Class of 2019: Valedictorians, Salutatorian and Seniors’ College Choices

Mount Madonna School (MMS) is pleased to announce Priyanka Bharghavan and Noah Kaplan as the 2019 Co-Valedictorians, and Luca Peruzzi as Salutatorian. These students earned this distinction through hard work and focused effort, edging out their peers at the small Central Coast school known for strong academics, environmental education, performing arts and scholar athletes. The 2019 high school graduation ceremony will commence at 9:30am on Thursday, June 13 at the school’s upper campus.

Bharghavan will attend the University of California, Berkeley this fall.

“I chose UC Berkeley because I am very interested in studying molecular and cellular biology, and they have a very strong science program. I like their strength of general education, so that I could learn a variety of subjects. I love the campus and how much school pride the students have. I am excited to participate in that lively and vibrant atmosphere.

“I am inspired by Tiffany Wayne and Nicole Silva, both of whom are very supportive teachers who really interested me in their subject matter. My favorite MMS experience was our recent class trip to India and our stay at the Sri Ram Ashram.”

Kaplan will attend Whitman College this fall and plans to major in math and/or science. He said he chose the school over two other choices, Colorado College and Middlebury College, because he liked the feel of the campus and to reduce the amount of student loan debt he would incur.

“I’m looking forward to meeting more intelligent and motivated people, and being completely out of my waters. I want to feel like the material is moving too fast! I am ready to choose the classes I want to take, to meet my new professors, and ideally, to do some research projects.

“I’m inspired by anyone who devotes their life to teaching, when they could make more money (at less cost to mental hygiene) doing almost anything else,” he continued. “They have one of the greatest responsibilities of any profession.

Specifically, SN Mailliard strikes me as one of the most observant, curious, and skilled teachers I know. He has somehow developed a way of knowing what you mean to say and explaining it to you by convincing you of your own thinking. If you ask him, he will tell you it’s because he knows how to question with curiosity. It sounds much easier than it is. He is driven, relentless, compassionate, and delights in your discovery.

“I feel honored to know Sampad Kachuck, and blessed to have him as a teacher,” Kaplan shared. “He has the impressive ability to motivate students, almost without exception, to do their best. He is strict, disciplined and will not tolerate anything but your very best, but he maintains a connection with students. At the root of his intellectual explorations, passionate speeches, thought-provoking questions, and even occasional outrage is love for his students. The angriest I have ever seen Sampad was when he felt that another person had been hurt and disrespected.

“In regard to a favorite MMS moment, I have a vivid memory of sitting with my class on the porch of our cabin at the Catalina Environmental Learning Program with some music playing,” recalled Kaplan. “I had a book, but was mostly just talking and listening. I felt relaxed, and grateful to be there.”

Peruzzi, who plans to attend Loyola Marymount University (LMU), said he chose the school because of its commitment to holistic education and flexible academic program.

“I considered the strength of their liberal arts program, internship and networking opportunities, and the location of the school,” shared Peruzzi. “I would like to study political science or economics as a major, and Italian as a minor. I am looking forward to meeting new people, becoming a part of a new community and having interactions with people from different backgrounds than my own. The diversity of LMU is another reason I am excited to attend, as well as the opportunity to choose from a large variety of interesting classes and programs.”

“MMS teacher Tiffany Wayne inspires me, because she has always found ways to have her lessons be interesting, while also maintaining her own career as a writer and historian. As a high school student, I would have to say that one of my favorite memories is the Washington, D.C. trip I attended as a junior. To be able to experience that city, and also interview so many interesting people with my classmates was something that I will never forget.”

In addition to Bharghavan, Kaplan and Peruzzi, Mount Madonna School’s Class of 2019 includes eight other students. The class is listed below with their college choices:

Anika Compoginis, Cabrillo College; Imogen Cockrum, San Jose State University; John Dias, San Jose State University; Kaili Sullens, California State University, Chico; Lillian Wayne, San Francisco State University; Luca Peruzzi, Loyola-Marymount University; Mara Peruzzi, University of San Diego; Noah Kaplan, Whitman College; Priyanka Bharghavan, University of California, Berkeley; Sage Turner, Cabrillo College; and Samith Lakka, Chapman University.

The about-to-be graduates took time recently to reflect on their college choice and planned studies:

“I chose Cabrillo College because I am unsure of what career path I want to go into, so I thought that Cabrillo would be the perfect place to figure that out at a much lower cost than the wide majority of other colleges. I am looking forward to being able to choose my own schedule of classes and have more freedom overall. The two major factors of how I made my college choice was money and not knowing what I want to do after college as a way of making a living. My favorite MMS experiences were the Washington, D.C. and India trips. If any teacher has inspired me to be better or work harder at MMS, it has been SN Mailliard. The opportunities and experiences that he has given me, my class, and the school have so much value and I will without a doubt keep them with me as much as I can once I move on from MMS.” – Anika Compoginis

 “I have chosen to attend San Jose State University (SJSU). I have had a few family members attend SJSU and they all loved it; and I did want to remain close to home as well. I will be entering with my major as pre-nursing and am so excited because I believe the campus is a perfect fit for me. It’s near downtown San Jose and is a relatively small campus, so will not be too overwhelming. The faculty members who inspire me are Shannon Kelly and Tiffany Wayne, both of whom are very capable and intelligent women who motivate me to work hard. My favorite moments at Mount Madonna are almost always around intensive rehearsals or the performances of either our winter plays or the Ramayana!; those are times when I am able to bond with students in other classes besides my own, which I love to do.” – Imogen Cockrum

