win a scholarship to Harvard University in the fall.
“I think you should accept opportunities when they present themselves to you. Once you set a goal for yourself, you shouldn’t shy away from achieving it,” she said.
Yes, Pietrus worked hard to achieve her academic success but at the same time she made the most of every opportunity that became available to her at Woonsocket High School, she explained.
“I challenged myself as much as a I could and I just tried to be as well rounded a person as possible,” she said.
In the end, that may have been an important asset in her selection for a scholarship at Harvard even if she is also following her brother Damian Pietrus' path to the school upon his graduation from the high school in 2010.
“Everybody who applies there has good grades,” Pietrus said. “It is all the other stuff that sets you apart.”
It also helped to set out on the path to success at Woonsocket High School with like minded students in her class. Pietrus will tell you that she got the idea of becoming a Valedictorian when she entered the first grade but also counts the academic camaraderie of her fellow classmates in the school's Advanced Placement and Honors classes as another component of her success, just as she does the teachers and coaches who have been her mentors.
“I had a group of friends who always took the same challenging classes and who all shared the same ideals,” she said. “We all wanted to work hard and go somewhere in life.”
That is a message that can help any student at the school achieve success, according to Pietrus.
“High school is what you make of it and you can always get a great education anywhere. It is the work you put in that matters,” she said. Pietrus is the daughter of Lucyna Pietrus of Woonsocket and the late Henryk Pietrus. She earned a GPA of 99.14 during high school and was selected to receive the Indoor Track Team Coaches Award, the Harvard Book Award, and the Jason Fairclough Memorial Camp Award. She is an active member of her church, serving as an alter server and Sunday School teacher and also was a member of the ski club, the National United Youth Association and Varsity Athletes Against Substance Abuse. She is considering a number of study options when she arrives at Harvard in the fall.
Kadisevskis also put in the hard work required for school success and counted on support from her family to meet her challenges.
“I just tried to stay up late and do homework a lot of nights and they always encouraged me, even when I said I don't feel like doing this.”
Kadisevskis, a Cumberland resident attending the Woonsocket Area Career and Technical Center and in turn the high school, said her selection as Class Salutatorian proves the work she put in on all those long nights was worth the effort.
“I would tell other students to try their best because in the end they won't regret anything and they will be proud of themselves,” she said.
While attending the Career Center's Child Studies/Human Services program and taking advanced placement and honors classes, Kadisevskis has also held an afterschool job with Rite Aid and completed a college Art class over the summer.
She is a member of the high school's National Honor Society, Skills USA, Future Business Leaders of America, the Cross Country and Track teams and also served as president of the Yearbook Committee. She is a recipient of the Hugh O'Brien Youth Leadership Award.
Kadisevskis is the daughter of Terri and David Kadisevskis of Cumberland. She earned a GPA of 97.9 percent during high school and will be joining the honors program at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA, where she intends to study business management.
High School Principal Lynne Bedard described the school's top students as very well deserving of their honors given their contributions to the school.
“They are awesome,” she said. “They are spirited students and they add a lot to our school in different ways,” she said.