Emily Kostolansky is a senior at Summit High School. For the second year, she is part of Peer Leadership, a group where SHS students are leaders and role models for other students in elementary, middle, and high school. Emily participates in training sessions to hone her leadership skills, meets with her advisors and peers twice a month, and participates in activities throughout the district as well. For example, Peer Leaders give tours of the high school and help freshman acclimate to their first year of high school. Peer Leaders also visit schools and work with younger students on how to make healthy decisions, deal with stress, and navigate peer pressure.
Emily with fellow Peer Leaders, Gwyn and Emma.
In line with these important topics, Emily started a mental health awareness club called Students Helping Students. The idea took shape in her Honors History US II class when Mr. O'Regan assigned a project; students were asked to create something that would evoke change in an area each felt strongly about. Feeling that mental illness is often overlooked or misunderstood, and that there are daily stressors that all students encounter, Emily decided that the club could have a positive impact. Students Helping Students focuses on raising awareness of mental health and strives to bring in programs to help as many students as possible gain an array of tools to help deal with stress. "I am really proud that we raised the funds, in addition to being awarded a PTO grant, to welcome the In Their Shoes program to SHS. It included a really powerful visual display, as well as therapy dogs and other resources," said Emily. The club also does yoga, meditation, rock painting, and hosts discussion groups.
Emily is outgoing, passionate, involved, and devoted to whatever she is doing! Outside of school, she volunteers to swim with special needs adults and children through a program at The Connection called Adapted Aquatics. She also works in the summer giving swim lessons through NJ Swim. Learning that, it should come as no surprise that Emily is part of the Summit High School Swim Team. Emily started swimming competitively at the age of 7 with the Summit Seals, and swam for the SHS team all four years of high school. She is a long distance swimmer in the 200 freestyle and 500 freestyle. She has swum these events in every meet since freshman year! Her best time in the 200 is 2:08.97 and the 500 is 5:54.84.
Swim Team Captains ~ Kaitlyn and Emily.
During the 2017-2018 season, Emily took on a special role as captain of the team. "I was thrilled to be selected as captain because we are a community, like a family," said Emily. When explained that when she was a freshman, others included her, so she is glad to be in a position to give back to other girls with the same level of support and enthusiasm that she received. Emily also lives the "spirit of giving" by springboarding from Spanish Club to being part of the AP Spanish Help Desk where she makes herself available during lunch to tutor others.
Emily with her coach, John Ross.
Not only does Emily's character shine, but so does her drive in academics. With her plan of becoming an engineer, the math and sciences have played a big part in Emily's life. In freshman year she took the path of Honors Geometry and Honors Physics so she could finish senior year with AP Calculus BC and AP Physics C. Those two courses are the most challenging math and science classes that Summit High School offers. "I love learning math and science, particularly physics," said Emily. "Mr. Morman and Mr. Baragona are two of the best teachers, both incredibly devoted to their students." Emily appreciates how they offer extra office hours and make her and her peers feel comfortable asking questions. When it comes to the highest Calc and Physics, there is only one class of each. So she spends the bulk of her afternoons with about 20 students, a group she knows quite well. "We work together and solve problems. I feel lucky to have this community of people who are set on success. I am grateful to be with supportive people who are like-minded, who study hard, and who are passionate about learning," said Emily. Another course Emily is excited about is Design Projects in Physics which she feels is the closest to giving students a real taste of engineering. She is currently working on an acoustic levitator which will emit sound waves to levitate objects.
While school, friends, and altruism are important to Emily, her family is her top priority. She shared that the best advice she has ever gotten, came from her mother, who taught her the following: you cannot control what others do, you can only control how you react to others' actions. When Emily deals with disappointment or frustration she uses it as a learning experience rather than getting down for too long. She also tries not to take things personally. "You can feel your feelings, but then you need to move on." The best advice Emily would offer others embarking on their high school journey is to make the most of their experience. "There are a lot of opportunities, so you need to seek them out and try new things," said Emily. This sage advice will also come in handy when she enters Tufts School of Engineering in Massachusetts, this fall.
Emily will have a great support network as well; her parents, older brother Tim, older sister Stephanie, and nanny Segunda will all be cheering her on! "My family is so encouraging and I am grateful for that. My parents are a strong example of hard work and my siblings are kind, loving, and great role models," said Emily. We wish Emily much future success!
The Kostolansky family ~2017