High Honors: Meet the Valedictorians and Salutatorians

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John F. Kennedy High School
At John F. Kennedy High School, valedictorian Samantha Klein learned to balanced athletics and academics early on.

“I have been on Kennedy's varsity softball team since I was in the eighth grade,” she said. “I have been a starting player each of these five years and have been captain for the past two years.”

Klein isn’t driven by accolades or awards, but rather by the journey as a whole.

    “I have also participated in Key Club, Math Club and Senior Class,” she said. “I have been very pleased with the ability at Kennedy to challenge myself academically by taking 10 AP classes during my time here.”

Klein said she has received much support and encouragement from teachers and guidance counselors over the years.

“Sam has mastered the art of connecting with people of various ages, attitudes, intellects and backgrounds while marching to the beat of her own drum,” said her guidance counselor, Matthew Grasso.

Klein will be studying engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology in the fall.
JFK salutatorian Rachel Mashal has worked tirelessly on her scientific research throughout her high school career, catapulting her to finalist standing in both the Intel Science Talent Search and Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.

“Conducting my research has been one of the most challenging yet rewarding experiences of my high school career,” Mashal said.

“Through my research endeavors, I have accomplished more than I ever thought possible in a scope far beyond the realm of just science, and I have helped to solve real-world problems.”

Mashal cited research and AP Biology teacher Barbi Frank as playing influential roles in her decision to pursue a career in science at Dartmouth College this fall.

“[Frank] has devoted countless hours of her time toward helping me throughout the research process for the past three years,” Mashal said.

Other accomplishments include becoming the only high school student invited to present research at the International Conference on Eating Disorders, being one of five NYS Child Mind Institute Rising Scientists, placing second in the Long Island Science and Engineering Fair, medaling in the Science Olympiad Regional Competition and being designated an AP Scholar with Honor.

Quote:  "The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams." - Eleanor Roosevelt

Wellington C. Mepham High School
A National Merit Commended Student, AP Scholar and National Spanish Exam Gold Award recipient, John Grover can now add valedictorian to his list of accomplishments at Wellington C. Mepham High School.

A member of the varsity tennis program for the past four years, badminton program and school band, Grover has also made substantial contributions to the Science and Math Club, including competing in both the Science and Physics Olympiads, for which he earned several awards.

Grover said he took the National Spanish Exam each year in high school and in 10th grade was awarded the gold (Oro) award for scoring within the 95th percentile. He mentioned science teachers Josephine Parlagreco and William Leacock as instrumental during the college admissions process.

“Their lessons have helped me beyond the field of academics,” Grover said, adding that he will pursue a degree in mechanical engineering at Cornell University.

Mepham salutatorian Kristina DiMiceli is intrinsically motivated in all of her pursuits.

“Doing what is right comes before being popular or wanting to add something to her resume,” said her guidance counselor, Kimberly Thorgersen.

DiMiceli has been a member of Mepham’s orchestra and the Mepham-Calhoun Advanced Chamber Orchestra for the past four years, and has the distinction of being second chair violinist for both groups. She has performed at Level 6 in the New York State School Music Association Solo and Ensemble Festival and lends her talents to her school’s dramatic productions as a member of the pit orchestra. Also a skilled pianist, she performs with Mepham’s jazz ensemble, earned a bronze award in the Golden Key International Piano Competition and placed third in the Crescendo Competition.

DiMiceli said her motivation was derived from different teachers acting as “personal cheerleaders.”

“Their eagerness to help me through my struggles as well as praise me through my triumphs has meant a huge deal to me,” she said.

DiMiceli will attend The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the fall.

Quote: "All our dreams can come true...if we have the courage to pursue them." - Walt Disney

Sanford H. Calhoun High School
At Sanford H. Calhoun High School, valedictorian Kristi Chan has established herself as a young woman with an unwavering work ethic and intrinsic motivation to attain success at unparalleled levels.

This success is evidenced athletically as a key member of the badminton team, musically as a Level 6 NYSSMA pianist, and academically as president of Calhoun’s DECA chapter, placing in the top 10 in state-level competitions.

“I am especially proud of my accomplishments in DECA because the competitive environment at the state competition every year simply pushed me to think beyond the typical areas of business knowledge,” Chan said. “To see my ability to communicate my ideas in the corporate marketing sphere be recognized by professionals greatly contributed to my growing confidence in becoming a business leader who embodies both passion and creativity.”

Chan is also an AP Scholar with Distinction and a National Merit Commended Student. Chan will be studying Applied Economics and Management at Cornell University in the fall.

Calhoun salutatorian Haley Ryan chose a rigorous slate of AP courses to cap off her high school career.

“She is an exceptional young lady who pursues academic excellence and possesses a work ethic that far surpasses many of her contemporaries,” said her guidance counselor, Sharon Devenuto.

A member of the school’s three-year Advanced Science Research program, Ryan said, “[The program gave me] the opportunity to work in a materials science lab, where I studied a specific polymer and its ability to be used in prostheses in the future. I ran all of my own tests, analyzed my data on my own, and wrote a research paper that I was proud of. It was tedious work, but I was more than happy with the end results.”

Ryan plans to study chemical engineering at Stony Brook University in the fall.

"Don't aim for success because you want it. Just do what you love and believe in and it will come naturally." - David Frost