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Valedictorian

Northport High School. File photo

By Leah Chiappino

In light of graduation season, Northport High School has named Peter DeTolla and Alea Brummel valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively.

Peter DeTolla

Like all members of the Class of 2020, both students have attempted to rise to the challenge of celebrating senior year in the face of a pandemic, while mourning the loss of classic senior moments, such as prom and traditional graduation.

“I definitely would have preferred to have finished my senior year in school with all of my classmates, but I am trying to make the best of the situation,” Brummel said. “While I am sad that I didn’t get many of the opportunities I would have had if we had been in school, I am extremely grateful for the efforts our principal Mr. Danbusky and all of the other staff and teachers at Northport High School who have made efforts to ensure we get a special ending to our senior year such as lawn signs or the drive-by parade we had.”

“The pandemic was really a slap in the face, as everyone in the Class of 2020 missed out on the best part of high school,” DeTolla added. “However, my school made a great effort to make us feel appreciated and I thank them for that.”

DeTolla finished high school with a 102.78 grade point average and plans to attend Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the fall, with hopes of becoming a mechanical engineer.

The valedictorian was involved in Students for 60,000, a Northport High School-based service organization dedicated to helping the needy. Through the club, DeTolla went on a service trip to Nicaragua, which he says was a highlight of his high school experience. “My experience in Nicaragua as a part of Students for 60,000 is something I’ll never forget,” he said. “I’ve become so appreciative of the life I have, and those trips are a big reason for that. The memories and friends I made there are truly remarkable.”

DeTolla added that another highlight from high school was beating Ward Melville High School “on their home turf,” at a record-breaking lacrosse game.

“It was a euphoric feeling that I share with every member of the team,” he said.

One of four children, DeTolla said he grew up in a close, well-rounded family, something he attributes to his success.

“My mother and father, Aimee and Peter, raised me to be a balanced individual with a strong work ethic and kind spirit,” he said. “Our family is very close, and I can’t imagine not being a part of it … I would like to thank every teacher, coach, older cousin and any other role model in my life for giving me the tools to succeed.”

Alea Brummel

Brummel, who earned a 101.62 GPA, is headed to Baylor University in the fall to study chemistry and mathematics on a pre-med track, with the hopes of working in sports medicine. For the salutatorian, it was her combined love of sports and science that led her on this path. At Northport, she was the head student athletic trainer and was able to assist the district’s athletic trainer in treating and rehabilitating injured student-athletes. The times when she was working directly on the football field, she said, were some of her favorite memories from high school.

“I am a huge football fan, and it was awesome to not only go to games but to also get to work as a student trainer for the games,” she said. “It was an amazing experience to be on the field with the players, and I am hoping to potentially pursue a career in sports medicine so it was incredible to get to see what the atmosphere is like.”

Despite her school and training commitments, Brummel also was involved in community service through her church. For the past two years, she has gone on a service trip to the Dominican Republic over February break.

Brummel said she has loved growing up in Northport and “had an amazing experience at Northport High School.” She praised all of her “amazing teachers,” but gave special thanks to her AP Chemistry teacher, Don Strasser, as his class was a major factor in Brummel choosing chemistry as a major. She said her math teachers likewise fueled her passion for mathematics, and that she is deeply grateful to her mentors in the sports medicine program, Tracey Braun and Shawn Scattergood. Brummel thanked her family for “always being incredibly supportive of me and always being there for me.”

She advised next year’s senior class to take the time to cherish senior year.

“Make sure you take advantage of all of your opportunities and make sure to have fun and enjoy your senior year,” she said. “This year especially has shown us, not everything is guaranteed to happen as expected, so make the most of what you experience — go to the game, go to the dance, go out with your friends.”

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Kings Park High School. Photo by Rita J. Egan

By Leah Chiappino

Kings Park High School graduating seniors Celina Ma and Taryn O’Connor have earned the title of valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively.

Celina Ma

With the coronavirus, Ma and O’Connor have had to make the best of celebrating the conclusion of their senior year of high school in the face of a pandemic. Ma says that she has found positivity through the darkness.

“Losing my senior year to the COVID-19 pandemic was heartbreaking and disappointing, to say the least,” she said. “But through adversity, comes growth. While we have all experienced a great loss, I think the Class of 2020 has also gained a new resilience and strength that will serve us well for the rest of our lives.”

