Zainab Nathani and Nirali Mandavawala hope their classmates at East Meadow High School don’t simply remember them as the valedictorian and salutatorian of the class of 2016. Instead, they said they hoped their peers will recall all of the fun times they’ve shared over the years.
“Hopefully people will not only remember us for our academic achievements, but also our personalities,” Mandavawala said. “We tried to be nice to everyone … there are definitely a lot of great people we’ve been lucky to have as classmates.”
After sitting in classrooms across the East Meadow School District together for more than a decade, Nathani and Mandavawala graduated first and second at EMHS on Sunday. While they said it’s hard to say goodbye to each other, their school and their peers, they are excited to explore new opportunities at their respective colleges.
Nathani, 17, and Mandavawala, 18, both attended McVey Elementary School and Woodland Middle School together prior to starting at EMHS four years ago. Noting that it seems like they’ve known each other “forever,” Mandavawala said they became close friends in McVey’s accelerated program and on science research teams at Woodland.
Science research particularly interest Nathani, who has participated in competitions like the Long Island Science and Engineering Fair and the Intel Science Search. She will begin her studies in the Macaulay Honors College B.A.-M.D. program — one of the most prestigious programs at Brooklyn College, which officials said accepts only extremely talented pre-medical-school students — in the fall.
Nathani expects that she’ll still be studying when her 10-year high school reunion rolls around. “Hopefully my path to becoming a doctor doesn’t deter me from having a family, though,” she added. “Hopefully I can complete my residency in whatever field of medicine I become interested in — I’m not sure just yet — but still be able to balance my life just as well as I was able to balance everything in high school.”
Finishing her academic career with a 109.521 grade-point average, Nathani excelled in Advanced Placement, honors and college-level courses while taking on leadership roles in several student groups. She was a news editor of the school newspaper, the Jet Gazette, and a member of the Environmental Club, the Key Club, math and science Research teams and every honor society at the school.
Key Club, in particular, became a passion, and Nathani was the secretary of the EMHS chapter and lieutenant governor of New York District Key Club Division Six, and won the Distinguished Key Club Lieutenant Governor Award. “I got to do a lot of things that I probably never would have done,” she said of her experiences with the group. “I gained a lot of skills and became a little more independent because of it, and I had a lot of responsibility … it gave me a peek into adulthood.”
While Mandavawala was also a member of the Key Club, every honor society, the math and science research teams, Students Against Destructive Decisions and the tennis team, she cited the time she spent playing flute in the EMHS marching band as most memorable. Recalling the Homecoming festivities, games, Columbus Day parades and trips to Disney World with the band, Mandavawala said she would miss her music teachers and peers.
“It’s not just a class you take — it’s a commitment,” she explained. “Especially here, because our school has such a good music program, being in band is like being part of a big family. It was a big part of my high school experience.”
Mandavawala, who graduated with a 108.526 GPA and will study biology at the Honors College at Stony Brook University in the fall, said she could see herself becoming a doctor, a lawyer or going into business. She and Nathani agreed that while they have spent plenty of time planning for their futures after high school, “whatever’s going to happen is going to happen.”
“You have to just see where life takes you,” Mandavawala said. “That’s what my parents always told me: Don’t dwell on the past, don’t think too much into the future, but just live in the present.”