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Valedictorians, salutatorians reflect on high school in Lynbrook and East Rockaway

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On the precipice of their high school graduation, Lynbrook and East Rockaway’s valedictorians and salutatorians discussed their future plans with the Herald and reflected on their fondest high school memories.

LYNBROOK VALEDICTORIAN

College: Harvard University

Field of study: Engineering

Meersand, who is active in the high school science research program, was named a semifinalist in the 2016 Intel Science Talent Search and a finalist in the 2016 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. An AP Scholar with honor, National Merit finalist and member of the National Honor Society, Meersand is also captain of the robotics team, a member of the Mathletes team, a contributor to the award-winning school newspaper, Horizon, and a lead writer and performer for his school’s Class Night skits. Currently the captain of the newly formed boys varsity swim team, he led a successful initiative to introduce a boys team at his school, speaking at Board of Education meetings and circulating petitions. Outside of school, Andrew is a CYO swim team coach.

What is your fondest memory of high school?

I loved acting in Lynbrook High School’s “Class Night” shows each year. It was a culmination of the hard work of so many individuals who dedicated their time for the purposes of coming together, entertaining the community and tradition.

What do your friends think about your achievements?

In Jewish households, the word is “kvelling.” It translates from Yiddish to mean something along the lines of “bursting with pride,” but it is much more than that. They are happy to see me reach one of my goals, and I am grateful for their support. Some of my friends from Massachusetts are coming to my graduation and my grandpa is flying from Florida.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing your generation?

Socially, I think that we as a society have to see past labels. It seems that many people want to classify others — gay or straight, republican or democrat, Muslim, Jew, or Christian — and pass judgment based upon these labels. It doesn’t matter what we call each other, we are all people, and we all have generally the same goal in mind — to be happy. We should work together for that common goal and make sure that the Earth will still be around for us to reach that goal.

What is your dream job?

My dream job would be one that would allow me to make a positive impact on the world, be challenged, and work with other motivated individuals. I’d imagine pursuing the first of these three criteria would bring me to the other two. I am not sure that this job exists so I might have to make it for myself — we’ll see.

If you could have a conversation with anyone (living or dead) who would it be and why?

If you could have a conversation with anyone (living or dead) who would it be and why?

Elon Musk. He is my idol because he is pursuing his passion and interests in so many fields — automotive and clean energy, space exploration, to name a few — all with the purpose of improving the world and advancing knowledge. I want to do something like that in my life.

How would your best friend describe you?

I would imagine my friends describe me as caring, funny, determined, and charismatic. I hope in the future they will see me as a leader and an innovator. I don’t know if anyone else would call me this, but I would say I am an opportunity-seeker.

LYNBROOK SALUTATORIAN

College: University of Pennsylvania

Field of study: Mathematics

Among his leadership roles, Ajzenman is managing editor of Horizon, captain of the Mathletes team and president of the Science Olympiad team. He has been active in science research, submitting projects to both the Siemens Competition and the Intel Science Talent Search. He plays cello in the chamber orchestra and has participated in NYSSMA music festivals. Active in the Drama Club, he most recently played a lead role in his school’s production of “Beauty and the Beast.” An AP Scholar with Honor and a National Merit semifinalist, Ajzenman is also a member of the National Honor Society and Tri-M Music Honor Society. He will be heading off to the University of Pennsylvania in the fall, where he hopes to study mathematics.

What is your fondest memory of high school?

My fondest memory of high school was being in Mrs. Mantikas’ math class for three consecutive years. I was lucky to have her for Algebra 2/Trigonometry, PreCalculus, and BC Calculus. It was an amazing experience.

What do your friends think of your achievements?

What do your friends think of your achievements?

My friends were very excited for me, and thought the honor was very well-deserved.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing your generation?

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing your generation?

The biggest problem facing our generation is climate change. How we handle rising global temperatures will determine the long-term survival of humanity.

What is your dream job?

My dream job is working in the front office of the New York Mets so I can help them win the World Series.

If you could have a conversation with anyone (living or dead) who would it be and why

I would speak with David Wright. I am an avid Mets fan and would love to speak with the person who has been the face of the franchise for over a decade.

What are you most passionate about?

I am passionate about a variety of things. In Lynbrook, I starred in numerous productions for the community, such as “Beauty and the Beast.” They were a lot of fun to perform in and very rewarding. I’m also passionate about science research, and last summer I was able to combine my love for baseball and my passion for research into a project I submitted to the Intel Science Talent Search analyzing player performance after signing large free agent contracts.

How would your best friend describe you?

My best friends would describe me as a diligent individual with a wide variety of interests who always looks out for others.