O’Connor added that while the restrictions have been disappointing, she has hope for
the future.

“I was definitely disappointed over losing the end of my senior year due to COVID-19, she said. “I found it difficult to transition to online classes, as I find that I work best in a classroom environment. I was also looking forward to all the events for the seniors that happen in the final months, whether it be prom or the Senior Countdown on the field. However, I’m happy that the school is trying to arrange an in-person graduation ceremony, and I’m hopeful that restrictions will eventually loosen so that the class can get to graduate together.”

Ma earned a final grade point average of 108.42 and will attend Duke University in the fall to study in their pre-med program. Well on her way to a career in medicine, Ma has conducted biochemical research at Peter Tonge’s laboratory at Stony Brook University on the “development of novel, boron-based bivalent inhibitors against Staphylococcus aureus” over the past few summers.

“It really opened my eyes to what the science research field was like, and I learned so much during those 10 weeks,” she said. “It was also super fun being able to get hands-on doing different chemical reactions and laboratory procedures.”

She has won multiple awards for her research. Ma is also a National AP Scholar and a National Merit Scholar. She is the captain of the varsity tennis team and is a co-president of Independent Science Research, Model UN and Science Olympiad, as well as the vice president of Mock Trial. She volunteered as the entertainment chair of the Kings Park Relay for Life and at her local food pantry. A dedicated piano player, she was an all-state qualifier, playing as both a soloist and an accompanist.

Despite all of these accomplishments, Ma said her favorite high school memory has simply been relaxing with her friends during junior prom. “[It] was a rollercoaster of a day,” she said. “I had two AP exams back to back, going from 7:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. I was super stressed after I finished because I was already late to prom pictures and still had to get ready, but I think the anxiety of the day ended up making the fun of the night all the more memorable. I made a fashionably late entrance to prom pictures and had a blast dancing with my friends all night.”

In line with her favorite memory, she advises next year’s seniors to “make the most of every moment. After the stress of applying to college is over, enjoy your final days of being a high schooler, and don’t forget to thank all the teachers/faculty you’re leaving behind.”

Ma credits those around her for helping her achieve her success.

“There are so many people who have helped me get to where I am today,” she said. “I’d like to thank my family first and foremost, my friends, my teachers and administration for their endless support. I couldn’t have done it without them.”

Taryn O’Connor

O’Connor finished high school with a final GPA of 106.59 and will attend Harvard University in the fall where she is set to study applied mathematics.

A daughter of Irish immigrants, her family settled in Kings Park a few years before she was born. O’Connor said she loved growing up in Kings Park’s tight-knit community. “Throughout my time in Kings Park, I have spent a lot of time with friends, and have made many memories along the way, whether it be from walking on the beach or getting a slice of pizza,” she said. “In school, I made invaluable connections with my teachers that I will never forget.”

The salutatorian cited the school’s annual Relay for Life event as her favorite high school memory.

“Each year, it was a fun-filled day with friends, whether it be at my team’s tent, on the field, or walking around the track,” she said. “Plus, the event sheds light on the importance of supporting the fight against cancer, and I believe that it is a great way to get the community together.”

O’Connor was also the captain of the Math Team and Trivia Team, the co-president of Model UN and Independent Science Research, the vice president of Science Olympiad, the treasurer of the Mock Trial team and a member of the Relay for Life committee. She was a member of the National Honor Society, National Spanish Honor Society and ran in the cross country, winter track and spring track teams.

When asked to give advice for next year’s seniors, O’Connor stressed the importance of setting goals and sticking to them. She added her teachers and parents have helped her to do so in her own life.

“Their guidance ultimately helped me to achieve the goals that I set for myself,”
she said.

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The Eagle banner at Hauppauge High School. Photo by Rita J. Egan

By Leah Chiappino

Hauppauge High School has named Caroline Fortmeyer and Devin Capece as its valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively.

Caroline Fortmeyer

The graduates have had to finish their senior year and celebrate their achievements in the midst of a pandemic. Yet, Fortmeyer said that the situation has taught her resilience and perspective.

“Although it was very unfortunate to have my prom canceled and graduation delayed, this entire experience has transformed my life in ways that are far more important than these events,” she said. “The COVID-19 pandemic has yielded lessons of resiliency, innovation and gratitude for our entire society.”

