1. Virak Pond-Tor
Cranston West class of 2019 valedictorian Virak Pond-Tor will attend Brown University in the fall.
During his time at Cranston West, Pond-Tor has been a captain of the swim and volleyball teams, principal cellist for the orchestra, and a member of the cross country team, Chamber Orchestra, Math Team, Science Bowl and Calc Bowl.
His recognitions include the Jae S. Lim Foundation Award for outstanding performance in science, as well as the Rensselaer Medal Award, Senior Science Award, Departmental Award Excellence in Mathematics and Brown Book Award.
Pond-Tor said he will most remember his decision to join the school's volleyball team.
"My cousin was on the team at West and told me I should join as well," he said. "I practiced for almost two weeks with my cousin and my uncle, so I would not get cut. At the time, I had to idea the sport would impact my life so much."
Pond-Tor attributed his success to his friends, girlfriend and "all the faculty at the school who supported me."
In terms of his motivation to excel, Pond-Tor cited his parents and their story.
"They came from Cambodia during an extremely difficult time and found success here in America," he said. "I want to succeed so I don't waste all of their efforts."
2. Logan Chin
Logan Chin, salutatorian of Cranston West's class of 2019, plans to attend Brown University in the fall with a major in biochemistry.
During his time at Cranston West, Chin has served as president of the Student Council, a Class Council delegate and a member of the Student Leadership Committee. He has been a captain of the Science Olympiad, Academic Decathlon and Science Bowl teams and a member of the Math Team, junior varsity cross country team, Jazz Band, Marching Band, National Honor Society and Rhode Island Honor Society. He has also performed in several school talent shows and served as a freshmen mentor and peer tutor.
Chin's recognitions include highest honors and the Senior Science Award, AP Scholar Award, Senior Science Award, Yale Book Award, Excellence in AP U.S. History Award, Excellence Award in Instrumental Music, Outstanding New Band Member Award, Outstanding Veteran Band Member Award and Heart of a Mathematician honors.
He has also been honored for his performance on the Math Team, National Italian Exam and National Spanish Exam and during the RIMEA Solo & Ensemble Festival.
He additionally earned gold and bronze medals in Science Olympiad and a bronze medal in Academic Decathlon, finishing as the top team scorer in the latter for 2018.
Chin said he will remember the "wealth of experiences that I have had at West."
"From the many clubs I've participated in to my campaign for Student Council president to just learning in classes, I have experienced much at West," he said. "It's brought me across the world on a trip to Italy, across the country to Disneyworld, as well as all over the state as I competed at various academic competitions. I will remember the countless funny and impactful moments in class. I will remember the great school-wide events like the Winter Ball and Prom, as well as the senior tailgates. And, most importantly, I will remember the great teachers that I had here at West and the great friends that I made."
Chin said his teachers, friends and family contributed most to his success.
"I was motivated to excel for the sake of excelling," Chin said. "I don't try to live up to anyone. I simply try to push my own limits and set new records for myself."
3. David Fang
David Fang, who ranks third in Cranston West's class of 2019, plans to attend Brown University in the fall with a major in astrophysics.
During his time at Cranston West, Fang served as co-vice president of the National Honor Society and as a member of the Math Team, Science Olympiad and Science Bowl. He also participated in peer tutoring.
Fang's recognitions include the Bausch + Lomb Honorary Science Award, Outstanding Student of Spanish Award and Departmental Award for Excellence in Science. He was the school's top scorer in the Rhode Island Math League, a top scorer in the American Mathematics Contest on multiple occasions and a two-time bronze medallist in Science Olympiad.
"I will remember the friends and teachers I had at West, for they influenced me the most from my journey as a freshman to a senior," Fang said. "Honestly, if not for them, I may not have been as successful as I am now, and I am grateful for their support."
Fang said his sister, friends and teachers contributed the most to his success and enjoyment of high school.
In terms of his motivation to excel, he said: "The ability to improve motivates me to excel, as I hate the feeling of being unable to do something. If I care enough about that thing, I will practice at it until I excel at it. Half of it is not wanting to be inept at something and the other half is wanting to be one of the best at that thing."
4. Haley McCrystal
Haley McCrystal, who ranks fourth in Cranston West's class of 2019, plans to attend the University of Notre Dame in the fall with a major in environmental engineering.
