Toll Gate High School’s graduating class of 2019 displayed outstanding resilience and an eager willingness to give back to the communities that raised them, according to Principal Candace Caluori.
“They have supported each other from the very beginning of their high school careers. First through the loss of their first principal in high school, and then through the death of their classmate, Gianna Cirella,” Caluori said. Even through these losses, she said that they still found ways to use their talents and strengths to give back to their communities through volunteer work.
Toll Gate’s top scholars this year embodied these values tenfold, serving as leaders and role models in their school community - and even across the state. Their dedication will take them to universities across the United States and even in Canada, where they will pursue a vibrant assortment of degrees and careers beyond graduation.
Alexander Gavitt earned the title of Valedictorian for the Class of 2019, ranking first in a class of almost 300 students. Motivated by the support of his family members and “excellent” teachers, he held many leadership positions and maintained academic excellence throughout all four years of high school. He will attend Dartmouth College in the fall, where he plans to major in physics.
He served as captain of the Mock Trial and Math teams, treasurer of the National Honor Society, and treasurer of his class’s Student Council. He was also a member of the Drama Club, the Science Olympiad, and the Academic Decathlon team, and became an Eagle Scout outside of school. He was named an AP Scholar with Distinction and a National Merit Finalist; he also received the RI Civic Leadership Award, the Senior Award for Outstanding Academics in Physics, and the Society of Women Engineers Award for Excellence in Natural Science and Mathematics.
When asked what memories would stay with him after high school, Gavitt reminisced about helping fellow students with physics problems, traveling to Reno for the National High School Mock Trial Championship, and staying up late to write essays for his AP European History class.
He stated that he would always remember “sitting in the front row at this year’s Drama show and being so proud of how everyone performed.”
“I just set out to be myself and to try to become the best person that I can be,” Gavitt wrote regarding personal success. “I had plenty of support, however, and without those people I may well have given up by now.”
Rebecca Carcieri earned the title of class salutatorian. She will attend Brown University in the fall, and plans to double major in history and economics.
Carcieri served as president of Toll Gate’s Concert Band, treasurer of the Student Senate, president of the National Honor Society, and captain of the Mock Trial team. She was also a member of the Rhode Island All-State Orchestra.
She won first place in the RI National History Day competition twice, and was selected to participate in the 2017 Normandy Sacrifice for Freedom Institute overseas in France. She received the Society of Women Engineers Award, the 2018 Billy Michal National Student Leadership Award, the Yale Book Award, and many others. She will most remember her trip to Reno for the National High School Mock Trial Championship, and the band’s trip to Six Flags every year.
Carcieri wrote, “My parents, specifically my mom, and Dr. Thalia Wood, the social studies department head who has served as a mentor for me over the past four years, have helped me reach this level of success and always helped me along the way.”
“I have always had a strong internal drive to try my very best and put 100% effort into everything I do,” she wrote.
Nicole Procaccini ranked third in the class and earned the title of Class Essayist. She credits the support from her friends, family, and coaches as motivation for her to excel, alongside “knowing that I am doing my very best.” She will attend Boston College in the fall, with a currently undecided major.
In addition to devoting herself to her studies, Procaccini also displayed a strong passion for athletics; she served as captain for the Field Hockey, Ice Hockey, and Lacrosse teams, all at the Varsity level. She was also a member of Varsity Athletes Above Substance Abuse (VAASA), which allowed her to serve as a positive role model for younger students and to pledge against drug abuse. In addition to her victories on the field, her scholastic achievements earned her the Brown Book Award.
She will always remember the friendships she formed, both in class and on sports teams, and credits her friends, family, teachers, and coaches as the source of her enjoyment of high school.
Steven Defreitas was ranked fourth in his class, working to the best of his ability to seek out the “immeasurable value of an education.” He will attend Worcester Polytechnic Institute in the fall, where he will pursue a dual degree in pre-med and biomedical engineering.