Capece added that he chose to look at the positive aspect of having online classes, such as the fact his family grew closer together.

“We can’t change the fact that COVID-19 has forced us to distance ourselves from others and that all of the senior moments that we had been looking forward to were suddenly stripped away, but we can control whether we allow it to destroy our spirit,” he said. “I am hopeful that this crisis will display the resilience of our generation and teach us to find value and hope in a dire situation. … I am grateful that this period has provided all of us with the time to reflect upon what is truly important.”

Fortmeyer earned a final grade point average of 102.61. She is headed to Northeastern University in the fall where she will major in business. The valedictorian said that she is uncertain about what her specific career path will look like, but that she hopes to work with people in a math-oriented field. At Hauppauge, she was National Honor Society class president and was a member of the Mock Trial club and the chamber choir. The choir took her to competitions in New Jersey, Virginia and Florida and allowed her to perform at various community events. She said the choir’s trip to Disney last year as her favorite high school memory.

“It was truly an unforgettable experience,” she said.

Having lived in Hauppauge her entire life, she said the community is one of the things she will miss the most when she goes away to college.

“I am grateful to have grown up in such a supportive community,” she said. “In fact, some of my earliest memories involve attending school events with my brothers. It always amazes me how our community is so united especially during the most difficult of times, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic.”

Fortmeyer credited both the support of her family and the education she received as factors leading to her success.

“I cannot express sufficient gratitude to my parents for their tireless support and advice, which has been invaluable to me,” she said. “I thank them for their patience, love and for teaching me the most important life lessons. I would also like to thank all of my teachers, for their commitment and dedication has been so impactful. Since the day I began kindergarten, I have felt welcomed and supported by every teacher that has entered my life. I am beyond grateful to have learned from such knowledgeable teachers and people of admirable character.”

Devin Capece

Capece finished his senior year with a 102.18 GPA. He is set to attend Purdue University to study chemical engineering. He is unsure what he would like to do as a career but is certain that he wants to use his education to help solve societal problems he is passionate about.

The salutatorian was involved in a number of honor societies, was a varsity tennis player and played the saxophone with the advanced jazz band. He was president of the ethics and debate club, secretary of the robotics team, and competed in the Model United Nations competition. He also volunteered with Vincentian Leadership Institute to go on various community service trips throughout New York City and was a Eucharistic minister and outreach volunteer at Christ the King Parish. Capece also worked with Long Island Cares to organize food drives.

Capece said his favorite high school memory was hanging out with friends and ordering pizzas late at night at the hotel during the trip to the Festivals of Music in Virginia Beach he took his sophomore year.

One of four boys, Capece credits his close-knit family for his success.

”Both my parents are the most giving people in the world, and represent love at its core,” he said. “Of course, no family is perfect, but it’s the imperfections that make it perfect. My parents have always taught us positive values, most notably selflessness and doing good for others, but have also made us aware that nothing good ever happens without hard work.”

Specifically, he thanked his mother for helping him navigate the college search. She “helped me to figure out which schools were best to apply to, and she became a database of college information,” he said. “I am truly thankful that she has put so much effort into my life, and that she enjoys doing so.”

Capece also thanked the high school band director, Andrew Monsen, and credits him for making his experience in the music department so enjoyable.

William Sun

East Setuket’s William Sun ended the school year on a high note.

Sun is Ward Melville High School’s valedictorian with a 105.01 weighted average. The valedictorian is planning on attending Brown University in Rhode Island to major in computer science.

Sun attended Nassakeag Elementary School and then W.S. Mount Elementary for the district’s intellectually gifted classes. Before Ward Mellville, he studied at P.J. Gelinas Middle School. While he has lived in the Three Village area all his life, his father, Yan Sun, a doctor, and his mother, Hong Tan, a nurse, are originally from China and moved here in the 1990s and now run a doctor’s office.

Sun said attending Three Village through the years he has been surrounded by brilliant peers.

“There are so many smart people in this community,” he said.

