Horizon Celebrates LHS’ 2023 Valedictorian


Courtesy of Olivia Lanteri

When Principal Matthew Sarosy announced senior Kate Chiulli as the Class of 2023’s valedictorian over the loudspeakers on Thursday, Feb. 9, the members of Horizon rejoiced. “I freaked out. I started screaming and yelling for joy, I was like, yes! There’s truly nobody more deserving of that title than her,” said senior Alyssa Inserra, Horizon’s Driftstone editor-in-chief. Junior Kerry Cullen, managing editor of arts and entertainment, had a very similar reaction, saying she and a few other people in her class celebrated. “[Chiulli] has worked so hard these past few years and totally deserves it!” Cullen said. 

With reactions like Inserra’s and Cullen’s common among the Horizon staff, it comes as no surprise that the LHS student newspaper would want to host a party to celebrate Chiulli. The idea spawned from a conversation between English teacher and Horizon advisor Jessica Sanders and Inserra, Cullen, and junior Olivia Lanteri, who agreed that a surprise party should be planned the following day. “Knowing Kate, since freshman year, I knew how hard she worked to attain the title of valedictorian, so I knew that we had to celebrate her with something,” said Inserra. “Throwing a surprise party for her at a club she has dedicated

Courtesy of Olivia Lanteri

so much time to made perfect sense.” Despite the party’s impromptu nature, Inserra, Cullen, and Lanteri organized the whole staff to bring decorations and food through a secret GroupMe chat, titled “#katechiulliparty.” Cupcakes, Munchkins, rainbow cookies, soft pretzels, fried shrimp, and mozzarella and chicken sticks were among the items members brought, transforming Sanders’ classroom into a proper venue. By the end of 10th period on Friday, Feb. 10, the staff eagerly awaited Chiulli’s arrival.

The plan consisted of junior Joaquin Vergara, Chiulli’s boyfriend, to distract her for a few minutes outside the classroom so that any remaining staff members could enter before she was surprised. When she finally entered, Chiulli was shocked. “I was expecting to walk into a normal Friday afternoon Horizon meeting,” Chiulli said, “so I was very surprised to see all the decorations and food!” Lasting until about 4:30 p.m., the party was lively with laughs and positive energy. Inserra enjoyed the festivities, especially capturing Chiulli’s reaction on video when she walked into the room. “She’s worked so hard for so long, and now she’s finally able to reap the fruits of her labor, so to speak, and I was glad I could be there for that,” said Inserra. Cullen agreed, also relishing in Chiulli’s reaction, and hopes that other Horizon members enjoyed the party too.

The title of valedictorian has a lot of meaning to Chiulli, a goal she has strived for since freshman year as “tangible recognition” for her hard work in high school. For Cullen, organizing the party coincided with her love

Courtesy of Miranda Mangru

of making others happy. “Kate, besides being a great EIC and person, is such a great friend to me, and I wanted to make sure she was celebrated. Valedictorian is an insane achievement!” Cullen exclaimed. Sophomore Miranda Mangru wanted to celebrate Chiulli particularly for her influence on the paper: “She has so much patience and any member of Horizon can second that she truly cares about the newspaper,” she said. “It didn’t bother me that [the planning] was the night before; it’s not like we were doing anything extravagant, just a little something to show our appreciation for Kate.”

Chiulli expresses her gratitude towards the whole Horizon staff for putting together the occasion. “I couldn’t ask for a better team,” she said. “My favorite part was definitely walking in and seeing everyone waiting for me and being so surprised—it was an amazing way to end the day!”