As the Class of 2011 prepares for graduation on Friday, 26 students will be taking their place among the ranks of valedictorian and salutatorian. Having scored at least 4.2 GPA's (grade point average) and a minimum of 26 credits of honors and advanced placement (AP) classes, they shine as the cream of the crop.
Patch profiles eight top students of the year.
Valedictorian Dylan Reef will be one of two students who will deliver this year’s commencement address. The son of South African immigrants, Reef will be heading to UC Berkeley and will be double majoring in business administration and quantitative economics.
The 18-year-old credits his calculus teacher, Steve Bacharach, for his decision to go to Berkeley instead of another top university that offered him a full scholarship.
“He’s one of the smartest people I’ve ever met and the fact that he went to Berkeley reinforced my decision,” said Reef, who also managed to squeeze in wrestling, cross-country and track.
Another valedictorian who had a tough balancing act this year is Philip Chang,18, headed to Princeton University this fall. The eldest of two siblings, Chang not only tutored other children in math and science, he also helped install solar panels in the homes of low-income families.
Chang credits his parents for pushing him beyond academics and making sure he grew up well rounded. “They encouraged me to do my best, and at the same time, they helped me pursue opportunities outside of school,” said Chang, who played varsity basketball and track.
Hannah Adelsberg, a valedictorian, also made sure sports was part of her high school life. She played water polo for four years and found time to tutor on the side. The Berkley-bound teen also spent one summer in Costa Rica, volunteering at a summer camp for underprivileged youth.
“I’ve always loved math and science throughout high school,” said the teen, who will be majoring in bio-engineering. Not one to be idle this summer, Adelsberg, 18, will be working in a local summer camp until it’s time to head up north.
Good Role Models
Also heading to Berkeley and majoring in physics is Zach Carango. The valedictorian is grateful to Deb Frank, his English teacher, for teaching him how to look at things critically. “She also helped me improve my essays,” said the 17-year-old tennis player and band member.
Frank is also Emma Krasovich’s mentor. “She taught me how to express myself, how to show my personality and how to write well,” said the Colgate University-bound student. This summer, Krasovich will be heading East for two weeks. The 18-year-old received a scholarship to attend Yale University’s summer program on America politics.
Jacqueline Ng, 18, agrees with Carango and Krasovich. “Mrs. Frank is a fabulous teacher and person who believes that anyone can do whatever they want,” said Ng, who is going to UCLA and will major in business.
Ng said her parents gave her a combination of encouragement and tough love. “They pushed me to get A’s but also knew when to back off and just let me be a teenager,” said the valedictorian, who will be taking a summer class in accounting in order to get a head start.
Callan Edwards, salutatorian, said that her parents never pressured her in school. “They wanted me to have fun and not be stressed out,” she said. A grant recipient, Edwards will be majoring in biology and playing water polo for Villanova University.
For Brooke Hamilton, it was her chemistry teacher and cross-country coach who had the biggest influence on her during high school. “Cathy Prater made chemistry interesting and engaging,” said Hamilton 18, who successfully juggled running, playing a couple of music instruments and volunteering at her church.
Hamilton, a valedictorian, learned how to work hard and do everything herself from her older siblings. “My parents never helped me with homework but expected me to work hard,” said the youngest of six.
Patch asked these successful students for some nuggets of wisdom to pass along to the lower classman. Here’s what they had to say:
On leadership and making the most out of high school
Don’t waste opportunities. – Chang
Don’t be afraid to try new things. - Edwards
Step up and be a leader. – Hamilton
On time management
Don’t do homework on Sunday night. – Krasovich
You can do it all in high school without losing sight of your goals. – Reef
Pursue varied activities and take in the whole experience. – Adelsberg
On guts and leaving one’s comfort zone
Go outside your usual circle and get to know other people. – Ng
Do what you love and don’t be afraid of what people think. – Carango