During his high school career, he has been a member of the Ward Melville High School Varsity Science Olympiad Team and was also the president of the school’s math team and computer science club. He qualified for the International Science and Engineering Fair and won a silver medal at the Long Island math research competition. The valedictorian played piano and violin in the school’s ensembles and was named an All-State pianist, qualified as an All-State alternative for violin and toured in Spain and eastern Europe in eighth- and 10th-grade, respectively, through the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra. In 2020, he was named a National Merit Scholarship winner.

Among his activities and achievements, being the director, creator and manager of Piano for Patients has been one of his favorites. He and other student-musicians would play piano in the Stony Brook University Hospital lobby and over time other musicians became involved performing with other instruments. He’s hoping before he attends college and hands over his responsibilities to a younger student that the group can do one more performance in the summer, since they haven’t been able to perform during the pandemic. Recently, he and his piano teacher Daniel Fogel have organized an online concert as an alternative way to do community service through playing piano.

In addition to Piano for Patients, he volunteered at the hospital helping out with whatever needed to be done to lighten the load for workers, whether it was moving things around, making beds or cleaning floors.

He said choosing computer science came about since he’s been involved in programming since sixth- and seventh-grade, and he also took courses at Stony Brook University where he was involved in programming as well as researching different ways to find data.

“In the future, computer science is going to have a large impact and so I want to be a part of that,” he said, adding he thinks about working at places such as Google in the future.

He said among the teachers in the Three Village school district who had an influence on him was former Gelinas teacher Gary Vorwald, who was both his earth science teacher and the head of Science Olympiad in the school. The valedictorian remembers how the teacher would stay late at school to help students.

“It was the first time that I saw passion for science, he really made me want to join the Science Olympiad,” he said.

As the school was shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, Sun said he kept himself busy with computer science projects and learning Mandarin.

As he leaves Ward Melville behind, he said he’s impressed with the younger students.

“This is really a tumultuous time but we’ve seen some amazing things, especially from the grades that are coming up,” he said. “People are really pushing for what they believe in. What I would say is fight for what you believe in, because with what’s going on now, people are really fighting for justice and such amazing things.”

Miller Place valedictorian Lori Beth Sussman and salutatorian Jenna Hoyland. Photos from Miller Place School District

Miller Place High School announced the top students of the 2019 graduating class are seniors Lori Beth Sussman and Jenna Hoyland, who have been named valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively.

Sussman has been an all-county musician involved in the jazz band and pit orchestra. In addition, she was the foreign language national honor society Spanish president, Tri-M co-vice president, varsity tennis member and part of the mock trial club. She also was Mathletes captain, Future Business Leaders of America member and The Cancer Answer project fundraiser founder.

She shared some advice to students who are heading into high school, saying not to be afraid to ask questions and put your foot forward. 

Sussman finished her high school career with a 99.918 weighted GPA and plans to attend Vassar College in the fall. 

“I’m really excited to go to Vassar. They have an open and flexible curriculum.” she said. ”I’m looking forward to learning more.”   

Hoyland has participated in winter and spring track, served as senior council president and service club treasurer and was yearbook editor. This year she was also named a National Merit Commended Scholar.   

The senior shared some advice to her fellow peers and students who are heading into
high school.

“Set high standards and don’t back down from them,” she said.  

Hoyland finished her high school career with a 99.77 weighted GPA and will attend Binghamton University where she plans to study chemistry. 

“I’m excited to meet new people and take on new challenges,” she said. 

Mount Sinai valedictorian Isaac Kisten and salutatorian Kenneth Wei. Photos from Mount Sinai School District

By Leah Chiappino

In light of graduation season, Mount Sinai valedictorian Isaac Kisten and salutatorian Kenneth Wei have taken the time to reflect on their hopes for the future as well as their journeys to the success they have attained thus far in school.  

Kisten has a final GPA of 104.28 and plans to attend the Stern School of Business at New York University as a finance major. He stated that he also hopes to study social entrepreneurship in order to “leverage the use of business to benefit the community in some way.”

At Mount Sinai, he took ten AP courses and earned the AP Scholar with Distinction award. Kisten stayed immersed in extracurriculars at Mount Sinai as the Future Business Leaders of America president and the National Honor Society treasurer. He volunteered for Habitat for Humanity, March of Dimes and the Ronald McDonald House, and worked as the Center Youth Group student leader. 

To boot, he played varsity basketball and won several awards for his performance, such as Basketball All-County Academic and first place at the AICPA National Bank On It tournament. He was named Infant Jesus Basketball All-Star.

