After four years of hard work, extracurricular activities and advanced courses, Natalie Hissong and Madison Kallman were named valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively, of Oceanside High School’s class of 2019.
Superintendent Dr. Phyllis Harrington announced the students’ accomplishments at the March 20 Board of Education meeting. Hissong became valedictorian with a 106.1 GPA, and Kallman wasn’t farbehind, at 105.2.
“We like to think that this is just a beginning for you,” Harrington said. “We can’t wait to hear about all your accomplishments.”
In addition to their academic achievements, Hissong and Kallman, both 17, have taken on leadership roles in school clubs, participated in sports and extracurricular activities, and served the Oceanside community outside school — while developing passions that they will take with them to college in the fall.
Hissong is undecided on what college she’ll attend, but will choose between Boston College and Fordham University. Decision day is May 1, and she said she wanted to study math, history and philosophy.
She said she has loved math since she attended St. Agnes Cathedral School in Rockville Centre. Now she is the president of the Math Honor Society at Oceanside High, which recently held a bagel sale and raised money for schools affected by the California wildfires to help buy new math textbooks.
Some of Hissong’s favorite classes were Advanced Placement U.S. history, physics and calculus. She took a total of 21 higher-level courses throughout her high school career.
“It takes a lot of self-discipline to not look at your phone and watch TV when you get home because you’re just so tired from the long day,” she said. “But I really like seeing the amount of work I put in pay off. I wanted to see what my potential could be if I tried really hard.”
Hissong said she also enjoyed taking government and economics classes, and mentoring during her senior year. In addition to the advanced level coursework, the seniors mentor freshmen students during class time.
“They remind me a lot of myself,” Hissong said, “and I’m able to give them the advice that I wish I had someone tell me earlier.”
Hissong told incoming freshman not to be competitive with classmates, to try hard and not to take themselves too seriously. “I put a lot pressure on myself, especially freshman year, so I’d say just try your best. It’s going to be fine.”
She said she will miss the Oceanside friends she has grown up with, but added that she was excited “to meet new people, talk to them in classes and get different people’s opinions, especially since I’ve been in the same classes as a lot of people for four years.”
The students look forward to their senior prom and making speeches at their graduation ceremony on June 21 at School No. 7.
Kallman discovered a love of science in the high school’s college research program. The series of courses teaches students how to gather research and perform statistical analyses. Then, students spend up to two summers researching under scientists at the collegiate level.
In the summer of 2017, Kallman conducted research at an electrical engineering lab at New York University and used computer coding to determine the properties of 2D materials in electronics. Last summer, she did more hands-on work with Baruch College, measuring nitrogen dynamics at an oyster restoration site in Staten Island.
“I like that you see this problem and you really have to dive in and see what you can do to find an answer,” Kallman said. “It’s up to you; it’s what you want to do with it.”
After school hours, Kallman participated in the World Interest Club and traveled to Model U.N. conferences at Brown, Harvard and Cornell universities to compete with the group. She was in the club for all four years of high school.
“I tend to be in the same classes with all these groups of people [from WIC and the college research program],” she said. “I’ve gotten really close with that particular group of people, and I’m going to miss them.”
Kallman will attend the University of Toronto, where she will continue with research. She hopes to go into the pre-med program or study neuroscience.
“I can’t decide whether I’m more excited for the ramen up there, because I really, really love ramen, or the research lab,” she said with a laugh. “[Toronto’s] Chinatown is amazing.”