Graduations

Samantha Brindley, left, and Rebecca Hayman are Miller Place High School’s valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Samantha Brindley, Miller Place High School’s 2015 valedictorian, and Rebecca Hayman, the salutatorian, are more than just two success stories from Miller Place — they’re also the best of friends.

“I wouldn’t have wanted to go anywhere else but here,” Brindley said.  “My parents both graduated from Miller Place, and I’ve met all of my best friends here.”

Brindley is graduating with a GPA of 100.97, and Hayman is graduating with a GPA of 100.33.

During their time at Miller Place, Brindley and Hayman participated in multiple clubs together including mathletes, service club, Foreign Language Honor Society and National Honor Society. They also took several Advance Placement courses together, English and Composition, Spanish and Calculus.

Brindley played for the Miller Place High School varsity field hockey team for two years, where she and her team won county’s and the Long Island championships. She was also a member of Natural Helpers and was the secretary of the National Foreign Language Honor Society.

Outside of school, Brindley volunteered at Mather Memorial Hospital where she recently reached more than 400 service hours, and Stony Brook University Hospital, where she worked in the nutrition department.

In 2013, Brindley went to the University of California, Berkeley, for 10 days to attend a medical program where she learned basic triage skills.

Brindley will attend the University of Miami in the fall to study neuroscience.

“It’s very rare, in my 18 years here, that I find a student who had such a clear idea of what they wanted to do in their freshman year,” Marisa Raptis, Brindley’s guidance counselor, said. “Samantha was always interested in neuroscience. To have that distinct determination and find avenues to explore it is very rare.”

Hayman feels like her four years at Miller Place flew by.

“The journey went so quickly, I feel like we just started here yesterday,” she said.

Hayman was involved in the Future Business Leaders of America club, where she held the position of treasurer.

As a dancer, she performed in the high school’s variety show for each of her four years at the school. In addition, Hayman was a member of winter and spring track and field for two years and was the event coordinator for the National Foreign Language Honor Society.

Outside of school, Hayman is actively involved at Infant Jesus Roman Catholic Church in Port Jefferson, where she worked with the parish outreach group and was an altar server.

Hayman is very interested in business and will be furthering her studies in the fall at Stony Brook University.

“She is a great kid, a pleasure to work with,” Meghan Gallo, Hayman’s guidance counselor said. “She never shied away from a difficult course, and she exhausted our business courses here.”

Smithtown class speakers celebrate at the county School Superintendents Association’s Valedictorian Luncheon late last month. Seated in the middle are Rebecca Cheng from Smithtown High School West and Brian Righter from Smithtown High School East with Cheng’s mother Pei Cheng and Righter’s father Glenn Righter seated along side each. Photo from Smithtown Central School District

School superintendents, administrators and parents acknowledged and honored the highest achieving students of Suffolk County’s Class of 2015 during the Suffolk County School Superintendents Association’s 21st annual Valedictorian Luncheon, held at the Hyatt Regency Wind Watch Hotel in Hauppauge.

Brian Righter from Smithtown High School East and Rebecca Cheng from Smithtown High School West represented Smithtown Central School District at the luncheon. While the Smithtown CSD does not name valedictorians for their respective high schools, class speakers are chosen to represent each building. The top academic students (with a 4.0 GPA) in each of the two schools vote on whom amongst their peers they would like to see represent them at graduation.

The celebratory event was punctuated with music provided by the Islip High School Jazz Ensemble, who performed under the direction of Steve Campanella.

Congratulating all of the valedictorians and student representatives on their hard work and academic achievements were Roberta A. Gerold, SCSSA president and Middle Country school district superintendent of schools; Susan A. Schnebel, SCSSA president-elect and Islip school district superintendent of schools; Charles T. Russo, SCSSA vice president and East Moriches school district superintendent of schools; and Lars Clemensen, SCSSA secretary and Hampton Bays school district superintendent of schools.

Keynote speaker Roger Tilles, a member of the New York State Board of Regents, encouraged the valedictorians to always put things in perspective, develop a backbone, become proactive and involved, use imagination and creativity to propel forward, and find a job that matters.

“Love what you do, and feel that it matters,” Tilles said. “There is no greater fun than that.”

Each valedictorian was called to the stage to receive a certificate and gift of recognition. During their acknowledgment, the universities they plan on attending were announced, along with their intended majors.

The impressive and prestigious list of schools included Carnegie Mellon University, Columbia University, Duke University, Fordham University, Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Villanova University and Yale University. The SCSSA and its corporate partners also awarded 10 scholarships to graduates planning to pursue a career in education or social services.

Hannah Lawrence leads the Comsewogue high school seniors this year. Photo from the school district
Hannah Lawrence leads the Comsewogue high school seniors this year. Photo from the school district
Hannah Lawrence leads the Comsewogue high school seniors this year. Photo from the school district

By Rachel Siford

Two Warriors and two Royals are leading the pack as they look forward to throwing their caps on graduation day.

Hannah Lawrence and Renuka Diwan were named Comsewogue High School’s Class of 2015 valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively.

Lawrence is finishing her high school career with a 102.61 GPA. She is attending Yale University in the fall, majoring in applied mathematics. Lawrence comes from a long line of valedictorians: her mother Cindy, brother David and sister Rachel all graduated at the top of their classes at Comsewogue High School.

Renuka Diwan leads the Comsewogue high school seniors this year. Photo from the school district
Renuka Diwan leads the Comsewogue high school seniors this year. Photo from the school district

Lawrence kept herself busy throughout high school playing varsity tennis, helping to integrate new tech in her school as a Comsewogue Student Technology Specialist, and participating in the Women in Science & Engineering Program (WISE), Math League, the National Honor Society and the Academic Club. She is also a National Merit scholar.

Diwan wrapped up her high school career with a 101.39 GPA. In the fall she will start college at Brown University but is undecided about her area of study. She was a National Merit Scholarship Program finalist and was involved in the National Honor Society, varsity tennis, the Academic Club, the French Honor Society and the WISE program. She also practices Indian classical dance outside of school.

Noah Davis leads the Port Jefferson high school seniors this year. Photo from the school district
Noah Davis leads the Port Jefferson high school seniors this year. Photo from the school district

The Earl L. Vandermeulen High School announced Noah Davis as its Class of 2015 valedictorian and Natalia Zaliznyak as salutatorian.

Davis, the younger brother of 2013 valedictorian Gabriel Davis, is continuing his studies at Duke University this fall, majoring in biomedical engineering. He is an AP Scholar with Distinction, participated in the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory’s Partners for the Future research program and is on the Science Olympiad team.

Davis has already made strides in his career by submitting a patent for an environmentally friendly flame retardant and was a semifinalist in the Siemens Foundation Competition in Math, Science and Technology.

Natalia Zaliznyak leads the Port Jefferson high school seniors this year. Photo from the school district
Natalia Zaliznyak leads the Port Jefferson high school seniors this year. Photo from the school district

Zaliznyak is also an AP Scholar with Distinction and a member of the Science Olympiad team. She is a National Merit semifinalist and a member of the Latin Club. She participated in the Simons Summer Research Program at Stony Brook University and in a local Russian theater group. She is attending Yale University in the fall to study molecular biophysics.