Kisten commended his family for his accomplishments. 

“They always had confidence in me and my abilities,” he said. “They motivated and guided me when I needed direction.”

The Kisten family first moved to Mount Sinai from Queens in 2007, a decision Kisten has nothing but positive things to say about. 

“These past 12 years have been amazing,” the valedictorian said. “This school is unparalleled in preparation and opportunities offered to all students. The community of Mount Sinai has been extremely welcoming.”

He added equally high esteem and appreciation for his teachers.  

“Being valedictorian is more of a testament of how exceptional all my teachers have been,” he said. “I simply listened to all of their advice and teaching and success came easy.”

Kisten did not abstain from the opportunity to thank his friends and regarded the school’s senior trip to Disney as his favorite high school memory, citing the “countless memories” that were made in just a few days.

As far as advice to future seniors, Kisten said to “pay attention to the advice of those who went before us. Parents, teachers and all of those who have had more life experiences than us offer guidance that can be the key to success. Always keep in mind the small community of Mount Sinai. It gave us 12-plus years of our lives that we could not find anywhere else.”

Wei earned a final GPA of 104.11, and will be attending MIT as a bioengineering major, with hopes of working in the research field. His extracurriculars included Athletes Helping Athletes Club and Student Council president, as well as playing the flute and piano in the music department. 

His favorite memories from high school consist of his tenure running track and field. He joked that his most memorable experience in the sport was splitting a cantaloupe between his legs at the state championships. His skills exceed far beyond that, as in the 2019 indoor track and field season he earned the U.S. #1 Mark for the long jump, was recognized three times as an All- American track star and holds the state record in the sixty meter hurdles. He also competed with professional and Division 1 collegiate athletes at the Toyota USATF indoor championships. 

Wei took 11 AP courses, but his favorite class at Mount Sinai was a ceramics course taught by Eric Giorlando, who doubles as his track coach. Wei praised Giorlando, calling him a “mentor to me over the past four years. He’s taught me a lot and I would like to thank him for all he has done for me.”

Wei’s advice to future seniors was to relax during the college admission process, and not to focus on the immense stress he said students are put through. 

“Nine times out of ten you are going to be happy where you end up regardless,’’ he said. “If there is an extracurricular you want to take, but you are juggling a big STEM class your senior year, go for the extracurricular. Just
have fun.”

Comsewogue valedictorian Ankita Katukota and salutatorian Jessica Sperling. Photos from CUFSD

Comsewogue High School announced the top students of the 2019 graduating class are seniors Ankita Katukota and Jessica Sperling, who have been named valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively.

Katukota finished her high school career with a 101.43 weighted GPA. She served as the varsity tennis captain and interned at the Brookhaven National Laboratory. She was a member of the jazz band, Brookhaven youth court, Women in Science and Engineering and Athletes Helping Athletes. 

She will attend University of California, Los Angeles and plans to study pre-med. 

“I’m really excited to go to UCLA and ready to try something new,” she said. “The school is really well-known for its pre-med program.”

Katukota shared some advice to students who are heading into high school. 

“I would just say keep working hard, get involved in extracurricular activities and keep striving for what you want,” she said.

Sperling, as salutatorian, finished her high school career with a 100.2 weighted GPA. During her time at Comsewogue, Sperling served as   T.A.S.K. club member, student government president, Comsewogue Board of Education student representative, Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association student representative, Spanish honor society vice president and yearbook editor-in-chief. 

Sperling will attend Binghamton University in the fall and study political science. 

“I’m really excited to go Binghamton,” she said. “I’m really interested in law and hope to go to law school [in the future] and possibly go into government work.”

Sperling said she is looking forward to continuing doing work in the community and being active in campus clubs and organizations at Binghamton. 

The senior also shared some advice to students heading into high school. 

“Have a good balance between school and your personal life,” she said. “I think it is really important to have time for yourself and enjoy your high school experience. Before you know it it’s over.”

Left, Valedictorian Mahdi Rashidzada; right, Salutatorian Katlynn McGivney. Photos from SWRCSD

Shoreham-Wading River High School announced the top students of the 2019 graduating class are seniors Mahdi Rashidzada and Katlynn McGivney, who have been named valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively.

