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Immaculata valedictorian, salutatorian named

Matthew Kolakowski of Bridgewater, a future aerospace engineering major at the University of Tennessee, has been named valedictorian of Immaculata High School’s Class of 2023. Tara Khosla of Hillsborough, a future chemical biology major at Stevens Institute of Technology, has been named salutatorian. 
Posted on 05/31/2023
Immaculata High School Class of 2023 valedictorian and salutatorian

Matthew Kolakowski of Bridgewater, a future aerospace engineering major at the University of Tennessee, has been named valedictorian of Immaculata High School’s Class of 2023. Tara Khosla of Hillsborough, a future chemical biology major at Stevens Institute of Technology, has been named salutatorian. 

Commencement for the Class of 2023 will take place at the Church of the Immaculate Conception, 35 Mountain Ave., Somerville, on Friday, June 2 at 6 p.m., with a Baccalaureate Mass set to take place in the church the night before at 6 p.m. Kolakowski and Khosla are expected to give remarks at the commencement ceremony and Metuchen Bishop James F. Checchio is expected to confer diplomas to the graduates.

Matthew Kolakowski 

Known for his accolades in the National Honor Society, his vice presidency in the Spanish Honor Society, and his Gilder Lehrman award-winning efforts in AP U.S. History, Kolakowski also claimed the title of “most likely to brighten your day” among his peers, an achievement of which he is quite proud. 

He noted that while the achievement might not sound as impressive as his other titles, valedictorian now among them, it felt good to know he makes people happy, adding that he credits much of his happiness and success to those friends he made during his time at Immaculata High School.

“I truly believe the religious aspect of Immaculata is what has helped me thrive at the school,” said Kolakowski, who served as a retreat leader for his peers during his junior year. “The kids are so different here than anywhere else - in a good way. I have made so many great, supportive friends,” he added.

Throughout his time in high school, Kolakowski has been involved with the school’s department of performing arts, playing piano at school Masses, performing keyboard in the pit orchestra for the musical, singing in the school’s Spartan Choir, volunteering to work the concession stand for Somerset Patriots games with the department, and traveling to and performing in Disney World, an experience he recalled as “unforgettable.”

In addition to sharing his gifts within the school community, Kolakowski frequently gives time serving the greater community. His sophomore year, he was part of a band that performed music for a nursing home, helping to lift their spirits after the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic took hold. He also volunteers at the Food Bank Network of Somerset County, where he stocks the shelves, interacts with customers, and unpacks deliveries. But his favorite activity outside of school is to teach children to play the piano, he said.

“It is so rewarding to share my passion for playing the piano with other people, and inspire them to love music as much as I do,” the valedictorian said. His passion for music has also earned him second place in the Golden Classical Music Awards International Competition.

Reflecting on his high school career and his academic future, the academic team member and aerospace engineering hopeful advised underclassmen to take classes they love. “It will be so much easier to do well when you’re interested and engaged in what you’re learning,” he said. “For me, some of my favorite classes were chemistry, physics, and calculus,” which he hopes will help him to one day design and test spacecraft, and possibly even venture into space in the future.

Tara Khosla 

With a long list of accomplishments that exceed all expectations, Khosla has been accepted into the Stevens Institute of Technology's Lawrence T. Babbio ’66 Pinnacle Scholars Program, “an elite, invitation-only program for undergraduate students who want to push the boundaries of their education even further,” according to the school’s website.

Citing the prestigiousness of the program, she said her time at Immaculata High School has helped her to achieve her goals by providing “a high quality education and uplifting environment that continually pushes me to strive for excellence.”

The 2019 graduate of Immaculate Conception School in Somerville, the Church of the Immaculate Conception’s parochial grammar school, which serves students in grades pre-K through eight, is an aspiring surgeon, hoping to specialize in either plastic surgery, ophthalmic surgery, or gastrointestinal surgery.  

During her education career at Immaculata High School, Khosla was awarded: honorable mention in Biology Honors (2020); excellence in French 1 CP (2020); honorable mention in English 2 honors (2021); excellence in AP Computer Science A (2021); honorable mention in AP U.S. History 2 (2022); excellence in AP Language and Composition (2022); and honorable mention in Anatomy and Physiology Honors (2022). In addition to her academic achievements, she was awarded honors in the 2021 New Jersey Music Teachers Association’s auditions and was invited to perform piano at their spring recital in Princeton. 

Even with a lengthy record of achievements, Khosla said there is no one achievement that stands out to her in particular, but rather it is the knowledge that was gained through them that remains with her. “I am just proud of the skills, experiences, and wisdom I gained when tackling academic challenges, most notably the SAT and ACT,” she said. “One of the most important lessons I have learned is that maintaining a positive mindset can truly make a significant difference in one’s mental health, work ethic, and overall attitude towards overcoming adversity.”

While a student at Immaculata High School, she was a member of the Spartan Choir, the HOPE - or Helping Our Planet Earth club, and the Asian American Pacific Islander Alliance. In addition, she completed the “Qubit by Qubit Introduction to Quantum Computing Online Course,” sponsored by IBM Quantum, and participated in the “Biomedical and Surgical Research Online Program” with the Boston Leadership Institute. 

An advanced piano player, Khosla has been studying piano for nine years, during which time she studied Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and Post-Romantic period repertoire.

Khosla said she is eager to begin her college studies, but “will always cherish those peaceful, small moments I spent with my friends at Immaculata. So often, we neglect to recognize the beauty in time spent chatting leisurely while taking a stroll on a sunny day or laughing to ourselves about nothing in particular. What I love about such moments is not their substance, but rather the emotions they inspired, which will live on longer in my heart than my mind.”

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Immaculata High School, a co-ed college preparatory high school founded in 1962, is committed to the development of the whole person within the framework of Catholic traditions and values. Guided by the pillars of Faith, Scholarship, Service, and Friendship, Immaculata integrates a challenging academic curriculum that promotes spiritual, intellectual, physical, emotional, and social growth while fostering moral responsibility to self and others. For more information, visit: immaculatahighschool.org.