Bethlehem Area School District’s top students commit to colleges.

By Danielle Nelson

*This article is posted on The Express Times website.

commitsLiberty High School senior Emily A. Cecchini, signs her academic letter intent to attend the United States Naval Academy June 2, 2014 during the Bethlehem Area School District’s first academic signing ceremony at the Bethlehem Education Center. Seven of the top academic students from Liberty and Freedom each signed letters of intent. Photo Credit Bill Adams | The Express-Times


The Bethlehem Area School District has for years set aside a special day for standout athletes to announce plans to accept scholarships to major universities.

For the first time, the district today set aside a similar day for its academic standouts.

The Bethlehem Area School District celebrated 14 seniors from the top tier of their class as they shared where they plan to pursue higher education.

Assistant Superintendent Jack Silva said administrators agree athletes aren’t the only students in the district who deserve recognition.

“(There are) seven from Liberty (High School) and seven from Freedom (High School) who represent the highest academic excellence within our school district and we wanted them to have a signing day as well,” Silva said today. “Together, they attend some of the prestigious, highly selective universities not just in Pennsylvania but in our country.”

Velisa Li, a soon-to-be graduate from Freedom High School, had a dual enrollment at Lehigh University this past spring, studying the history of Latin America. She’ll attend Carnegie Mellon University in the fall. She wants to major in chemical engineering and eventually work for a company that is focused on energy sustainability and renewable energy.

Li said sometime in the future she would like to become an activist of STEM programs, which focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics education, “especially promoting it for girls.”

“I want to let them know that it’s OK if you like math and science,” Li said. “It’s not something you should be ashamed of.”

Joshua Kapcsos, the salutatorian of the class of 2014 at Freedom, said he was initially going to attend Northampton Community College for financial reasons but changed his mind after he was awarded a dean’s scholarship at Lehigh University.

“That was too good of a deal to pass up,” Kapcsos said.

Now, Kapcsos will enroll in Lehigh in the fall, where he spent this past year in its dual enrollment program. Kapcsos’ mother, Kathy Kapcsos, also pursued her master’s degree at Lehigh but insists she did not push him to follow her.

“He has been brilliant since the day he was born,” Kathy Kapcsos said. “He has yet to be challenged academically to be quite honest with you. Everything that comes his way he tackles.”

Joshua Kapcsos hopes to major in physics, focusing on theoretical physics or quantum physics later on down the line.

The Freedom student, who called time management his greatest high school challenge, also worked as a dishwasher at Northampton Community College.

“It was hard getting the homework in at night,” Joshua Kapcsos said. “I would be the one staying up at 3 a.m. working on a report.”

He will give the commencement speech during Freedom’s graduation on Friday.

Before her senior year even began, Liberty senior Emily A. Cecchini knew she would attend the United States Naval Academy this fall.

Last summer, Cecchini said she attended a summer session and that’s when she knew she loved it.

“I fell in love with the lifestyle, the academics and the part of serving your country,” Cecchini said. “I liked everything that the academy stood for. I think that’s what struck my interest.”

Cecchini will be inducted July 1 into the academy, where she intends to major in political science and minor in Chinese but also has aspirations of flying for the Navy during her four years there.

The other students are attending Fordham, Stevens Institute of Technology, Penn State, University of Pennsylvania, University of Florida, Boston University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Gettysburg College.

Silva said he hopes that the ceremony not only motivates siblings of the honorees but students throughout the district to continue to excel academically.

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