Rashidzada’s list of achievements includes taking 12 Advanced Placement courses and six honors courses. He is on the school’s track and field team and is vice president of the National Honor Society, captain of the Debate Team, a member of Mathletes, president of the National History Day Club and a member of the Riverhead Youth Court. His list of accolades includes being a Suffolk County Math Teachers’ Association fourth-place honor, as well as school awards in AP Chemistry, AP Language, Spanish IV, Human Physiology and STEM.

Outside of school, he is a Sunday school teacher at the Islamic Center of Long Island, was involved in a local political campaign as an intern and volunteers for Long Island Cares and Stony Brook Hospital. He was also named an RPI Science and Mathematics scholar and a New York State Debate qualifier. He has received National Merit commendation and conducted research on the antimicrobial properties of herbal hydrosols in the high school’s science lab as well as at St. Joseph’s College. 

“Do what you love,” Rashidzada said when asked to share some sentiments with his fellow graduates and future seniors at the high school. “It is important to find what you love and what you’re good at and really pursue it.” 

He will major in neuroscience on the premed track and said he looks forward to entering the freshman class at the University of Pennsylvania in September.    

Throughout high school, Katlynn McGivney has participated in a well-rounded educational, academic, athletic and volunteer career. She has taken advantage of the school’s numerous AP and honors courses and has been recognized with excellence awards in Biology Honors, Chemistry Honors, French III and AP Capstone Seminar. She has played volleyball since ninth grade, softball since eighth grade, ran winter track and has received a varsity letter for three years. McGivney is secretary of the school’s student government and a member of the National Honor Society as well as the Women in Science and Engineering Club. As for community service, she enjoys her work in the district’s Round Out summer camp as a volunteer and has also volunteered for local community programs. She is a page at the North Shore Public Library and plays travel softball for the Long Island Crush and club volleyball. 

McGivney succinctly summed up some words of wisdom for her peers with, “Make the most of your high school experience and enjoy it while you can. It will be over before you know it.” She has committed to study at Hamilton College to pursue biochemistry and play on the softball team.

“I am proud and honored to have Mahdi and Katlynn represent Shoreham-Wading River High School as our top two students,” Principal Frank Pugliese said. “They both exemplify the mission and vision we all have for our students while they are here and as they head out into college and careers — maximizing their potential, creating responsible citizens and fostering a lifelong appreciation for learning.”

Seniors Annalisa Welinder, left, and Ava Schully, valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively. Photo from PJSD

Two young women, Annalisa Welinder and Ava Schully, have, respectively, attained the title of valedictorian and salutatorian for the Port Jefferson Class of 2019. 

Welinder has an impressive and diversified high school résumé, including taking eight honors and 12 Advanced Placement courses and one college-level class. She is an Advanced Placement Scholar, a Presidential Scholars Program nominee and a National Latin Exam four-time gold medalist. She serves as president of the Latin Club, is a member of Mathletes and member of the school’s Academic Team. Welinder is also a member of both the track team and tennis team.

A violinist, Welinder is a member of the prestigious National Youth Orchestra, where she served as a concertmaster in 2017, with which she traveled to numerous concert halls, including Carnegie Hall. She and her brother have run a summer music camp — Sound Strings Long Island — for all age levels and she is a frequent award winner for various violin competitions. Welinder is also interested in creative writing endeavors.

Asked for some words of wisdom to share with future graduates of the school, Welinder had an uncomplicated response. “Everything seems easier and more doable if you enjoy it,” she said.

Welinder is excited to enter the freshman class at Stanford University in September.

Schully, as salutatorian, commended her family, peers and teachers who have helped her succeed in school and other aspects of her life. 

Schully’s list of achievements is comprehensive and includes taking 10 AP courses, four honors courses and two college-level courses. She was on the school’s soccer team in ninth grade and has run on both the school’s track team and cross-country team. She is a member of the Peer Leadership, Interact, Drama and Latin clubs as well as a member of Tri-M Honor Society and Sources of Strength.

Schully took a service trip to Peru to help build a clean water system for local people, attended a six-week intensive study of classical music at the Interlochen Arts Camp in Michigan, took part in the Philadelphia International Music Festival and recently performed on cello in the National Association for Music Education All-Eastern music conference in Pittsburgh. Her extracurricular activities include being a member of the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra of New York and Stony Brook University Young Artists Program. She has received numerous school awards and is active in the local community.

