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(Posted 11:30 a.m., July 18)
East end's top students share common traits

By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

Matthew Sunohara holds up the Governor General's medal he earned for having the highest average mark at Colonel By Secondary School this year. Fred Sherwin/Photo

The students at the top of this year's Honour Roll share two common traits that are not often found among their peers, they know how to manage their time in a productive manner and the word "procrastinate" is nowhere to be found in their volcabulary although they all know how to spell it.

Topping the list amoung this year's graduating students is Matthew Sunohara from Colonel By Secondary School with a 98.5 per cent average, .03 per cent higher than fellow IB students Alexandra Alvares and Andy Baek.

All three students said that managing their time and sticking to a set study schedule was a key to their academic success, but Sunohara had a third strategy that evidently worked for him -- he didn't let trying to get the best mark possible consume him.

"I tried to ignore my marks as best I could. I never talked about my grades. It was more important that you understand the material and then the grades will come. If you just focus on getting good grades you tend not to learn as much," says Sunohara who will be studying mathematics at the Univesity of Toronto this fall.

Michaela Panarella received the top mark among graduating students at St. Matthew High School this year with a 95.9 per cent average, .03 per cent higher than Michael Trus who recieved the school's Governor General's Medal for having the top combined average in Grade 11 and Grade 12.

The secret to Panarella's success was managing to balance extra-curricular activities and work with her academics.

"I found it helped me to set a schedule and stick to it. It made me more focused and it forced me to be more organized," says Panarella who will be studying biomedical science at the University of Ottawa this fall. "If you kid of have a set schedule for when you want to study it makes it a lot easier, but you have to stick to the schedule even if you don't always want to."

Unlike Sunohara, Cairine Wilson grad Milena Bullen had a defintely goal this year to get the highest mark possible, but that didn`t keep her from joining the school rugby team or taking part in other school activities.

`I did do a lor of sports and other activities, so I defintely had to manage my time well. My way of doing anything is to do it right away," says Bullen who is heading off to Queen's University this fall where she will be in the Honours Science program.

One thing Bullen and Sunohara did have in common along with several other of this year's top graduates was tutoring in fact. A willingness to tutor other students is a common thread among the east end's top graduates over the past 10 years.

"Having the ability to teach and explain something in your own words helps you understand it more," explains Bullen.

One of the byproducts of getting an outstanding average besides having the pick of whatever school you want to go to is the financial rewards. Bullen recieved an $8,000 scholarship, $4,000 in each of the first two years, while Sunohara got a $5,000 scholarship for his first year at U of T.

Behind every top student are a number of dedicated teachers whose influence helped them achieve the marks they did.

Sunohara's biggest influence was Colonel By math teacher Richard Whitlock, who he had in Grade 9, Grade 11 and Grade 12, although he also gave a great deal of credit to chemistry teacher Favita Pall and his physics teacher David Wardle.

"Mr Whitlock was really great at explaining things and he's really dedicated to his students. I would say he had the biggest influence on me academically," says Sunohara.

Panarella credits her Grade 12 physics teacher Michael Flynn for a great deal of her success and her love of the subject and science in general.

"What I really liked was how much into the subject he was. He was so pasisonate about physics it made me want to undertsand what was so cool about it," says Panarella.

Among this year's other top graduates are Gabriela Bernal Astrain at Lester B. Pearson High School; Michael McLaren, who received a 94.3 average at Gloucester High School; David Hantke with a 98.6 at Sir Wilfrid Laurier Secondary School and Luke Crispo who achieved a 94.7 per cent average at St. Peter High School, .03 per cent higher than Adam Watts.

(This story was made possible thanks to their generous support of our local business partners.)

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