Southington top student discovered passion for engineering in high school

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SOUTHINGTON – Amber Kohl joined Southington High School’s engineering program on a whim, not realizing she’d stumble into a career path.

“Growing up I never thought I’d be an engineer,” Kohl said. “As soon as I started taking the classes, I realized it was interesting and appealing to me.”

Kohl is the top student in Southington High School’s 2022 class and will give the valedictorian speech at graduation on June 17. She’ll study civil engineering at the University of Connecticut in the fall.

Kohl first saw her name in the number one academic spot after her first freshmen semester. 

“It was so exciting and validating” to be named valedictorian, she said.

Ana Napolitano, Kohl’s school counselor, described the senior as hard-working in academics as well as other pursuits, such as dance and school clubs. Kohl is a competitive dancer at Dance City, a Center Street dance school.

“Her time on the stage allows Amber to highlight her creativity and artistry,” Napolitano said.

While a major commitment, Kohl said it was good to have a release from academics. She’s been dancing at the studio since age 3.

“I would be there at the studio almost every day of the week and competitions on weekends,” she said.

Kohl has not only participated but been a leader in clubs at the high school.

“It is Amber’s commitment to service however, that separates her from other students,” Napolitano said. “As president of Southington High School’s Interact Club (Rotary Club), Amber successfully led the club in growing its membership from ten to nearly 100 students. Through her leadership, Interact collected food and other household necessities for Southington Community Services during the pandemic. These items were distributed to local families in need.”

Kohl was also part of the school’s Project Lead the Way, an introduction to engineering. She found herself enjoying the vigor and detail-oriented work.

“We get a taste of several different types of engineering. It's very hands on, its very team based,” she said.


Matthew Morgan was the 2022 class salutatorian. Geoff Davis, Morgan’s school counselor, said Morgan has always chosen the most demanding classes, such as advance placement, college credit courses and engineering courses.

“It is through Project Lead the Way that he has demonstrated his leadership through project management and his adeptness at using abstract reasoning and problem-solving skills,” Davis wrote.

Morgan is preparing to study mechanical engineering with a concentration in aerospace in the fall at UConn.


Class essayist Daniel Semmel was ranked third in the class. He’s a member of the Southington High School marching and jazz bands and serves as brass captain. Semmel is also a member of the Southington Town-Wide Effort to Promote Success and the Interact Club.

“He is a delightful young man who goes out of his way to help others and give back to his community,” said Jessica Wallace, Semmel’s school counselor.

Semmel plans to attend UConn and study computer engineering.

Southington High School’s graduation is planned for June 17 at the football field beginning at 5:30 p.m. The rain date is June 18 at 1 p.m.

Message to fellow students

Kohl said she’s been thinking about giving the valedictorian speech since her freshman year. She’s working on writing it and is excited to address her classmates.

“Enjoy your time in high school, at whatever stage of life you’re in, live each and every day to the fullest,” Kohl said.

She credited her parents, Derek and Rebecca Kohl, and her brother Dalton with helping her on her high school journey. Amber Kohl was also appreciative toward the teachers and students that she’d met at the school over the past four years. 

“They’ve all made the experience meaningful,” she said.

jbuchanan@record-journal.com203-317-2230Twitter: @JBuchananRJ


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