He participated in Soccer, Lacrosse, Student Senate, Jazz Band, and Concert Band. He was captain of the Track Team and Math Team, and was president of the senior class. He earned the Saint Michael’s Book Award, the Governor’s Special Recognition, and the Student of the Month title by the Guidance Department; he was also a College Board Nationally Recognized Hispanic Student. As a first generation American and college student, Defreitas always strove to make his family proud through his achievements.
“The people I’ve met along the way have taught me a multitude of valuable lessons that I will not soon forget,” he wrote. “These people have made me into the person I am today, and for that I am grateful.”
Ranking fifth in her class, Patricia Pakpahan sought out success in order to ensure her future would be bright. She will attend Southern Adventist University and major in Nursing.
She was inducted into the National, Rhode Island, and Spanish honor societies, and participated in the Volleyball and Math teams. She received the Rensselaer Medal and the URI Book Award.
Despite not growing up in Rhode Island, she made many connections that helped to make her experiences at Toll Gate special. “I’ve made some of the best, kind-hearted, and wild friends ever, and they made high school unforgettable.”
“I had the honor of having great teachers that really believed in me,” Pakpahan wrote. “My parents encouraged me every day to do the best that I can do.”
As number six in her class and a highly successful athlete, Alyssa Silvestre found herself constantly motivated by the endless support of her teammates, family, friends, and teachers. She will attend Rhode Island College to major in secondary math education.
She served as captain for the soccer and lacrosse teams, and was co-captain of the Varsity Athletes Above Substance Abuse (VAASA) program, which aims to end drug use among students. She was inducted into the Rhode Island and Spanish honor societies, and served as secretary for the National Honor Society. She received the All Division and All City soccer awards, the Saint Michael’s Book Award, the Rhode Island College Book Award, and the Gianna Cirella Memorial Scholarship.
For her success, Silvestre thanks her parents, brother, coaches, and friends.
“I wanted nothing more than to graduate proud of my accomplishments and to be able to say I made my family proud,” she wrote.
Andrew Powers ranked number seven in his class, his academic achievements motivated by “the desire for a successful future.” He will go on to the University of Rhode Island to study computer science.
During his time at Toll Gate, Powers participated in Math Team, the Foreign Film Club, and was inducted into the Spanish Honor Society. He cites his parents as the chief contributors to his success in high school.
“I will remember waking up earlier than I had appreciated,” he wrote regarding memories of high school.
Alyssa O’Keefe graduated eighth, citing her self-determination and hopes to succeed as her primary motivators. She will attend Fairfield University to major in business.
O’Keefe served as captain of the Field Hockey, Swim, and Lacrosse teams, received the Wellesley College Book Award, was inducted into the National, RI, and Spanish honor societies, and received the Field Hockey First Team All Division award as well as the All-Academic Field Hockey, Swim, and Lacrosse awards.
“I will remember the great memories I made with my friends and teammates,” she wrote. “My friends and family have always helped me succeed and bring enjoyment in my high school years.”
Allaire Allen ranked ninth, considering it important to do well in “anything that’s worth doing.” She will attend Bridgewater State University to major in Aviation Science and hopes to become a commercial airline pilot.
Allen participated in Best Buddies, was a student tutor, and was an ASK Mentor. She was a member of the Cross Country, Indoor, and Outdoor Track teams, and was an Academic All-State Award recipient for Cross Country. She received the Springfield College Book Award and was inducted into the RI, National, and French honor societies.
She will always remember field day with Warwick Vets High School before consolidation, and making it to the state meet for Cross Country.
Natalia Andrea Perez Useda
Natalia Andrea Perez Useda ranked tenth in her class, determined to take advantage of the “new start” she received upon moving to the US from Mexico at the age of 13. She will attend Trinity Western University and plans to major in biotechnology.
Useda was a member of the National, RI, and French honor societies, She played Volleyball and Lacrosse, and received the Varsity Letter Award for both sports; she was also a member of Varsity Athletes Above Substance Abuse. She participated in Concert Band and French Club.
She thanks her friends and family for their support.
“I will treasure a lot of memories that I made with my friends and many teachers. I will remember the school spirit of my class and how much I enjoyed being part of it.”