East's top ten students represent wide variety of passions


Cranston High School East’s top 10 graduating students, based on highest grade point average, took East by storm while thundering towards a top-10 finish out of an estimated 359 students in the class of 2018. These 10 not only represent high academic achievement while in high school, but a variety of skillsets that will translate towards successful college educations and future careers.  All ten will be continuing their educational pursuits at various colleges next year.

Hannah Joyce

East’s valedictorian for the class of 2018 was Hannah Joyce, who will be continuing her studies at Brown University in the fall, where she plans on concentrating in either math or some type of science.

Joyce said that she thrives on being challenged, which motivated her to take rigorous courses at East and learn as much as she could. She wants to continue pushing herself so she can see how far she can go in life, and in the process gain as much knowledge and have as many experiences as she can.

While at East, she will always remember the teachers who provided her with a positive and supportive learning environment that allowed her to “sincerely enjoy” going to class. She will also remember the experiences she had outside of the classroom as a concertmaster of orchestra, one of the founders of the school’s first math team, and a first singles tennis player.

Joyce was an all-state senior orchestra selection for her mastery of the violin, and for her educational achievements she was awarded the Harvard Book Award, Spanish Award, and Excellence in Music award from East.

She credits her friends for contributing the most to her enjoyment of high school, saying that all of them encouraged, supported and rooted for each other both in and out of the classrooms.  And even as the workload became more difficult, she said, they always found a reason to laugh.  She’s especially grateful of fourth-ranked Chelsea Asare’s friendship, which she said was indispensable to her success.

Her parents also encouraged her to do her best, she said, and she owes her success to them and their unwavering belief in her potential.

Joyce’s ultimate goal in the future is to be happy and find work that she loves doing and will ultimately help make the world a better place.

Nathaniel Hardy

Nathaniel Hardy, this year’s salutatorian at Cranston East, will also be heading to Brown University next year.

Hardy said he was motivated to excel in school by his own desire to learn new things and better understand the world around him. He also attributes much of his success in school to his teachers, his friends and his family, for all of their support and encouragement. He said they’ve all made his years at East worth remembering.

He’ll most remember the experiences he’s had inside and out of the classrooms at East, and especially the many people he’s formed relationships with who have affected his beliefs, his priorities and even his sense of humor to make him the person he is today.

For extracurricular activities, Hardy was a captain of the varsity soccer team, vice president of national honor society, a math team captain, and a member of the national art honor society.

For his achievements, he was awarded the Rensselaer Medal for Achievement in Math and Science, the Scholastic Art Gold Keye Award in Illustration and Mixed Media, and the Social Studies Department Excellence in History Award, among other awards.

At Brown, he is considering being a history major, but is keeping his options open as he considers what avenue to head down.

Leah Struminsky

The third-ranked student in this year’s class at East was Leah Struminsky, whose passion for science has motivated her to pursue a health studies education at the University of Rhode Island next year.

She said that one of her fondest memories from her time at East will be participating in the science club, where, thanks to her teammates and teachers, “there was never a dull moment.” She said it was rewarding to medal at the science Olympiad competitions the past two years.

While at East, she also participated in class council, national art honor society and national honor society. She won numerous awards in science, art, and social studies as a result of her work in school.

She feels that she’s lucky to have been taught by “such dedicated and lighthearted teachers” and to have been able to spend her time before, during, and after the school day with classmates and friends that she liked.

Her family especially motivated her to excel, as she looked at her older sister as a role model for what kind of determination she should put into her pursuits. She also is grateful to have had her twin brother by her side to motivate her and help her whenever she needed it. She looks forward to continuing her efforts next year at URI.

Chelsea Asare

A wide variety of experiences at East led Chelsea Asare, this year’s fourth-ranked student in the class, to Harvard University next year, where she will be concentrating her studies in either neuroscience or psychology.

Outside of the classrooms at East, Asare played volleyball all four years, was a co-captain on the math team, a section leader in orchestra, and volunteered her time at Miriam Hospital.

While in school, she formed close bonds with her classmates, especially her friends Hannah Joyce and Shevanna Yee, and was glad to be part of a positive environment in which “everyone was always willing to help others learn and flourish.”

She said that these friendships contributed the most to her enjoyment of high school, along with her family, guidance counselor Rick Gebhart, and teachers, who also supported her in her pursuits and helped brighten her day when she needed it.

Asare was especially interested in math and science, and found that she loved learning new things about subjects that interested her. Being able to gain knowledge helped her appreciate the education she was getting and motivated her to work even harder en route to college.

Asare’s mom also set a powerful example for her and motivated her the most out of anyone else after immigrating to the United States and constantly supporting Asare and her older brothers.

Asare made all-division for volleyball, earned excellence awards in music and engineering, and was named one of Cranston’s “best and brightest” students. She’ll take all of her memories and experiences at East with her to Harvard next year.

