As this year’s senior class at South Side High School awaits graduation, the top two students from the departing class are already thinking fondly back on their high school experience.
The valedictorian, Justine Hamilton, and the salutatorian, Deanna Mostowfi, are both proud of their many achievements, but never forget to note the help they received along the way.
“The teachers here are some of the most intelligent people I’ve ever met in my life,” said Hamilton. “It is exceedingly difficult to put into words how much my school, and my classmates, have meant to me over the years.”
Mostowfi agreed, adding that the prevailing attitude amongst the school’s students is one of mutual support. “All the other students are so motivated — the majority are Type A. We all help each other, study with each other.”
The students’ resumes are remarkably similar: both Hamilton and Mostowfi are successful student athletes, members of numerous honor societies and enrolled in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program. Both also name biology as their favorite subject.
“I love biology, and most when we learned about the human body,” Hamilton said. “Biology is never boring, and it has so many practical applications. It can truly help people.”
Hamilton, whose Science Bowl team is headed to the nationals in Washington, D.C., at the end of April, has shown a remarkable array of academic talents. A recipient of the National Achievement Scholarship for Black American Students who perform well on the PSAT/NMSQT, Hamilton is also a Scholar Athlete, and was the recipient of last year’s Brown Book Award, awarded by Brown University to students who “best combine academic excellence with clarity in written and spoken expression.” She will attend Princeton University in the fall.
She won States with the varsity women’s soccer team the past two years running. A lifelong artist, she is the co-president of the Art Club, where she works mainly with acrylics and pencil. She also writes for the school newspaper, The Sportsman, and has danced pointe and ballet at the Maple Avenue Dance Center since age three.
Mostowfi’s credentials are no less impressive. A Scholar Athlete for the past three years running, the salutatorian was also one of 39 winners of the “Embracing Our Differences” photo contest in 2011. Her photo was chosen from thousands of entries by applicants from more than 48 different countries, and was featured on a billboard in Sarasota, Fla. Mostowfi eagerly awaits her admissions decisions.
She has been a member of the varsity women’s volleyball team since her sophomore year, and this year served as co-captain, piloting the team to a victory at the Nassau County Class A Championship. She was named an All-State and All-County volleyball player this past season, and served as event coordinator for the team’s annual Dig Pink fundraiser, a volleyball game that donates all proceeds to the Side-Out Foundation for Breast Cancer Research. She is also the co-president of South Side High School’s Chapter of Students Against Destructive Decisions.
While rightfully pleased with their own achievements, both students seem even prouder of the other’s accomplishments. The two have been friends since their freshman year, Mostowfi said, when they used to study together frequently.
“I’m glad it got to be the two of us,” Mostowfi added. “We’ve been friends for so long. It’s nice that we got to share this together.”