Nearly 13 years ago, Katherine Killian and Nora Toscano became friends in kindergarten at Wantagh’s Forest Lake Elementary School. Now they will lead Wantagh High School’s Class of 2023 — Killian as valedictorian and Toscano as salutatorian.
“It’s a full-circle moment,” Killian said. “We started out in Miss Adams’ kindergarten class, and now we’re both seniors and in many of the same classes and courses. It’s just surreal.”
The pair finished academically within decimal points of each other — Killian’s grade point average was 108.56 and Toscano’s was 108.2. They both tried hard not to think about receiving the honor, and instead focused on their studies.
They attended elementary school and middle school together before arriving at Wantagh High, where they became known as the “dynamic duo,” as described by Principal Paul Guzzone. Both Killian, whose strength lies in science, and Toscano, who is particularly strong in English, complimented one another and tried to assist the other whenever possible.
“We’ve always balanced each other out,” Toscano said. “We’ve always wanted the best for each other and we always helped each other out with certain subjects.”
Killian is planning to attend Rochester Institute of Technology in the fall, enrolling in a five-year program that will culminate with her receiving both her bachelor’s and her master’s degrees. She said she wants to become a physician’s assistant.
Toscano will enroll in Georgetown University, where she has yet to declare her major but is hoping to study both English and government. Journalism might be in Toscano’s future, since she has been the editor-in-chief of the high school newspaper, The Warrior, for two years.
“My favorite story was sophomore year, where I interviewed Miss Klein, who is our school social worker,” Toscano said. “We talked about quarantine and Covid, and ways that impacted students’ mental health and just like ways, things that we could do, and ways that we can be better for each other.”
Killian and Toscano agreed that many educators helped them reach the top of their class, including science teachers Lori Houde and Samantha Gordon, English teachers Heather Naughton, Heather Jones and Julie Magnuson, as well as math teacher Kali Psihos.
Both Killian and Toscano are athletes as well as scholars — Killian plays basketball and lacrosse and runs cross country, while Toscano plays lacrosse as well.
In addition, Killian is president of the Science National Honor Society and treasurer of Science Olympiad, for which she earned a silver medal in an anatomy and physiology competition. She helped launch Wantagh’s chapter of Health Occupations Students of America for those seeking careers in the medical field.
Toscano is vice president of the Gay-Straight Alliance, treasurer of the World Language Honor Society and a member of Model Congress. Her writing has been recognized nationally, earning a Gold Key award and two honorable mention awards in the Scholastic Arts and Writing competition. She also has assumed leadership of a creative writing class, called Story Seekers, for middle school students at the Wantagh Public Library — a project that was started by last year’s valedictorian, Juliana Rose.
Both Killian and Toscano took more than 10 Advanced Placement courses and earned the AP Capstone and the Seal of Biliteracy.
“I’m going to miss the school atmosphere,” Killian said. “In Wantagh, the teachers and students are very close, and the teachers are so easy to talk to. If you ever have like a difficulty, whether it’s like school related or like personal, they’re always there to support you. It is such a small town and I feel like the community is always together.”
Toscano agreed with that sentiment, singling out Psihos as a teacher who was always willing to assist students, with academic or personal problems.
According to Guzzone, they stand out among all of the valedictorians and salutatorians he has seen in his time as an educator.
“I’ve been around a lot of vals and sals,” Guzzone said. “And sometimes you see students who are valedictorians because they focus on their grades. These two have the grades anyway, but their participation for our school and our community is tremendous. They are the dynamic duo of Wantagh. They are going to do great things and represent Wantagh very well.”