Meet your valedictorian, salutatorian at W.T. Clarke High School

Juliet Cimaglia, Lauren Henning named the top students for 2024


Not many students have what it takes to be named the best in their high school graduating class. But at W.T. Clarke High School in the East Meadow School District, Juliet Cimaglia and Lauren Henning have done just that — as valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively, for the Class of 2024.

Both top academic achievers, their journey to educational excellence, coupled with athletic pursuits and extracurricular passions, have made Cimaglia and Henning stand out at Clarke.

The seniors shed light on the importance of time management, seeking out academic passions while prioritizing mental health amid the pressures of high school life.

Cimaglia’s hard work, both in and out of the classroom, has resulted in her earning a weighted grade point average of 109.71. She’s taken some of the most rigorous courses Clarke has to offer, and is a member of several honor societies and clubs. An avid soccer player, she was the varsity soccer team captain during the fall season.

But of all the passions and academics she’s balanced throughout her years at Clarke, her biggest one she found by chance. A member of band when she attended middle school, Cimaglia said she decided to drop it when she entered high school.

“I entered into a technology education course — I didn’t really know what it was about, I just needed something to fill my schedule,” Cimaglia, 18, said. “And that was the best decision I’ve ever made. It set me on my path to engineering.”

Since freshman year, she’s taken four engineering classes, and as a junior, she joined the robotics team, which she “instantly fell in love with.”

“That’s how I spend most of my time,” she said. “I spend my free periods in (the robotics room). I spend my weekends in there. That has really driven my path to want to go into engineering, as at least some STEM-based field where I think I can really excel.” 

Henning’s dedication and hard work throughout her time at Clarke has resulted in a weighted grade point average of 109.06. She has also taken a rigorous course load, and is a member of several honor societies and clubs. A talented athlete, Henning has played on the varsity field hockey team since her freshman year, where she established herself early on as a team leader.

A self-proclaimed “math and science girl,” Henning, 17, said she wants to pursue a doctorate of pharmacy after high school.

“It involves more math and science and involves hands on work,” she said. “It’s a very nice career to go into, because you’re not stuck kind of in one thing for the next 40 years. You can hop around, you can grow, you can build.”

Henning has big aspirations, and wants to be able to use her successes to help others, she said. “I aspire to help people, use my knowledge of math and science to help make the world a little bit of a better place,” she said. 

Both Cimaglia and Henning emphasized the importance of compartmentalizing things — whether it’s their rigorous academics, sports or other extracurricular activities.

“There have been a lot of times where I’ve been very overwhelmed, and sometimes that really sends me spiraling,” Cimaglia said. “You have to really just focus on one thing at a time, and that’s the way I’ve kind of been able to dig myself out of holes that I sometimes put myself into.”

Henning tore her anterior cruciate ligament in December of 2022 — a major setback for an athlete. Through physical therapy, support from her teammates and coaches, and self-determination, she persevered.

“If I were to give advice to someone with this major setback, and they don’t know what they’re going to do, you really sometimes just have to take it one day at a time,” she said. “You can’t worry about what’s going to happen on Friday, because right now it’s Tuesday.”

Both students suggested having breaks in class schedules, whenever possible, for times to enjoy other things. For Cimaglia, that’s robotics, and for Henning, American Sign Language, which she’s taken since seventh grade.

“You really need to find a course or a subject that you want to stick with, even if it’s a college course or AP course,” Cimaglia said. “That’ll be your time to decompress for the day.”

Henning said, “When you’re in classes, it’s all input, input, input. You need time to process that information. So if there’s a buffer period, it’s great.”

Cimaglia said the pressure students place on themselves can be crippling, and while there’s nothing wrong with striving for success, it’s okay to take a step back.

“If you’re going to suffer because you want something so bad, there’s no point in wanting it so bad,” she said. “People think that you’re going to remember that test you took in freshman year that you maybe got a 75 on — trust me, you will not. I promise, everything will work itself out in the end.”

For those still navigating high school, Henning advises them to recognize the importance of creating memories, and maintaining a social life outside of academics.

“No one’s going to say that they liked high school because, ‘I loved my mountain of homework,’” she said. “How do you enjoy high school? You enjoy high school when you spend it with the people that make you laugh.”

Timothy Voels, Clarke High School principal, said Cimaglia and Henning are “exemplary students and role models.”

“Their determination, dedication, passion and compassion serve to inspire,” he said, “and bring out the best in everyone around them.”

The East Meadow High School valedictorian and salutatorian will be featured in next week’s edition.