2023 Valedictorian and Salutatorian

Congratulations, Valedictorian Joseph Klettner and Salutatorian Olivia Blank

Congratulations to Valedictorian Joseph Klettner and Salutatorian Olivia Blank—outstanding young people who have flourished at Katonah-Lewisboro Schools by pursuing classes and activities that resonate with their interests. They’ve combined their innate talents with strong work ethics to achieve excellence.

“Joseph and Olivia are loved by their peers, highly regarded by their teachers, and better any community that they are part of,” said Principal Steven Siciliano. “We are immensely proud of them.”

Meet Valedictorian Joseph Klettner

 For Joseph, the "M" in STEM could as easily stand for music as math.

Joseph Klettner is not only a stellar and accomplished student, but an involved, engaged and kind community member. He has taken the most advanced math and science classes John Jay offers while serving as co-secretary of Amnesty International and co-president of Science Olympiad.

He remembers his fourth-grade teacher, Jane Emig, as one of the teachers that impacted him the most, highlighting her kindness and genuine interest in supporting all her students. “She helped me to develop my passions and made sure I always felt like I belonged.”

Physics teacher Frank Noschese said that what impresses him the most about Joseph is how well he works with his peers. “When working on labs or whiteboarding physics problems, Joseph does not dominate the group while his partners watch,” said Noschese. “He listens to his group members, asks his partners clarifying questions and explains his own reasoning to them.”

In Joseph’s case, the “M” in STEM could as easily stand for music as well as math.

The South Salem resident is a gifted musician, playing keyboard and piano in John Jay’s Jazz Band as well a multitude of other instruments including guitar in the rock band Platinum Moon. He names playing keyboard in the pit orchestra for school musicals including “9 to 5” as a favorite high school experience.

“It is always so much fun to have a role in a production, especially something like a musical which has so many moving parts that have to come together in the end,” said Joseph. “Being a part of an ensemble has also taught me to be a better listener and a team player.”

Joseph is a member of the Tri-M Music Honors Society and has represented John Jay at the Berklee College of Music’s High School Jazz Festival. He said that one of his most fulfilling volunteer activities has been playing music in nursing homes. “

One of my life goals is to use my passions to help others and have an impact in the world,” said Joseph. “It always made me happy to see the faces of nursing home residents light up when they heard me play. I’d like to think that I helped them to relax for just a moment and provided them comfort in a setting which can occasionally get depressing or lonely.”

Joseph will be attending Cornell University next year and studying chemical engineering. He hopes to eventually work in the pharmaceutical industry to discover and/or produce medications that help limit the effects of chronic neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Meet Salutatorian Olivia Blank

 Olivia's breadth as as a scholar is matched by her empathy for others.

Olivia Blank’s breadth as a scholar is seen in the classwork she’s taken at John Jay High School—the most advanced courses in all STEM subject areas including AP Calculus, AP Statistics, AP Physics and AP Biology. Yet, the two classes the South Salem resident names as favorites are AP Psychology and AP Government.

“Psych was awesome because I could immediately apply everything I was learning to myself and the world around me,” said Olivia. “Gov had a ton of interactive projects like mock presidential campaigns, model congress and Supreme Court case reenactments that helped me uncover my interest in law and politics.”

She traces the moment she knew she loved to learn back to seventh grade. 

“My 7th grade social studies teacher, Mr. Halpern, will forever be one of my most impactful teachers,” said Olivia, recalling his off-topic daily warmup questions. “Being in Mr. Halpern’s class was the first time I realized that school didn’t have to be 100% serious; learning was meant to be engaging and fun.”

Helping others is one of Olivia’s core components.

Her Science Research project focused on the effects of exercise on Parkinson’s disease. She took her interest in the topic one step further by volunteering at Ping Pong Parkinson’s, a community organization that utilizes Ping Pong as a therapeutic intervention for folks with Parkinson’s. “The friendships I made while rallying and refereeing matches were integral in reminding me of the humanity that lies within the research process,” said Olivia. “This unforgettable volunteer experience introduced me to the people behind the statistics, the real lives that are beneficially impacted by persistent scientific inquiry.”

Amid tutoring online, being involved in the Red Cross Club at John Jay and volunteering at Northern Westchester Hospital, Olivia names being part of A World of Difference club a favorite activity. She particularly enjoyed visiting district elementary schools to run workshops with fifth graders on celebrating diversity in their community.

“Olivia is both an incredible student and human,” said math teacher Tom Rizzotti. “In addition to how hard she worked and the success she had in class, she also always had smile on her face and something nice to say. She also dedicated some of her free time to helping the English language learners’ math class with her high level of Spanish and math.  She's truly destined for great things.”

Olivia will be attending Vassar College where she will be studying Science, Technology and Society. She is eager to take what she learns and use it to help others navigate life.