JACKSON TWP. It’s been a long-standing tradition a Jackson High School to name a Miss and Mister Jacksonite in the spring and then present the awards during the senior awards ceremony. This year is a bit different with schools – and associated events – having been canceled for the rest of the year.

The awardees were announced in late April and this year’s Miss and Mister Jacksonite are Divya Patibandla (Miss) and Zachary Buckler (Mister). The students received their awards a week before the May 28 graduation.

Each year, the Jackson High School staff and students select one male and one female student to be Mister and Miss Jacksonite. This is the highest honor Jackson High School bestows on its students. Selected students are in good standing academically, socially and civically at Jackson High School and in the Community.

“This is such a prestigious award for the students because they are voted for by students and teachers, it is highly competitive too because all of our students are so involved with their school and the community,” Jackson Senior Class Advisor Chris Amedeo said.

There are five phases in the process to determine Miss and Mister Jacksonite. The first phase is to determine those students who have a grade point average of 3.6 or higher. Second, from that list, teachers nominate candidates for the ballot. Third, the teachers vote on the nominees.

The fourth phase is the senior class votes for one male and one female classmate that represents the best of what it means to be a member of Jackson High School and the Jackson Township Community. The final phase involves a school, community, and leadership activity sheet that each candidate completes listing what they have been involved with over their high school years.

The candidates acquire points based on their ranking in each phase, and the male and female candidate with the best cumulative ranking receives the honor. Both are awarded a plaque to keep, and a second, identical plaque is hung in perpetuity at Jackson High School.

Amedeo said usually teachers will vote on five girls and five boys but this year there was a tie so there were six girls and five boys. In the end, the following were the 2020 nominees:

• Mary Grace Bentivegna

• Ellie Chevalier

• Giavonna Globokar

• Lilliana Iraheta

• Divya Patibandla

• Kaitlyn Woolbert

• Zachary Buckler

• Jack Dennis

• Adam Hamdan

• Samuel McFadden

• Jake Stout

Meet Miss Jacksonite Divya Patibandla

Patibandla has a long list of accomplishments and community services including being a teen volunteer at Pathway Caring for Children, a nonprofit organization that strives to create an inclusive community for children who struggle with emotional or behavioral disabilities.

She was a band officer and helped lead an initiative with the nonprofit organization Clean the World. They packaged 200 individual hygiene kits full of hygienic essentials to donate to an outreach program. She was also a co-director of the SpeakNow Program at Jackson Memorial Middle School. This is a student-led organization that aims to teach critical thinking skills to students who are interested in speech and debate.

“I was the treasurer and principal clarinet section leader of the Jackson band program,” said Divya. “I also ran varsity track and field for all four years in high school and was a team captain. Lastly, I was a co-rhetoric captain of the Jackson speech and debate team, as well as a state qualifier in Original Oratory.

“I am incredibly humbled to receive Miss Jacksonite this year and proud to represent the Jackson High School Class of 2020. I am so grateful to be recognized for my achievements, none of which would have been possible without the tremendous opportunities Jackson High School has provided me with.

“I would like to thank all of my teachers I have had during my time at Jackson — from kindergarten to senior year — they are truly the reason I have become the person and leader I am today. I would especially like to thank Michele Monigold, my band director, for always pushing me to be better. Even as a timid freshman, she has always taught me that I should never settle while encouraging me to be the best I can be. Not only has she inspired me to become a better musician, but also a better person. Finally, I would like to thank my family for constantly encouraging me in all that I do. I would not be where I am today without their love and support.”

Meet Mister Jacksonite Zachary Buckler

“I’m very proud of the service I’ve taken part of in Jackson, like the Clean the World Initiative organized through the band, SpeakNow nonprofit through speech and debate and volunteering at St Michael’s Parish,” Buckler said.

In addition to the community service activities, Buckler has participated in a number of high school leadership roles such as band president, speech and debate rhetoric captain, and lead freshman mentor.

“I’m really happy to represent an amazing Class of 2020,” Buckler said. “There were a lot of really amazing and incredibly deserving candidates and I feel honored to represent the fantastic group of people I’ve spent the last four years with. Jackson is an amazing community and to be chosen for such a prestigious community award is incredibly humbling and exciting.

“I want to thank Mr. Ben McGugin, my AP Economics teacher and speech and debate coach. Mr. McGugin took over for the Jackson speech and debate program in a very tumultuous environment, but that didn’t stop him from ultimately improving the program and has helped teach me a lot of very valuable leadership skills. Working with Mr. McGugin and the rest of the coaching staff has immensely improved my ability to lead and improve others while also improving myself. Outside of the extracurricular world, my time in Mr. McGugin’s AP Econ classroom was incredibly fun and taught me the important skill of balancing work and play. We had a good time in AP Econ, and Mr. McGugin effectively taught us to learn the material while simultaneously having a good time, making the class that much more enjoyable. Mr. McGugin’s teaching and mentorship has been invaluable to me throughout my high school experience, and I can’t thank him enough for everything he’s done for me.”

“All of the finalists are outstanding students and the two selected this year are fantastic students,” said Amedeo, who added students can put this award on college entrance and job applications. “All of the finalists are leaders in our school and do great work in the community. Both of this year’s selections have completed at least a 100 hours of community service for the National Honor Society and for government.”