Two young women lead the top of the class at Comsewogue High School. Valedictorian Daniela Galvez-Cepeda and salutatorian Gianna Alcala have near-identical grade point averages, but both have far different plans for their futures.
Galvez-Cepeda finished the year with a weighted GPA of 102.42. During school, she spent much of her time as student government co-president and French Honor Society president, a member of varsity track and field and Athlete Helping Athletes. In addition, she is a National Hispanic Recognition Scholar, Women in Science and Engineering team member at Stony Brook University and a National Merit Scholar Commended Student.
In her free time, she said she was a junior volunteer at Mather Hospital, where since 2017 she answered visitors’ questions at the front desk in both English and Spanish and provided them with comfort when needed. She also shadowed nurses on their rounds with patients.
She said her best memory of high school was her work setting up a donation drive the school organized in 2017 to help the people in Puerto Rico hurt by Hurricane Maria.
“I walked back and forth from the parking lot, unloading cars and trucks and bringing donations into our school’s auditorium,” she said. “My district neighbors were so generous that we filled up our whole auditorium with donations in only one day.”
In the fall, Galvez-Cepeda will be attending Williams College in Massachusetts where she will double major in math and physics on the pre-med track. She said her goal is to be a trauma surgeon, but she added she is excited to explore other options down the road.
Alcala is moving on to college with a 102.26 weighted GPA. She is a National Merit Scholarship Commended Scholar, Women in Science and Engineering at Stony Brook University, Art Honor Society president, Science Honor Society treasurer, as well as a member of the cross-country, Country Farms equestrian team and band.
She said her experiences with WISE and Art Honor Society were especially important to her high school career, though her favorite memory was traveling abroad with classmates to Spain, France and Italy.
Though she thanked her friends, family and teachers for inspiring her, she added that Galvez-Cepeda, her friend and competitor for the top academic spot, was also a huge inspiration.
“For the past seven years, Dani has been my most brilliant competitor and one of the most kind and generous people I’ve ever known,” Alcala said. “Without her impact on my life, I wouldn’t be half the person I am today.”
The salutatorian will be attending the University of Southern California, Viterbi School of Engineering to study environmental engineering. She said she wants to work toward a more sustainable world, especially in the textile industry.
Though the coronavirus cut off in-person learning prematurely for the 2020 senior class, the high school’s academic leaders said though they lacked physical contact with teachers and peers, the important thing is to persevere.
“High school is the foundation that is setting you up for the success that is to come in your life,” Galvez-Cepeda said. “So, enjoy your time with your friends while learning new things in a safe space together.”