Whiz Kid: Jack Pantalena

Jack Pantalena charted new territory for his Hopkins senior project by designing a 13.3 mile loop in Guilford's Westwoods.


Name:  Jack Pantalena

Age:      Recent Graduate

School:  Hopkins

Accomplishments:   Madison's Jack Pantalena spent two weeks of his senior year at Hopkins walking through the Guilford Westwoods trail system mapping out a 13.3 mile loop connecting existing trails.  The loop is not listed in any of the Westwoods trail maps, so Pantalena was charting new territory.

Although the entire project took six weeks he needed the initial two weeks to get the lay of the land, so armed with a GPS unit he “mapped out a hiking loop so that basically the total loop was 13.3 miles.  It is a continuous loop that you can hike around and it has access to (many) trails heads.” 

While mapping out his route he took copious notes and photographs on the wildlife he saw. The finished project was a 40 page guidebook specifically on his loop.

Key to Awesomeness:  Pantalena passed a rigorous screening process to have his six week project accepted.  A proposal was submitted to a 13 person committee and had to meet very specific criteria to be accepted.

“I’m really into hiking and the outdoors,” said Pantalena.  He was fortunate to spend spring semester of his junior year in Colorado.  “I did a lot of backpacking, took some classes and do a lot of things with the outdoors there,” said Pantalena.  “It really made me love the outdoors even more.  It increased my passion for hiking and that’s why I did the project.”

“The Westwoods trail system is the largest recreational area for hiking in Guilford.  Westwoods contains 39 miles of trails on 1,200 acres,” according to the Guilford Land Conservation Trust website.

“I’ve always likes being outside,” said Pantalena.  “Sometimes I like to get away from it all, not use my phone for a week and go into the back country…and escape everything,” he added.

“It's wonderful to see somebody work hard at something they love - Jack took great pleasure in planning his route, hiking it, and documenting the results,” said David Fischer, Hopkins Department of Mathematics and Science.  “The booklet he put together is of professional quality, and I hope it gets maximum exposure so that others can benefit from Jack's hard work!" 

Pantalena will study engineering at Southern Methodist University in Dallas this fall.  In the meantime, he hopes that his loop is enjoyed by hikers here in Connecticut. 

“I’ve been talking to the West Woods organization about putting it up on their website,” said Pantelena. “They like it.  They thought it was a really good idea.”

joe August 10, 2011 at 01:10 PM
Awesome job Jack! I will look for your trail guide map. Maybe the folks at Patch can post it when it becomes available?
Pem McNerney August 10, 2011 at 02:06 PM
Great idea, would love to post it.
Sarah Page Kyrcz August 10, 2011 at 05:46 PM
Received via e-mail: Great article! It's so gratifying to see Senior Projects presented as a worthy challenge. I really appreciate the balance and tone of the piece. Jack did a fine job and it's worth posting about. Cheers, Ian Melchinger
Barbara Salzano August 12, 2011 at 12:01 PM
Impressive accomplishment! He's clearly destined to do great things.


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