EAST ROCKAWAY VALEDICTORIAN

College: New York University

Field of study: Undecided

Gonzalez earned a 103.74 grade point average and has completed seven Advanced Placement courses. She earned the prestigious title of AP Scholar with Honors in 2015 and scored in the top 2.5 percent among Hispanic and Latino PSAT/NMSQT takers in the region, which resulted in being named an esteemed National Hispanic Scholar by the College Board.

Gonzalez dedicates at least 20 hours per week in the dance studio. She supplements her everyday practice by auditioning for conventions, scholarship programs and competitions. Through these auditions, she has danced as part of the Rich Dance Project, Broadway Artist Alliance and the JUMP Dance Convention. Not only is she a student of dance, but she also teaches five classes. In her free time, Sarina travels to New York City, where she uses empty dance studios to video record her routines and practices over and over and over again. She is also the treasurer of Key Club, the Quiz Bowl team and student council. She has earned these roles through genuine enjoyment of each activity.

What is your fondest memory of high school?

My fondest memories have been participating in the yearly district musicals and all of the arts events, including “Broadway By the Bay,” and being in the jazz ensemble.

What do your friends think about your achievements?

They are so proud of me and believe I am very deserving of the honor.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing your generation?

People are so addicted to their phones that they refuse to look around at what is happening. And gun control — it sickens me to turn on the TV and be used to hearing about another shooting.

What is your dream job?

What is your dream job?

My dream job is to dance in the ensemble of a Broadway show.

If you could have a conversation with anyone (living or dead) who would it be and why?

I would love to sit down and speak with Lin Manuel Miranda, the writer of “Hamilton.” I want to speak to the genius himself and learn about his process of creating the biggest hit on Broadway right now.

What are you most passionate about?

I am so passionate about dance. It has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, and I couldn’t imagine my life without it. There is nothing better than the fleeting feeling of leaving your heart and soul on the dance floor.

How would your best friend describe you?

Well, this is what she said: “You are determined, passionate and very kind.”

EAST ROCKAWAY SALUTATORIAN

College: Stony Brook University

Field of study: Nursing

Fulgencio has consistently proven herself to be a distinguished scholar by taking East Rockaway High School’s most rigorous courses and achieving a cumulative grade point average of 102.617. She was recently named an AP Scholar, and her intelligence and work ethic coupled with her maturity and dedication paved the way for her as she takes on this prestigious honor of salutatorian.

Not only does Fulgencio excel in the classroom, she is also an asset to the East Rockaway community. Throughout her high school career, she spent time volunteering through the Key Club, tutored younger students through her involvement in National Honor Society, participated in academic competitions as a member on the Quiz Bowl team and was a valued athlete on the Badminton team. During her summers, she spends time volunteering at a local health center to strengthen her knowledge in the medical field.

What is your fondest memory of high school?

My fondest memory of high school would be the varsity badminton bus rides to games. My friends from the team and I all played “Heads Up,” broke into song (much to everyone else’s chagrin), and just had an awesome time together. It’s one of those things that may not mean much to the others, but I’ll hold in my heart.

What do your friends think about your achievements?

My friends were rather “chill” about it. They were happy and supportive, but they didn’t exactly burst into joy — and this is because they’ve been by my side throughout high school and we’ve seen each other grow and work hard each year.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing your generation?

The biggest challenge would definitely have to be trying to deal with all the obstacles in a rapidly changing age. Society is constantly changing — this is no novel phenomenon — but with all of the technological advances in recent times, the pace has been exponentially raised. In this age of technology, everything has become more widespread in a quicker manner, both to our benefit and detriment.  Before we can even find a solution, the circumstances change, technology advances, and new information comes in. 

What is your dream job?

I hope to become a nurse and really explore the world of health. There’s something about patient care that really pulls me in — maybe it’s the primal camaraderie between two people, or the bridge between scientific applications and human empathy. Maybe I’ll further my education and become a nurse practitioner, or even study internal medicine. I wish to capture any experience and sentiments I have while nursing through writing. It’ll be hard because there will be moments where words can’t just do the job, but I can try.

If you could have a conversation with anyone (living or dead) who would it be and why?

If you could have a conversation with anyone (living or dead) who would it be and why?

I would want to talk to speak with Rosalind Franklin. Apart from talking to her about her contributions to science, I’d just want to tell let her know that her work and dedication is admirable and inspiring.

What are you most passionate about?

I’m most passionate about competitions of any sort. Whether I’m a competitor or spectator, whether it’s for a sport or for video games, I love the atmosphere of the room mid-competition.

How would your best friend describe you?

My best friend described me as caring, hardworking, and understanding. She’s mentioned some more, but these were the traits that really, really meant a lot to me.