Lawrence High School senior Samantha Posluszny walked up to the stage to receive the LMS/LHS PTO Award, which is presented to a senior who goes the extra step to help students and teachers, and was settling back in her seat, talking and joking with her friends.
Samantha said she heard Principal David Adam say that one of the two Principal’s Awards, which was the next award to be presented, was going to a student who he described as an energetic, full-of-life person who does whatever needs to be done and who is always ready to help.
The Principal’s Award, he said, is given to two students who the Principal’s Award Committee believes are the ones who “truly embody the meaning of student leadership awards.”
Samantha Posluszny and Zuleima Quinonez stood out as student leaders, but in many different ways. Samantha was the class president, a peer leader and belonged to a student-led school spirit group, while Zuleima made the lives of everyone around her better through her positive attitude, her focus on improving the community and for persevering through tough times, he said.
“Zuleima is a student who has overcome challenges in her academic career and personal life, and despite these hurdles, she has made Lawrence High School a better school in the four years she attended it,” Adam said.
Meanwhile, Samantha said she heard Adam say one of the awards was going to be given to someone who is “loud.”
“My friends were saying, ‘That’s you, that’s you.’ I said, ‘That’s no way it’s me.’ Then Mr. Adam said, ‘Samantha Posluszny.’ I was like, ‘That’s me?’ ”
Yes, that was Samantha Posluszny, and she was very surprised.
“Mr. Adam said, ‘You worked really hard the past four years and I am really proud of you.’ That meant a lot to me. Hard work pays off. It was really, really good to hear about my hard work. I appreciated it,” Samantha said.
Samantha credited her parents, Dan and Jill Posluszny, and her older sister, Hannah, with helping her to accomplish as much as she has done, from being captain of the swim team to serving as senior class president.
Zuleima relied more on her teachers, administrators, custodians and the “lunch room ladies” than on her family for keeping her on track.
In a letter to her teachers during Teacher Appreciation Week in May, Zuleima wrote that whether it was a teacher, an administrator or a guidance counselor, “in some way, shape or form, they have all truly helped me grow academically and emotionally, and have helped lead me to a better path in life.”
Zuleima wrote that her upbringing was difficult and that she faced more obstacles and felt more pain than most people will in their entire life – from family issues to substance abuse issues and mental health issues. There was also a struggle to attend school and yet work at several jobs to stay afloat.
“From a young age, I was told, ‘You won’t graduate, you will never become someone, you’ll end up in the streets.’ Imagine what that does to a child’s head, all while dealing with the difficult cards I was dealt in life,” she said.
Zuleima said she had to grow up faster than her peers and did not receive the childhood most of her classmates had. She said she practically raised herself, with the help of teachers and administrators, to whom she is thankful.
“I don’t know where I would be if it wasn’t for you,” she wrote. “I really am so grateful for the teachers that saved me. I want you to know, you really are making a huge difference in your students’ lives.”
With their Lawrence High School diplomas in hand, Zuleima is headed for New Jersey City University in Jersey City and Samantha is going off to attend James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va.