Log In

Reset Password

NHS Class Of 2024 Valedictorian And Salutatorian Encourage Fellow Students To Pursue Their Passions



Text Size

Newtown High School’s Class of 2024 Valedictorian Tyler White and Salutatorian Grace Chiriatti share words of encouragement for their fellow students as they reflect on their educational experiences and their journey as students.

While they were officially announced as the valedictorian and salutatorian on May 14, White and Chiriatti were both honored again at last week’s Board of Education meeting alongside the other demi-decile students from their graduating class.

White is a longtime Newtown resident and has been attending Newtown Public Schools since kindergarten. Living in town for so long, he says, has helped him feel connected to others, and going through all the Newtown schools has been a transformative experience for him.

White said that, when he was younger, he used to be somewhat competitive with his friends. A part of why he initially pursued math, besides it being his favorite subject, was because it was what he was the best at and wanted to beat everyone else.

“That pushed me ahead a little bit back then, but as I’ve grown older, I’ve started collaborating with them more and seeing things less as a competition and more as working together and exploring subjects because you really love them,” White said June 3. He and Chiriatti sat down with The Newtown Bee ahead of their final days walking the halls of 12 Berkshire Road to talk about what motivated them to reach their academic milestone. “That’s what really pushes me ahead now,” he said.

His competitive nature as a kid also shined in his friendship with fellow student Andrew Arena. White said he would compete with Arena in math when they were students at Reed Intermediate School because he “didn’t like not being the best.”

“So I competed with him a little bit, but over time we started to work together and solved some things we couldn’t have done on our own. And that’s when we started to make more progress individually, when we started to collaborate and work together. Now he’s my best friend,” White said.

As his mentality changed, White found a passion in showing and teaching other people math, which remains one of his favorite subjects. He said he enjoys playing the mathematical strategy game Nim with others and seeing how they get good enough to beat him.

“If I was younger, the thing I probably would’ve enjoyed the most was beating other people,” White said. “But the thing I enjoy the most now is teaching other people how to beat me; how their faces light up when they figure out how to win.”

White also said he was unsure of how he felt being labeled as his graduating class’s valedictorian after being a part of the school system and community for so long.

“I’ve just kind of worked hard because I’ve always enjoyed learning and being curious,” he continued. “I didn’t even think about becoming valedictorian until tenth grade when one of my teachers recommended that I try to go for it. And so I tried a little bit, but I also didn’t because my passion is learning.”

He attributes his hard work as one way to show his teachers how much he cares about them, and his respect for how they taught him. He noted NHS teachers Shawn Tierney and Ryan Eberts as big influences.

White is going to Cornell University and plans to major in math, with hopes to do a dual major in computer science.

He encourages his fellow classmates to stay passionate in their interests and to pursue things not out of obligation, but because they genuinely want to.

“Always stay curious and be interested in what you’re learning,” White said. “Don’t just do it because you want to apply [for] something, do it because you truly love it. See it kind of as its own art form. That’s how I see math.”

‘Slow Down And Appreciate’

Salutatorian Chiriatti is also a longtime Newtown resident. She moved here with her family nearly 15 years ago when she was three years old, and has been attending Newtown Public Schools since kindergarten.

She says that while growing up, taking a lot of hard classes and doing activities that kept her busy forced her to be good with managing her time.

Her friends have also shaped her both as a student and as a person, she said.

“My friends have definitely had a big influence on me. They’re so supportive and ... just getting to know so many different people through school and classes, finding people that have similar interests to me has been really cool,” Chiratti said.

Chiriatti says one of her favorite classes was AP Government with NHS teacher Candace Dietter. She really liked the freedom the class provided and all the fun, interactive projects they got to do, she said.

She encourages the Class of 2025 — the students moving up to be seniors next year — to keep going and to not give up, but to also enjoy the time that they have now with their friends.

“It gets hard, but don’t give up because it does get fun in the end. And now we have all these senior events going on, and it’s hard to believe that the year is over. I guess I also spent a lot of time focused on college applications and my AP classes, and in hindsight it would’ve been nice to slow down and appreciate things a little bit more. Because now I only have a little bit of time left with my friends, and I’m gonna miss it,” Chiriatti said.

When asked by The Bee if becoming the salutatorian was something that she worked towards or something that just kind of happened, Chiriatti said that it was “a little bit of both.”

“I definitely tried to get good grades, but I didn’t think that I’d be the salutatorian,” she continued. “That was definitely a surprise, and I guess it’s nice to know that everything I’ve done, all that hard work, has paid off. It was a nice surprise.”

Chiriatti is going to Boston College and is planning to major in English, with hopes of going to law school eventually.

She said she hopes her fellow classmates take advantage of the opportunities before them, to pursue what they want, and to make the most of their experiences.

“Take advantage of this opportunity to go anywhere and do everything, because we have the opportunity to do whatever we want in college and to set out wherever we want in the world,” Chiriatti said.


Reporter Jenna Visca can be reached at jenna@thebee.com.

Newtown High School 2024’s Valedictorian Tyler White and Salutatorian Grace Chiriatti stand in the high school foyer on Tuesday, May 14, after being officially announced as having their academic titles. —Bee Photo, Visca
NHS Class of 2024 Valedictorian Tyler White.
NHS Class of 2024 Salutatorian Grace Chiriatti.
Comments are open. Be civil.

Leave a Reply