Arthur L. Johnson High School student awarded academic honors

Arthur L. Johnson High School senior Abigail Henkel has been recognized by the College Board as a National Recognition Program awardee.

CLARK, NJ — Arthur L. Johnson High School senior Abigail Henkel, of Garwood, has been recognized by the College Board as a National Recognition Program awardee. Henkel earned the National Hispanic Recognition Award.

“It’s really exciting,” Henkel said. “I was so surprised.”
The award truly means something to Henkel; to have her identity recognized, to have the opportunities and to be recognized.

“My mom was born and raised in Peru,” she said. “A lot of family on my mom’s side didn’t go to college. Or they just attended college for two years.”

Superintendent Edward Grande said, “This achievement speaks to Abigail’s outstanding ability and performance. Such national recognition is most noteworthy and fills us here in the Clark schools with pride.”

Henkel was also Student of the Month in November 2023, with the third highest grade-point average in the senior class. She was recently admitted to Georgetown University, which is her dream school, but she says she’s waiting to commit.

She plans to study political science and government with a minor in statistics.

In school, Henkel is on the senior debate team and co-editor of the high school newspaper. She favors writing about academics. She also belongs to the book club and is a Key Club volunteer. Henkel admits it’s “definitely hard” to make time for all her activities but since they’re done with friends it makes her want to go.

“I like talking to new people and learning about them,” she said.
In her spare time, Henkel said she likes to hang out with friends. They go to movies and play video games together. She also enjoys reading adult fiction and historical fiction. Henkel plays guitar and piano — but for herself, not in front of an audience — favoring indie and folk music. Another passion is knitting and crocheting. She makes a lot of stuff, including blankets and scarves for friends and cousins and rugs for her room.

English teacher Joy Donaldson is someone to whom Henkel looks up. “She taught me a lot. How to make my writing better.”

She said she also admires David Fosco, her debate coach, who encouraged Henkel to pursue politics.

But her biggest inspiration is her father, who passed away in 2022. “We watched political TV shows,” she said. “He’d help me study. He said, ‘Do everything you can to get as far as you can.’ He taught me the value of doing what you can while you’re here. I hope I make him proud.”

Though Henkel is really excited about going to college full time, she said she will miss her friends. She fondly remembers her times with the debate teams and traveling to competitions throughout different areas of New Jersey.

She said she’ll also miss her mom, who made her promise to go back home once a month.

When asked what advice she’d give to students first entering high school, Henkel said, “You get what you give. If you want a high school experience, say ‘Hi’ to everyone, talk to every teacher. Take a chance. Join every club.”

Photo Courtesy of Arthur L. Johnson High School