At the Head of Their Class: Saluting Vals & Sals of RJN

CROTON-HARMON HIGH SCHOOL

[Ed. Note > River Journal North provided all the schools here with a questionnaire for their Vals and Sals to fill out. This school submitted its own press release, which explains the variation in format from the other schools.] 

(from left) Gwen Labbate, Adora Chen, Emma Castro

Emma Castro: Valedictorian 

Emma is a representative of Student Faculty Congress and a member of several clubs, including Student Activism and STAR. She has worked for a U.S. Senate Campaign, Planned Parenthood Voices, and interned at a New York City political consulting firm.  

Outside school, she enjoys painting and playing guitar. She plans to major in Psychology and plans to add an additional major.  

Emma says that her “small, tight-knit community” has helped her and her fellow students to have a voice on important matters.  

“One thing that’s valuable about being in a small school is that the students really have a lot of say in what goes on,” she says. “Throughout my years here, I saw that many students were able to develop ideas and implement changes in our school. The administration was always receptive to our ideas—not only accepting them, but welcoming them. I really felt that there was an emphasis placed on student input.”  

Adora Chen: Co-Salutatorian 

Adora has many academic interests, and lists her favorite subjects as Environmental Science, Computer Science, English, AP Physics, and Art/Graphic design. She is a member of Interact Club and Debate Club. She is an active volunteer, plays piano, participates in NYSSMA (New York State School Music Association), and enjoys Art, Graphic Design, and Taekwondo.  

“My most memorable experience in Croton schools is meeting my current friend group at lunch in middle school,” says Adora. “All my teachers in the district, as well as my friends, have offered great support throughout the years.”  

Gwen Labbate: Co-Salutatorian 

Gwen appreciates the opportunity she’s had to build relationships with her teachers, who, she says, have been very supportive and encouraging. She enjoys a range of subjects, including AP U.S. History, Spanish, AP Environmental Science, and Earth Science, She belongs to Debate Club and the Literary Magazine. Outside school, she loves volunteering and playing guitar, which she also plays with the school’s Chorus and Select Chorus, in addition to singing.  

“I am grateful that the district created a safe space for students to continuously question and learn.” says Gwen. “My teachers are always happy to talk with me about my interest in subjects that go beyond the course curriculum. Sharing school achievements, laughs, and even stress with my friends has always made me feel supported and motivated to persevere through any obstacles I face.”  

HENDRICK HUDSON HIGH SCHOOL 

Nish Mistry: Valedictorian 

Extracurricular
State Parliamentarian for New York State Future Business Leaders of America; Captain of Speech and Debate; Senior Editor of Literary Magazine. 

Post-Graduation 

Majoring in Computer Science and Economics at Northeastern University, and hopes to pursue Software Development. 

Exceptional Educators 

Someone who teaches and supports students. Mr. Zink is not only an exceptional [History] teacher, but truly cares and connects with students to help them thrive in all facets of their life.

Words of Wisdom 

To my fellow graduates … Balance is crucial to success. Work hard and chase your dreams, but make sure to also spend time with your loved ones. 

Brooke Kivel: Salutatorian 

Extracurricular
National Honor Society; Debate team; Future Business Leaders of America; Volunteer with Yonkers Family Services and Guiding Eyes for the Blind.  

Post-Graduation 

Pursuing a Ph.D to become a Pediatric Psychologist. 

Exceptional Educators 

Someone who encourages you to learn in a positive way and gets to know you on a personal level. For that reason, among my favorite teachers are Mr. Zink (History) and Mrs. Gallagher (AP Research/Psychology). 

Words of Wisdom 

I encourage my fellow classmates and underclassmen to always choose kindness and follow their passions.  

PEEKSKILL HIGH SCHOOL 

Arianna Suarez: Valedictorian 

Extracurricular 

Dance Coordinator of Grupo Folclórico Dominicano; Secretary of Comunidad Dominicana del Hudson Valley; President of Francisco Jiménez Chapter of Sociedad Honoraria Hispánica; President of Girls Who Code Club; Vice-President of Science National Honor Society; Latino Culture Club; Administrative intern in school district. 

Post-Graduation
Majoring in Education at Barnard College, New York University, or St. John’s University.  

Exceptional Educators 

They must bring passion for their subject and a love of learning to their classroom. They must be empathetic, supportive and patient, because every student is different. They must understand the needs of their students and be willing to proudly help them when they ask for it.  

Words of Wisdom 

Don’t discourage yourself because you don’t learn as fast as everyone else, keep your eye on the future, and work hard everyday to achieve your goals. 

Jamely Curipoma: Salutatorian 

Extracurricular 

Math, Science, Spanish, English, and Social Studies Honor Societies; Mentors female teens at non-profit New Era Creative Space, encouraging them to become leaders. 

Post-Graduation 

Attending Binghamton University (accepted in Physician Assistant program) to major in Biology, possibly minor in Business. 

Exceptional Educators 

Ms. Hadi, my science research teacher for three years, has always encouraged me to do my very best. She has not only seen me grow academically but also influenced my personal growth by never letting me give up on myself.  

Words of Wisdom 

Give it all you have and eventually you will not struggle anymore but excel at the challenges you faced, which will only make you stronger as a person. Always believe in yourself and have great confidence, because no one can stop you from achieving your dreams except you. 

WALTER PANAS HIGH SCHOOL 

Siena Bieber: Valedictorian 

Extracurricular 

Co-President of Estamos Unidos Club; Secretary of National Honor Society; Volleyball; Intern at Ivy Rehab Physical Therapy; Volunteer for foster dogs, Midnight Run to NYC, Panas library. 

Post-Graduation 

Attending Ithaca College to major in Clinical Health Studies on accelerated track to obtain Doctorate of Physical Therapy. 

Exceptional Educators 

Someone who is encouraging, understanding, kind, and brings fun into the classroom. Ms. Yamakawa, who teaches Living Environment and Forensics, is a perfect example. Not only does she explain the material thourougly and is always willing to answer questions, but also takes the time to get to know her students.  

Words of Wisdom 

To my fellow graduates and underclassmen, I would say that it is important to maintain balance in your life by working hard, but also taking the time to relax and have fun.

Ella Yaeger: Salutatorian 

Extracurricular 

Board of Education representative; Soccer Scholar-Athlete, All-League, All-Section; Volunteer at dentist offices.  

Post-Graduation 

Attending University of Maryland to study Biology. 

Exceptional Educators 

The perfect example of an exceptional educator is chemistry teacher Mr. Marash — an individual who can connect to his students while getting the material across in an entertaining way. The best teachers are able to make their students enjoy learning even if they don’t love the subject.  

Words of Wisdom 

To underclassmen and my fellow graduates, I would stress the importance of time management skills and a strong work ethic. 

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