Academic Hall of Fame inductee Kayla Torppey encourages students to follow their dreams

May 16, 2022

By Madison Echols
Staff Writer

In 2008, Kayla Torppey was an LHS senior preparing to make her way across the graduation stage and embark upon a six-year doctoral program at the University of Sciences in Philadelphia.

Fourteen years later, she is a highly accomplished professional with a message for students: “There will be people who stand in your way and doubt you. Don’t ever let yourself be one of them.”

Torppey, who is this year’s inductee to LHS’ Academic Hall of Fame, accepted her award and delivered a speech during the Academic Awards Dinner on May 9. The dinner, which honored students in the top 10% of their class, was held at The Fiesta in Wood-Ridge.  

Torppey, who was her class’ salutatorian, said she always gravitated towards math and science. In high school, she completed algebra through the accelerated program and took as many STEM-related courses as she could in addition to pursuing Advanced Placement courses.

“I was always into math, and I really liked science. My favorite classes were bio, anatomy, chemistry, Algebra II and calculus,” Torppey said.

In addition to excelling in her academics, Torppey was involved in extracurricular activities including the spring musical, National Honor Society, Nutrition Club, Spanish Club, Peer Group Connection, soccer and track and field.

Torppey said she has fond memories of her youth in Lyndhurst.

“I met my husband at LHS, some of my best friends to this day are from LHS and I have where I grew up as a big factor in who I am today,” Torppey said in her speech. 

In 2012, Torppey earned her bachelor’s degree in Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Studies and two years later became a Doctor of Pharmacy. 

“I always valued education, and I knew that was the highest level I could go,” Torppey said. 

She said her post-secondary education was not without challenges, as she experienced failure, and one of her professors encouraged her to pursue a different profession. 

“I was not doing well in one of my classes, and for the first time, I thought, ‘I don’t know if I can do this,’” Torppey said. 

She said it was difficult making life-changing decisions when she was at the very start of her adulthood. However, she said it also led her to an important realization.

“You always have the opportunity to change your mind and switch majors or transfer to a different school,” Torppey said. “At the end of the day, you are pursuing what makes you happy and what is going to fulfill you for the rest of your life.”

Torppey has spent the last seven years working as a clinical specialist in internal medicine at the Newark Beth Israel Medical Center. Additionally, she is an adjunct professor at Saint Elizabeth University in Morristown and is part of two professional organizations.

“Sure, maybe some students had more AP classes than me, but there is a certain Lyndhurst attitude and confidence that I think is really special.”

Torppey was selected as this year’s Academic Hall of Fame inductee at the conclusion of a two-round selection process that included the input from administrators, faculty, staff, students and Kathleen and Phil Ciarco, the benefactors for the Academic Awards Dinner.

Torppey said the award is especially meaningful to her since she attended the Academic Awards Dinner when she was in high school.

“I actually remember listening to the Hall of Fame inductee and thinking, ‘How can I get up there one day?’” Torppey said in her speech.

Torppey said even students coming from a small public high school like LHS have the potential to achieve greatness.

“There was a time [after high school] when I thought, ‘Oh well, I am only from Lyndhurst. I am not as smart as everyone else here,’” Torppey said in her speech. “Sure, maybe some students had more AP classes than me, but there is a certain Lyndhurst attitude and confidence that I think is really special.”

Junior Aidan Fairchild-Sandoval, who attended the Academic Awards Dinner, said Torppey’s address was inspiring. 

“Her speech taught me that despite the fact that I come from a small town, big things are still possible,” Fairchild-Sandoval said.

He said Torppey is a great addition to the Academic Hall of Fame because she has a strong sense of character in addition to an impressive academic and professional background.

“Dr. Torrpey is a very kind and caring person. She talked about her work with underserved communities and her work as a professor, and I think this shows immense selflessness,” Fairchild-Sandoval said.

Senior Alessandra Alberti, who also attended the Academic Awards Dinner, said the part of Torppey’s speech that most impacted her was when Torppey encouraged young women to follow their dreams.

“It was something that really stuck with me because she is a woman in STEM and persevered through adversity,” Alberti said. 

In the fall, Alberti will be enrolled in the honors program at Florida Atlantic University where she will be studying criminal justice and psychology. She plans to one day work for the FBI. Just as Torppey did in high school, Alberti has hopes of returning to the Academic Awards Dinner as a distinguished guest.

“It would be a great honor to be in the Academic Hall of Fame. If I achieved as much as Mrs. Torrpey, I would definitely consider it as well,” said Alberti.

PHOTO BY ISABELLA GUZMAN Academic Hall of Fame inductee Kayla Torppey holds the plaque she received at the Academic Awards Dinner on May 9 at The Fiesta in Wood-Ridge.

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