“I have chosen to study mechanical engineering at San Jose State University because for three years I have been working on cars, motorcycles and machines. I want to deepen my understanding of how these complex systems are designed and built. SJSU offers a unique curriculum that is built around hands-on, project-based learning. I’m looking forward to joining a club called Formula SAE, where students design a scaled down racecar to compete against students at schools all across the world. The students involved with this club outsource machining of parts to various businesses in Silicon Valley who sponsor the project. I have talked to a few students who had landed paid internships through their work with this club and their involvement with the sponsorship companies. At MMS, PK McDonald inspires me because of his unique experience with a top- level engineering department at the University of California, Los Angeles. PK’s problem- solving mind set and his lighthearted demeanor make him a great teacher and friend. One of my favorite things about MMS has always been having many different age groups around. This year I loved getting to know the freshman class in particular, and on a few different occasions was able to do PE class with them and we had a total blast!” – John Dias

 “I will attend California State University, Chico, to study child development. I fell in love with the campus and its beauty. At MMS, I love Gitanjali Rivera because she truly cares and goes out of her way to check in.” – Kaili Sullens

“I chose San Francisco State University because it’s a beautiful campus in the perfect area, and has a great women and gender studies program that I will get to be a part of. My decision was easy to make because my brother goes to SF State and he is having a really positive experience there. A particular MMS faculty member that has inspired me is my mom, Tiffany Wayne. As a teacher she’s extremely hardworking and is passionate about what she teaches. As a mom, she’s taught me the importance and strength of being a woman and is a major part of why I chose a women and gender studies major.”  – Lillian Wayne

“I chose to go to University of San Diego (USD) ultimately because I had a gut feeling about it the moment I stepped onto the campus. I like to think things over a lot before making a decision, and choosing a college was something I thought about for a long time. I immediately felt connected to the energy on campus, and it is absolutely beautiful. It is close to my aunts and uncles who live in nearby, so that makes me feel more at home as well. I don’t know what I will study yet, but I am open to exploring a variety of classes so I can be exposed to new areas of study. I want to dive into learning more about psychology, Italian, art, and English. I’m looking forward to meeting people who are motivated to learn new things, like I am, and can’t wait to be a part of a bigger community. At MMS, I am inspired by Sara Sobkoviak because of her amazing leadership skills, authority, organization, and fun spirit. I loved having culinary studies with her, because I learned a lot from her organization skills and fiery energy! She inspires me to be strong-willed and to stick to something I’m passionate about – and master it!

“My favorite MMS experience is winning the Central Coast Section during this school year’s varsity girls volleyball season! I have never been a part of an experience with more emotion and energy; I will never forget how I felt that night! The girls on this team are absolutely incredible, and I’m honored to have led them through a successful season. I have learned so much from them, because I have proved to myself that I can bring out my self-confidence to inspire others to overcome challenges, believe in themselves, have competitive spirits, work hard, and work through and bounce back from failures. I am incredibly grateful to all the volleyball teams I have played with, through all the failure and growth in each season, and it really has helped shape me into the person I am today. Volleyball has meant so much to me, especially since my freshman year when I was welcomed by the six seniors who led me through my first varsity volleyball experience. I truly looked up to them, and now I’m happy and proud to say that I have used what they taught me to pass down to the younger and rising senior girls on the team.” – Mara Peruzzi

 “I am choosing to attend Cabrillo College because of the flexibility they offer, specifically when students are unsure of what they want to pursue for a career. Cabrillo has many excellent professors, a strong theater arts department, and is located in one the most amazing towns in the state! One teacher who inspires me is Sampad Kachuck, because he has dedicated so many years to the school and is devoted to teaching the power of creative self-expression and the strength of one’s voice. Each and every Mount Madonna learning journey (Catalina Island, Washington, D.C. and India) has totally impacted me and given me memories that will stay with me forever.”  – Sage Turner

 “I will attend Chapman University and study data analytics engineering, a new program which will be starting up in 2020. Chapman is one of the few schools in the country to offer this discipline as an undergrad degree. Their class sizes are considerably small and after visiting the campus, I developed a greater understanding on how their classes function. Chapman’s high tech lab facilities use a hands-on training approach which is how I enjoy learning. Chapman is located about 20 mins from the beach and has a recreational beach court near some of the dorm rooms where I plan to spend time playing volleyball. They are also located close to Disneyland, the Angels’ stadium, and Honda Center. If I am ever looking for a new activity I can visit any of these places to get out and about. At MMS, I have had many inspiring teachers and coaches, but I would like to mention and share the memory of my fifth grade teacher, [the late] Sri Gyan James McCaughan. I wish I could have had him longer than half a semester in fifth grade. But in the amount of time before life snatched him away from us, I learned some of the most valuable life lessons a fifth grader can have. I wish I could relive and cherish each of those moments, and am forever indebted and grateful to him for the lessons he taught me.

“There have been many MMS experiences that have impacted me, but the most recent and one of my top picks is the India trip, specifically our stay at the Sri Ram Ashram. During our short visit to the ashram, I had the chance to befriend some of the most talented, profound thinkers and pure-hearted people I’ve ever come across, and witnessed the power of another one of Babaji’s most important endeavors, as well as discovering a hobby in Bollywood music and dancing. Visiting the ashram was quite life changing and I hope I will be able to return some day.” – Samith Lakka


Photos by Sara Rae Photo

Contact: Leigh Ann Clifton, director of marketing & communications,

Nestled among the redwoods on 355 mountaintop acres, Mount Madonna is a safe and nurturing college-preparatory school that supports students in becoming caring, self-aware and articulate critical thinkers, who are prepared to meet challenges with perseverance, creativity and integrity. The CAIS and WASC accredited program emphasizes academic excellence, creative self-expression and positive character development. Located on Summit Road between Gilroy and Watsonville.