Schully’s plans after high school include exploring how music can promote community partnerships and cross-cultural relations. She has committed to Brown University where she plans to create her own major that focuses on a mixture of topics including ethnomusicology, human development, international relations, education and nonprofit organizations in an interdisciplinary context.

“Challenge yourself in classes you’re actually interested in and take part in extracurricular activities that you love,” she said. “Don’t worry about doing what you think a college admissions office might want to do and just pursue your passions. The rest will follow.”

Ibuki Iwasaki, Eli Doyle, Luke Begley, Charles Clark finish atop their classes

By Anthony Petriello

Ibuki Iwasaki. Photo by Alex Petroski

At the conclusion of the 2018 school year at Earl L. Vandermeulen and Comsewogue high schools, four graduates stood at the top of their respective classes. These extraordinarily talented students include valedictorian Ibuki Iwasaki and salutatorian Eli Doyle from Port Jeff and valedictorian Luke Begley and salutatorian Charles Clark from Comsewogue.

At Earl L. Vandermeulen, Iwasaki finished the year at the top of the class with a 101.4 cumulative grade point average. Iwasaki was president of the National Honor Society and a member of the Mathletes team, for which she competed in more than 20 competitions, and won the All-County title for the 2017-18 school year.

“I am self-motivated,” she said of her academic drive. “My mother trusts me to seek out challenges.”

She attributed her success to her natural curiosity.

“I like to learn and try out new things whenever I can,” she said.

Eli Doyle. Photo by Alex Petroski

Iwasaki was also a member of the Science Olympiad team, where she was a first-place and third-place winner in various competitions. The team travels to universities near and far to compete against other high schools in a sports-style science tournament sponsored by organizations like NASA, Lockheed Martin and the United States Air Force. Iwasaki had also been a player on the varsity tennis team since eighth grade and was undefeated individually in the league this year. She is a National Merit Scholarship recipient, an AP Scholar with Distinction, and had earned a perfect score for three years at Level IV NYSSMA on the violin. Iwasaki will be attending Massachusetts Institute of Technology this fall but said she has not declared an official major.

“I want to take advantage of all the opportunities MIT has to offer,” she said.

Eli Doyle finished high school with a 100.9 GPA. Doyle said he is grateful to the high school faculty for allowing him to achieve greatness.

Luke Begley. Photo by Alex Petroski

“I appreciate the opportunity my school has given me to achieve what I have achieved,” he said.

In addition to being an exemplary student, Doyle excelled on the field as well as the stage, having played tennis since ninth grade, earning honors from the Suffolk County Junior Tennis League, and working as part of the stage crew for school plays, musicals and concerts. He also volunteered at Jefferson’s Ferry Life Plan Community in South Setauket and spent his time with the residents, earning him the Presidential Volunteer Service Award. Like Iwasaki, he was also a member of the Science Olympiad squad, finishing in first place in both optics and astronomy competitions. He was a member and officer of the Student Organization for all four years of his high school career and had the opportunity to participate in the Simmons Summer Research program at Stony Brook University where he studied ferroelectric fluid, which is a type of magnetic fluid that can be used in many applications from computer hard drives to rocket fuel. Doyle will be attending Brown University this fall where he will study engineering physics.

At Comsewogue, Luke Begley was named valedictorian, finishing with a 101.5 GPA. Begley is a music-minded scholar as well as a scholar-athlete. He was a member of the NYSSMA All-State Orchestra on the double bass and played midfield on the Comsewogue varsity soccer team. He attributed his academic success to his parents and his teachers.

Charles Clark. Photo by Alex Petroski

“They always motivated me and created an environment where I could succeed, and my teachers always knew how to keep me interested and engaged,” he said.

Begley was also the president of the French National Honor Society, captain of the Academic Quiz Bowl team and an AP Scholar with Distinction during his junior year. He credited his drive to succeed to his close friends.

“We keep a good balance of competition and cooperation where we compete to be the best academically but still help each other when it is necessary,” he said.

Begley will be attending Princeton University this fall where he will be double majoring in physics and music.

Comsewogue salutatorian Charles Clark had a 101.3 GPA to wrap up his senior year. He could not be reached for comment.