During her time at Cranston West, McCrystal was president and a founder member of the Teen Leaders of Cranston Club, as well as a freshmen mentor and peer tutor. She served as treasurer of the Class Council, as captain of the varsity swim and lacrosse teams and as a member of the Academic Decathlon team. She has also been a member of the Kent County YMCA swim team, a volunteer with the Hugh O'Brien Youth Leadership Organization and director of the Running for Remission Charity 5K Road Race to support Hasbro Children's Hospital.
McCrystal's recognitions include highest honors, the General Treasurer Seth Magaziner Young Leader Award and the Wellesley College Book Award. She was a bronze medallist in Academic Decathlon and a Presidential Scholar nominee, and was named to the RIIL Second Team All-Division for girls swimming in Division II.
"I will remember spirit week, pep rally and going to football games with my friends," she said. "I will remember the life-changing mentors I met and the amazing sports teams and activities I participated in. I have formed such strong bonds with so many of my teammates and coaches, for which I am truly grateful, as they pushed me to excel in all aspects of my life … I always felt at home at West and I never had a shadow of a doubt that I made the right choice to come to this school."
McCrystal credited her parents, best friends, teammates, teachers, guidance counselors and extended family for their support and encouragement.
"There will truly never be anything in my life quite like the community of Cranston West," she said.
In terms of her motivation to excel, McCrystal said: "I never really knew that I was excelling. I just always had the desire to learn and to use what I had learned to help others succeed, as I always tutored my friends. I also was always fascinated by my teachers and just genuinely enjoyed learning from them and their life experiences."
5. Olivia Perrotta
Olivia Perrotta, who ranks fifth in Cranston West's class of 2019, will attend Boston College in the fall to study biology as part of a pre-med track.
During her time at Cranston West, Perrotta served as vice president of the Student Council and Class Council and a member of the yearbook, basketball team, science outreach program and freshman mentor program. She also served as a peer tutor and took part in a mission trip to Blessed Assurance Orphanage in Jamaica.
Perrotta's recognitions include membership in the National Honor Society, the AP U.S. History Award, the Holy Cross Book Award, the Spanish Award and the Rhode Island Civic Leadership Award.
"I will remember all of the friendships I have formed and the memories I have made through sports and the activities I was involved in, she said.
Perrotta credited her parents and her sister, Sophia, as her "biggest supporters."
"They have pushed me to achieve all of my academic goals, but most importantly have helped me to become the best person I can be," she said.
She added, "The amazing teachers and guidance counselor I have had at West helped me to become successful in the classroom and encouraged me to set high goals for my education."
In terms of her motivation to excel, Perrotta said she has "always been driven to take on any challenge and to allow myself to grow as a student and a person."
6. Michael Tortolani
Michael Tortolani, who ranks sixth in Cranston West's class of 2019, plans to attend Northeastern University in the fall with a major in chemical engineering.
During his time at Cranston West, Tortolani was a member of Science Olympiad, the Math Team, That Falcon Band (pep, marching and concert) and the freshman mentor program. He served as captain of the cross country team and varsity indoor and outdoor track and field teams during his senior year.
Tortolani's recognitions include membership in the National Honor Society, Rhode Island Honor Society and National Spanish Honor Society, as well as Academic All-State Honors for cross country and indoor track and field. He also received an Excellence Award in instrumental music and was named to the All-East Coast indoor track and field team.
"I will remember my experience in band, especially the trip to Disney in my junior year to perform," he said. "I will also remember my career as a runner for the cross country, and indoor and outdoor track and field teams."
Tortolani said his parents and friends contributed most to his success. He said his sister provided his motivation to excel.
"My sister graduated from West in the top 10 three years ago, and I was motivated to succeed and follow in her footsteps," he said.
7. Will Walmsley
Will Walmsley, who ranks seventh in the Cranston West class of 2019, plans to attend the University of Southern California in the fall with a major in gender studies.
During his time at Cranston West, Walmsley has acted in the theater program and been a member of A.T.O.M.S. (Accelerated Teaching of Modern Science), Best Buddies and the Math Team. He also served as public relations coordinator and webmaster for the theater board, participated in the Follies/Winter Show and was a member of the Unified Volleyball Division III champions.
