By Heidi Sutton

Sometimes the stars align perfectly. Such is the case with Katherine Tian, a senior at Ward Melville High School in East Setauket. Tian was recently named the national winner of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Good Citizen Award, earning a perfect score of 100. 

Tian was chosen as the $1,000 scholarship winner to represent the local Anna Smith Strong Chapter DAR based in Setauket. She then went on to be chosen to represent the Long Island districts, won the state level and then advanced to the national level.

Katherine Tian cuts the celebratory cake.

Tian was the top choice of all the national judges, each awarding her with the perfect score. In addition to receiving an additional $5,000 scholarship, her achievements will be highlighted at the 130th Daughters of the American Revolution Continental Congress event in Washington D.C. which is scheduled to be held virtually at the end of June. 

Locally, the high schooler was honored for her incredible achievements by the Anna Smith Strong Chapter at an award presentation at the VFW Post 3054 in Setauket last Saturday with her proud family by her side.

Guests included Ann Otten, Chairman of the Regents Roundtable for District X & XI and Gerrie MacWinnie, DAR Vice-Regent of Southampton Colony. Sandy Zerrillo, New York State DAR Good Citizen Chair, joined the event via Zoom.

“Today for the first time in the history of the Anna Smith Strong Chapter we have a national winner and it has been 30 years since New York State has had a national winner,” said Rita Newman, Regent of the Anna Smith Strong Chapter.

“It’s exciting to hear that a Long Island student has gone all the way to nationals and we are so proud,” said Gerrie MacWinnie, DAR Vice-Regent of Southampton Colony.

“The DAR Good Citizen’s contest is highly competitive in New York State,” added Zerrillo. “This year was an exceptional year for New York State. … Katherine excelled beyond our greatest expectations.”

Addressing Katherine, Sarah Gutmann, Anna Smith Strong Good Citizen Chair, recalled getting the initial phone call notifying her of the honor.

“I got a call from the regional director who said you got the top score of all the judges. Nobody was even close to where you were — you really just blew everyone out of the water. You’ve got a bright, bright future ahead of you. You are going places and we are just so happy to just be a little part of your journey.”

The celebratory cake.

According to Otten, the DAR Good Citizen Award and Scholarship Contest was created in 1934 to encourage and reward the qualities of good citizenship. It was established to recognize and reward a high school student who exhibits the qualities of dependability,  service, leadership and patriotism in their homes, schools, and communities. 

“Katherine Tian exemplifies all of those qualities and more,” said Otten. “As I read Katherine’s information on her work experience, extracurricular activities and high school awards, I had to keep looking back at her cover page to remind myself that she was indeed still a senior in high school.”

She continued, “From being a competition dancer and dance captain at [a local dance school] to being a research intern at Brookhaven National Laboratory; from volunteering as a unit assistant at [a nursing home] to inventing an automatic non-contact fever detector and manufacturing it and being vice-president of her school’s Ethical Care of Animals Club; Katherine has proven that the qualities of dependability, service, leadership and patriotism have guided her throughout her high school career and will be the cornerstones of her future.”

“Congratulations to you, your family, and the Anna Smith Strong Chapter DAR as you represent Long Island, New York State and the North Eastern Division as the National DAR Good Citizen winner,” said Otten.

Photos by Heidi Sutton