Nathan Harding

The fifth-ranked student in East’s class of 2018 was Nathan Harding, who plans on studying computer science at the University of Rhode Island next year.

While at East, he participated in the math and science clubs, but also tried his hand in fencing, going on to become vice president of the school’s fencing club. He was the highest scorer on the math team in his junior and senior years and was a silver medallist for Mission Possible at the science Olympiad. He also received the American Mathematics award and a number of scholarships for school.

His desire to attend college motivated him to excel in school, along with his teachers and friends, who contributed the most to his success and enjoyment of high school.  He said he’ll remember the long classes as well as the good times he had at Cranston East.

Brenna Rojek

Brenna Rojek excelled in all aspects of school – from academics to sports – as she made her way to the number six spot in this year’s top 10 graduates.

She was a captain of the school’s lacrosse and soccer teams, and participated in indoor track for her first two years in high school. She was also the president of the National Honor Society and a member of the national arts honors society as well.

Being a part of those sports teams gave Rojek a way to make new friends and develop her social life at school, fostering for herself a lively and happy personal life and aura. She won the senior superlative for most spirited this year. Her most fond memories will be the ones she made with her sports teams, especially after big wins when her “vocally challenged” teams would attempt to sing on the bus ride home.

The friends that she made at school, along with her family, especially her younger sister Reagan, and teachers made her time at East a memorable one, and constantly supported her as she pursued a successful future. She also credits her soccer and lacrosse coaches for guiding her both on the field and off. Her friends, she said, were a constant source of light and joy and made her look forward to going to school each day.

She was motivated to excel because of her perfectionist nature, always striving to be the best she could be in all aspects of life. She also credits her teachers, all the way back to Waterman Elementary School, for establishing a strong work ethic and character.

She’ll bring that character with her to Bryant University next year, where she plans on double majoring in actuarial mathematics and Spanish.

Emily Mellor

Emily Mellor had two passions in school: sports and arts. She pursued her sports passion in volleyball and tennis while at East, and will continue pursuing her passion for the arts at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, where she plans on majoring in fashion design.

The interest in sports made her the sports editor for the yearbook the past two years, in addition to her participation in the yearbook all four years. She was a member of the two-time state champion girls’ volleyball team and also participated in boys’ tennis the past two years. In addition to those extracurricular activities, Mellor was in class council, national honors society, and national arts honors society.

She’ll take away the memories she made through those experiences as well as the “roller coaster of a ride” she had while at East. The most memorable moments for her came with her state champion volleyball teams, which she looks at as her second family.

Her motivation stems from the support and encouragement she got not only from her family but also from the entire Cranston East community. She said the students and faculty always inspired her to excel in and out of the classrooms at East.

Thomas Yakey Jr.

Ranked eighth in East’s class of 2018 is Thomas Yakey Jr., who spent his time at East participating in music, sports and broadcasting. He’ll be using the foundation he’s built at East to attend Rhode Island College next year, where he plans on studying music education and Italian.

His most noteworthy memories were made in the music department, especially as a drum major in the marching band and a member of the indoor percussion ensemble. He credits these groups with allowing him to be himself and creating a unique environment for him to develop over the years. For his musical efforts, he attained superior ratings at Rhode Island music educators association’s solo and ensemble festival, and won the “unsung hero” award in orchestra.

He said that the entire East community, especially his parents and friends, helped him to excel and enjoy school because they always wanted what was best for him. He also is appreciative of his “astounding teachers,” who pushed him and his classmates to their full potential in school.

Kevin Aldana

Kevin Aldana excelled in school on his way to being ranked ninth in his class, but he’ll most remember the times he had in the extracurricular activities he participated in at East.

He played trombone in the marching band and jazz band, played vibraphone in the winter percussion ensemble, was a programmer for the East robotics team, a member of the math team, and won numerous music, math, and Italian awards for his success in these activities.

His friends and family contributed the most to his success and enjoyment of high school, even just by spending quality time with him throughout the years.

His biggest motivation for doing well in school was his love for learning, particularly in the subjects of math and computer science. He hopes to use this passion to pursue a future career as a programmer or in IT security, and will begin this pursuit next year at the University of Rhode Island, where he plans on majoring in both computer science and mathematics.

Anthony Florenz

Anthony Florenz, a standout baseball player at East, finished tenth in this year’s class.

Though he will remember most the “grind” of trying to win a state baseball championship, he also spent time in high school in the Partners Program and in the National Honor Society.

The people that contributed most to his success and enjoyment of high school were his nana, his science teacher Victoria Conte, his guidance counselor Leslie Conley and his friends at East.

His motivation came from a desire to make college as cheap and easy as possible, plus he wanted to make unforgettable memories during his time in high school. Next year, he’ll be staying in state at the University of Rhode Island, where he is still considering his options for what he wants to study.


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