Standing out at Uniondale High


Jarred Mercado and Mayessy Castro Ramirez have been named the valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively, of Uniondale High School’s Class of 2024, which numbers more than 480 seniors.

“It makes me feel like all my hard work has paid off,” Mercado said.
Mercado is a member of the math, music and science honor societies, and has taken 10 Advance Placement classes. He will attend Cornell University in the fall, and plans to pursue his two favorite subjects — music and math.

“When I’m doing math, it doesn’t feel like I’m doing work, like for other classes,” Mercado said, adding that calculus is his favorite branch of mathematics.

His biggest motivators, he said, have been the teachers who have challenged him in the classroom.

“Jarred Mercado epitomizes academic excellence and mathematical prowess,” Uniondale High math teacher Candice Sands-Mani wrote in an email. “Jarred isn’t just an amazing student, he’s a testament to the limitless potential of dedication and intellect.”

Mercado is also an accomplished violinist, and has performed with the high school orchestra, at the Chamber Music Center of New York and with the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra.

“Even though I was top of the class, I feel like it was an even bigger honor to be named concertmaster of all-county and the Long Island String Festival in 11th and 12th grade,” Mercado said.
As the Nassau Music Educators Association All-County Division 5 symphony orchestra concertmaster, Mercado was the violin section leader, and the instrument-playing leader of the orchestra.

Since he took up the violin nine years ago, he said, music has brought balance to his life. “There’s STEM,” he said, referring to science, technology, engineering and math, “and then there’s music, which is more of a soft subject. It’s more relaxing and decompressing.”

He has spent many of his lunch practicing the violin, so he could focus on schoolwork later in the day.

Salutatorian Castro Ramirez is also passionate about learning, and has a natural curiosity about how things work, she said, which is why biology and chemistry are her favorite subjects.

“I feel like science and nature are so complex,” she said. “I like to ‘solve’ them, find out how they work.”

“It’s really amazing,” Victoria A. Lore, Castro Ramirez’s creative writing teacher at the high school, wrote in an email. “Mayessy stands as a testament to brilliance, innovation and creativity. Her ability to create captivating narratives within my course clearly shows these qualities, exemplifying her exceptional talent and unwavering commitment to academic excellence.”

Castro Ramirez plans to study biology at Smith College in Massachusetts. Having left El Salvador for the United States. with her family when she was 5, she’s a first-generation American high school graduate. But that was no small challenge: Being bilingual, she had to learn English and academics simultaneously when she was younger.

In her spare time, Castro Ramirez said, she loves to edit videos on Instagram, having learning the skill by way of YouTube video. “It’s a way to showcase your creativity, and your mood,” she said.

She hopes to help people in the Latino community.

“From my experience, I think there’s a lack of people that can … juggle between English and Spanish at doctors’ appointments,” Castro Ramirez said. “That frustrates me, because I just wish that there was someone there to help people.”

As Mercado and Castro Ramirez move onto the next chapter of their lives, they have many things to remember about their high school years.

“I feel like I’ve become more adaptive as a learner to each situation thrown at me,” Mercado said.

“I’m grateful that I’ve been blessed by God,” Castro Ramirez said. “This is a really big achievement. ”