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Agoura's Class of 2011: The Top Graduates

Graduating at the top of your class takes more than brainpower. Patch profiles some of the top graduates in their class.

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.

Achieving Balance

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

Milan Moravec June 14, 2011 at 07:17 PM
Wage Concessions at Flagship Public University of California. Californians face foreclosure, unemployment, depressed wages, loss of retirement, medical, unemployment benefits, higher taxes.. As a Californian, I don't care what others earn at private, public universities. If wages better elsewhere, chancellors, vice chancellors, tenured, non tenured faculty, UCOP should apply for the positions. If wages commit employees to UC, leave for better paying position. The sky above UC will not fall. Californians suffers from the greatest deficit modern times. UC wages, benefits must reflect California's ability to pay, not what others paid elsewhere. UC faculty, chancellor, vice chancellor, UCOP wage, benefits concessions: No furloughs 18 percent reduction in UCOP salaries & $50 million cut. 18 percent prune of campus chancellors', vice chancellors' salaries. 15 percent trim of tenured faculty salaries, increased teaching load 10 percent decrease in non-tenured faculty salaries, as well as increase research, teaching load 100% elimination of all Academic Senate, Academic Council costs, wages. Rose bushes bloom after pruning. UC Board of Regents Sherry Lansing, President Yudof can bridge the public trust gap by offering reassurances that UC salaries reflect depressed wages in California. The sky will not fall on UC Thank you for advocating for all Californians, University of California
Laura June 20, 2011 at 08:15 AM
AHS had 12 valedictorians, the 5 not mentioned are: Bhargav Gopal - UC Berkeley Alessandra Herbst de Cortina - Stanford Rebecca Leff - UC Berkeley Lacey Leininger - BYU, engineering (arranged the trio she and 2 others sang at graduation, was the lead in Jekyll and Hyde, the musical, Comedy Sportz team, attended early morning seminary 5:45am every day, traveled to Guatemala to build a chicken coop for an orphanage) Alexander Tarashansky - USC The salutatorians are: Aarushi Arenja - UCSD Jessica Brotman - UCSD (sang in trio at graduation) Lindsay Chaney - UCLA Alexa Dubrowski - UCLA Callan Edwards - Villanova Nina Fisher - NYU Kelsey Freedland - Emory Katelyn Harp - UNC-Chapel Hill Sophie Lasoff - NYU Iana Meitlis - UC Berkeley Gran Nishimura - USC Sarah Schimmel - UCSB Emily Tejeda - UCLA Steven Wilson- UCSD
Mira Del Fonso Reverente June 21, 2011 at 05:21 PM
Thank you for your comments. For this story, the Patch reached out to the 12 valedictorians and 14 salutatorians through the high school counselors. The eight students who responded were interviewed and included in the story.

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