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Jonathan Yu

Mount Sinai’s valedictorian Jonathan Yu and salutatorian Jack Pilon are like many other students in their class, looking forward to college, and even further, future careers.

Yu finished with a 103.12 GPA. The senior was the environmental club vice president, a National Merit Scholarship award winner and he ran winter and spring track.

Mount Sinai valedicotiran Jonathan Yu. Photo from Mount Sinai School District

He said his proudest accomplishments were as a member of the school’s Ocean Bowl team. The team is made up of four students who travel to competitions where they test their knowledge of marine sciences, including biology, chemistry, physics and geology. This year the team won the regional Bay Scallop Bowl at Stony Brook University and went on to compete in the National Ocean Sciences Bowl, where it placed eighth.

“It was a great accomplishment,” Yu said. “It was great to explore, go to different places and meet new people.”

Yu will attend Georgia Institute of Technology where he plans to study physics, a subject which to Yu is a means to understanding a complex world.

“The world is so complicated — so it’s nice to simplify it,” Yu said. “At the simplest level everything in the universe follows a certain set of rules, and I think that’s amazing.”

Yu said he hopes to take his passion for the subject to work as a researcher, and added if he had any choice of destination, it would be to work in Antarctica. 

“It just seems like a really interesting place,” Yu said. “There is so much going on, from ice movement to the wildlife.”

As a word of advice for incoming high school freshmen, he said kids have to help each other so that everyone can succeed.

“It’s just the right thing to do,” he said.

Mount Sinai salutatorian Jack Pilon. Photo from Mount Sinai School District

Pilon graduated with a 103.52 GPA. The senior has been team captain for spring and winter track, National Honor Society president and a member of the school’s orchestra, but his highlight moments were spent as this year’s class president.

In his junior year, Pilon and his fellow class officers created committees on prom, homecoming, fundraising and class trips that were joined by students interested in having a say in running the school events.

“These were students who wouldn’t have originally had the opportunity or even interest in school government, and we were able to get them involved,” Pilon said.

Being class president is just a part of Pilon’s interest in government and politics. It’s why he plans to major in government while attending the College of  Arts and Sciences at Cornell University.

“It kind of drew from what I did as class president — you’re really able to create change, and it’s something I’m really interested in,” Pilon said.

But that isn’t his only interest. He is attending the arts and sciences college to see which of his interests — medicine, government or business — draws more of his attention.

Pilon said anybody who wants to enjoy high school should look to get involved.

“Use the opportunities given to you,” he said. “Explore everything you can, take the hard classes and be up to the challenge.”

Mount Sinai Ocean Sciences Bowl team co-advisers David Chase and Glynis Nau-Ritter with members, Ariele Mule, Ben May, Claire Dana and Jonathan Yu. Photo from Glynis Nau-Ritter

Mount Sinai High School’s Ocean Sciences Bowl team is going national.

The group recently went head-to-head at Stony Brook University against 16 other teams throughout the state, and won first place at the regional Bay Scallop Bowl, an academic competition testing the students’ knowledge of marine sciences, including biology, chemistry, physics and geology. Mount Sinai’s 28-27 win against Great Neck South High School clinched its spot in the National Ocean Sciences Bowl, where they’ll join 25 teams from across the country in Corvallis, Oregon from April 20 to 23.

“Going in, we were skeptical, but once we started going through the day, our confidence really built up and everybody got to shine.”

—Ben May

On Feb. 18, the school’s four-student “A” team — senior Ben May, junior Jonathan Yu, sophomore Claire Dana, and freshman Ariele Mule — was one of two left standing after competing in a series of 10 fast-paced, undefeated buzzer, with the next determining the winner. With three seconds left on the clock, Great Neck South ran out of time on a bonus question that would’ve made it the winner, and Mount Sinai came out victorious. The high school has now placed first in 10 of the 16 annual Bay Scallop Bowls.

“It was probably the most exciting competition we’ve had in the Ocean Bowl,” said team co-advisor Glynis Nau-Ritter, a science teacher at the high school. “We work them hard and it pays off.”

Co-advisor David Chase echoed Nau-Ritter’s excitement.

“The students here have not only won the competition, but they’ve expanded their knowledge,” he said. “I’m very proud to be able to contribute to their success, and it’s great to be working with the best of the best.”

May, the team’s captain, said he and his teammates experienced “the ultimate coming-from-behind story” after going through a reconstruction year. May was the only returning member of the “A” team from last year, as the others had all graduated.

“It was thrilling to win and have the experience with so many people who share my love of the ocean.”

—Claire Dana

“Going in, we were skeptical, but once we started going through the day, our confidence really built up and everybody got to shine,” May said. “It was the closest competition I’ve ever been part of. We had no control over it. The other team captain and I were very friendly and it was a bonding experience. The stress of it really pulled us together.”

Calling nationals “a nerd’s dream,” May expressed pride for each of his teammates and said to prepare for the nationals, they met to study over winter break and will be meeting several days a week leading up to the nationwide competition.

“It was thrilling to win and have the experience with so many people who share my love of the ocean,” Dana said. “It was a great surprise, and I thought we all found pride in each other. We were all super ecstatic.”

In addition to competing in the nationals and receiving an all-expenses paid trip to Oregon, each of the four Mount Sinai students received a check for $400 for their victory.

The highest the Mount Sinai team has placed is fourth at nationals. If the students place in the top three or four teams, there are other monetary awards, as well as a trophy and possible student accessories like a netbook. The team could also potentially win a field trip to various research stations, like the Caribbean or West Coast.

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