METUCHEN, NJ - There was very little doubt in Aayush Agnihotri’s mind when it came to choosing where he wanted to attend high school. Aside from the wide array of academic offerings and extracurricular activities, there was a deeper connection to Saint Joseph High School that only a select few understand - the legacy connection.
After seeing his older brother, Aniket (Saint Joe’s Class of 2019) flourish at the private, catholic college preparatory school, Aayush knew he wanted to follow in his brother’s footsteps and become a part of the Saint Joseph brotherhood.
Five years later, Aayush stands in a more exclusive club than his brother and many other legacy students. Today, Aayush is one of just 60 class valedictorians.
“When I first heard, I was taken aback. (Salutatorian Matthew DaSilva and I) were expecting it, but hearing someone else say it is obviously going to be completely different than us thinking it,” Aayush said. “At first I was taken aback, but then I texted my mom and family, they were congratulating me. Then when the school posted it to Instagram, people slid up in my DMs and also congratulated me. I was feeling hyped up and excited.”
Aayush came to Saint Joe’s from a public middle school in South Plainfield. While that by itself is not uncommon, it led to more opportunities for Aayush to choose from when it came time to choose his high school destination. He found several opportunities outside of Saint Joe’s, including the extremely competitive Middlesex County academies. However, when push came to shove, he chose the school that offered the most opportunities, not just academically, but socially as well.
“Primarily, the main academy that I wanted to attend was Edison Academy - MCVTS,” Aayush said. “The core thing that stood out to me was that there are 45 people in your grade. No gym, no athletics. Since I wanted to play soccer and track at Saint Joe’s that drew me away. The extracurricular opportunities at Saint Joe’s provide endless opportunities for growth. That was my deciding factor.”
Following a freshman year that included typical “freshman” activities, like trying out for an athletics team and joining various clubs on campus, Aayush took advantage of a unique opportunity at Saint Joe’s - the ability to create a new club. Thus, the Saint Joseph Technology Student Association was born.
“I’m definitely most proud of founding the Technology Student Association,” Aayush said. “What I’m really most proud of is in our first year we won states and went on to nationals and placed third. It was a team effort. We had to create a website from scratch. What I’m really proud of is how we came together to do it: delegating work, reaching our individual goals. In the end, we placed third nationally. It's a tremendous accomplishment and I’m super proud of it.
The fact that his experience launching the Technology Student Association is the highlight of Aayush’s Saint Joe’s career tells you all you need to know about his overall high school experience.
Aside from the top accolade of being named the Class of 2022 valedictorian, Aayush received almost every academic award and accolade available to students at Saint Joe’s, including Academic Excellence Awards, National Honor Societies and AP Scholars. Outside of the classroom, Aayush was one of 25 New Jersey delegates to the YMCA Conference on National Affairs (CONA) and a General Assembly Premier Diplomat.
“We know that he could have gone to any high school he wanted, but he chose Saint Joe’s because of all the extra things that other schools don’t offer,” Saint Joseph High School Principal Anne Rivera said. “Since day one on campus, Aayush thrived to succeed and create his own path. We are very proud of the journey he took here at Saint Joe’s and can’t wait to see what comes next.”
When you look at Aayush’s academic resume, one thing stands out - his love for computer science and technology, which might be a family gene. His older brother Aniket is studying computer science at Purdue University and both his parents are also computer science professionals. So, it's no surprise that Aayush will be studying computer science at Cornell University in the Fall.
“I knew coming into high school that I wanted to major in computer science so I tailored my high school experience towards it.” Aayush said. “ When my brother applied to colleges four years ago, we looked at Cornell and other leading computer science programs. When it came time for me to look at colleges, I remembered Cornell the best. It has a great program for me to thrive in, so it became an easy choice for me.”
While it might seem that following in the footsteps of family is top of mind, Aayush used his time at Saint Joe’s to carve out his own path towards being a Saint Joseph Man. That will be his message when he stands at the pulpit to address the Class of 2022 at the Church of the Sacred Heart in South Plainfield on Sunday.