Michael Mongelli, Garden City High School’s class of 2011 salutatorian, is a grounded, authentic young man with a charming sense of humor.
He possesses a strong sense of self and an internal drive to excel. He credits many of his teachers for inspiring his love of learning. One in particular, his fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Dowden, left a lasting impression.
“That class was so inspiring,” said Mongelli. “Mrs. Dowden was a great teacher. The amount of tests increased and I did extremely well. I gained a great deal of confidence.”
As he moved ahead in school, he discovered he had a natural aptitude for science and math. He took full advantage of the high school’s science offerings, taking Advanced Placement (AP) biology and chemistry and honors physics. He raves about chemistry and his teacher, Mr. D’Ambrosio, who he says introduced him to a divergent way of learning.
“He doesn’t show his students exactly how to do the work,” shared Mongelli. “It’s a higher level of learning and thinking.”
This is the type of environment Mongelli thrives in. Incidentally, when asked what advice he would give students he recommends they strive to become independent learners.
Mongelli tutors physics and has found that many students become discouraged easily and give up when faced with a roadblock. For Mongelli, this is where the fun starts. For him there is a difference between “learning” and “knowing,” the former having more value for Mongelli.
“When I tutor, there may be a concept I’ve forgotten but once you’ve conquered the learning I show students how to figure it out,” explained Mongelli.
In addition to a rigorous course load including nine AP classes, four years of Latin and college Italian, Mongelli ran cross country and played varsity tennis for three years.
Mongelli has a love of languages and has served as the president of both the Latin and Italian honor societies. His extracurricular activities include serving as a peer AIDS educator. He also participated in biomedical research at Yale University last summer.
Mongelli earned a 100.85 GPA (which covers his first three years) and amassed numerous awards during his high school career including Outstanding Achievement in Physics Award, Bausch and Lomb Honorary Science Award, Frances DiMaria Viviani College Italian Scholarship, Long Island Science Education Leadership Association Outstanding Achievement in AP Chemistry Award, American Chemical Society Award, Italic Studies Institute Award, Highest Ranking Seniors Award and the Winfield Thompson Salutatorian Award.
Mongelli’s guidance counselor, Jeanne Kennedy, advised that he is one of the most outstanding students she has ever worked with.
“His hard working, fearless approach to his studies and his ‘never settle for anything less than his best’ attitude is commendable," shared Kennedy. “I know that he will make a great impact in our world not only with his brilliant intellectual talents, but with the desire in his heart to do so.”
Mrs. Dowden advised that as a fifth grader she could already see his potential.
“He was a hard worker with natural abilities and a great sense of humor,” shared Dowden. “I knew Michael could achieve whatever it was he set out to do...I cannot wait to see what his future holds.”
Mongelli’s Italian teacher, Lea Brunetti, concurred that Mongelli is an exemplary student who, as the Greek philosophers used to say, has the courage to accept the challenge to be successful.
Mongelli is interested in pursuing a career in medicine possibly as a surgeon.
Though he has a passion for science, Mongelli is also a discipline of human nature. His favorite television series is The Office where the flawed Michael Scott played by Steve Carell allows his humanity to shine. His favorite cartoon is Hey Arnold where Arnold, the much beloved character and leader, doesn’t fit the prototypical “popular” character but he is admired for his fearlessness and quest to do the right thing - a sense you get when speaking to Mongelli.
With so many messages coming in so many directions, developing a strong sense of self as a teenager is no easy task, perhaps more daunting than AP physics. So not surprisingly, Mongelli’s message to the community will be gratitude for the opportunities he’s had while his advice to his fellow graduates is to be true to yourself summed up by one of his favorite Dr. Seuss quotes: “Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.”