Walmsley's recognitions include the Harvard Book Award, Spanish National Honors Award, Mark Marella Memorial Scholarship, AP Literature Analysis Award, AP Spanish Language and Culture Award, All-State Acting Awards in 2016 and 2018 and Silver Distinction on the National Spanish Exam.
"I will most remember the relationships I have developed with my classmates and teachers. My senior year has been emotionally and physically trying, but the support of this year's teachers who truly care about my happiness and success has made it all worth it," he said. "I will most remember the moments I've shared with these amazing contributors to the community. I will also remember the hours I spent on the Cranston West Alumni Auditorium stage in rehearsals and during performances. I hope to continue theater in the future but I'll never forget where this passion began."
Walmsley credited his closest friends for his success, saying they "pushed me to be my best and also to not take myself too seriously." He specifically cited Leah Ragosta, of whom he has been a classmate since elementary school.
"If I didn't have her to study with and act a fool in class, I don't know how I could've made it through high school," he said.
Walmsley also thanked his parents and guidance counselor, who "pushed me to do what I love and pursue things that I'm passionate about."
8. Leah Ragosta
Leah Ragosta, who ranks eighth in the Cranston West class of 2019, plans to attend Northeastern University in the fall to study chemical engineering and biochemistry.
During her time at Cranston West, Ragosta served as co-captain of Science Olympiad, captain of the varsity tennis team, president of the National Honor Society and as a member of the National Spanish Honor Society, National Art Honor Society, Math Team and Girl Up.
Her recognitions include the Women in Engineer Award, AP U.S. History Award and Tennis First Doubles All-Division Award.
Ragosta said she will most remember the teachers "who supported me throughout my high school career."
"They were devoted to my success and learning more than words can describe, and I am endlessly thankful," she said. "Their kindness and wisdom will never be forgotten."
Ragosta attributed her success to her parents and her friends.
"My mom and dad have always been so supportive and understanding. They push me to be the best me I can be," she said. "Also, my best friend, Will Walmsley, has been by my side for over 10 years, always giving me advice and reminding me who I am."
In terms of her motivation to excel, Ragosta cited her "inner curiosity to learn about the world around me."
"I have always wanted to understand the nature of things and hopefully one day make a change for the better," she said.
9. Matthew Tortolani
Matthew Tortolani, who ranks ninth in the Cranston West class of 2019, plans to attend Northeastern University in the fall to study mechanical engineering.
During his time at Cranston West, Tortolani served as captain of the volleyball team, an officer of the Science Olympiad team and a member of the soccer team and Math Team.
His recognitions include being named South County Volleyball Player of the Year; membership in the Rhode Island, National, and Spanish honor societies; an Excellence in Instrumental Music Award; finishing as a high scorer in the American Mathematics Contest; and winning second place in thermodynamics in Science Olympiad.
Tortolani also spoke of his experience as a member of the school band.
"For four years, band has been a place where I can relax and have fun. Band is something I look forward to every day," he said. "Stepping onto the field and performing on Fridays nights is one of the best feelings in the world, and it is something I will remember forever."
Tortolani attributed his success to his friends and teachers.
"Being able to go to school and enjoy my classes is a blessing, and I am thankful to have friends that allow this to happen," he said. "My teachers have pushed me to do well, and have encouraged me to take the extra step to better myself."
In terms of his motivation to excel, Tortolani spoke of his family and friends.
"While my parents have also pushed me to get good grades, it was my brother and sister that motivated me to excel. Looking at them, I've always been urged to compete and succeed as they do," he said. "The same goes for my friends. I look up to them, and how well they have succeeded, and I want to do as well as they do. I am very proud of my friends and all that they have accomplished."
10. Jessica Tennett
Jessica Tennett, who ranks 10th in the Cranston West class of 2019, plans to attend Fordham University in the fall to study integrative neuroscience.
During her time at Cranston West, Tennett has been a member of the tennis team, Math Team, Academic Decathlon, National Honor Society, Rhode Island Honor Society and Falcon Friends peer tutoring program. Her recognitions include excellence honors in both AP U.S. History and Spanish V Honors/EE.
Tennett said she will most remember "all of the laughs shared with my friends and peers" during her high school career.
"My family, friends and teachers have contributed most to my success and enjoyment of high school," she said.
Regarding her motivation to excel, Tennett cited her "desire to make my parents and myself proud."
"I do not want to live an average life," she said. "I want to make a lasting difference in the world."