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  • Valedictorian-continued from cover

    Among his many achievements, Matthew was named a Commended Students in the National Merit Scholarship Program for high achievement on the preliminary SAT/National Merit Qualifying Test. He is an Advanced Placement (AP) Scholar of Distinction for receiving an average score of 3.5 (out of 5) on all AP exams taken, and scores of 3 or higher on five or more of these exams. He is also the recipient of the University of Rochester George Eastman Young Leaders’ Award and The Renaissance Award. Involved in school beyond the classroom, Matthew has been Student Council Treasurer since his freshman year. He created the Sports Volunteering Club, which provides volunteer opportunities for students with community-based youth sports leagues. He participated in the Student-Athletic Leadership Program (SALP) and was a reporter for the school newspaper, The Harbour Voice.  He was also a member of numerous honor societies.

    Outside of school, Matthew participated in a junior internship program at S & P Global Inc. this past summer where he learned about market analysis techniques. He is a talented musician who successfully completed the New York State Music Association (NYSSMA) piano solo events for levels 1-6 and teaches piano to beginners of all ages and abilities. He also played trombone in jazz band and wind ensemble.

    One of his greatest high school memories was performing at Carnegie Hall as a freshman. “To play on the same stage as world-famous musicians such as Leonard Bernstein, Frank Sinatra, Gustav Mahler, and Duke Ellington is something I will never forget,” he said. On the field, Matthew played varsity baseball and was captain of the team. He also tutored middle and high school students in mathematics, Spanish, science, and English. 

    In addition to his parents, science teacher Ms. Colleen Annicelli and mathematics teacher Mr. Scott Knapp were sources of inspiration for Matthew. “Their classes were really challenging but they were really supportive of the students, not only academically but in their personal lives as well, which was really comforting and motivating.”

    Thinking about how the pandemic impacted his high school experience, Matt said, “In terms of our class, I think it really brought us closer together. We were separated for so long and when we finally came back, we formed an even closer bond. It is very rare to see a class so tightknit with each other and I feel our class has that,” he said. “There was a lot of uncertainty throughout the pandemic and that speaks to our resilience and our ability to still succeed during difficult times, and I think that will help us in the future. I also think the District did a really successful job of balancing the safety of students with keeping the year enjoyable for them and that really speaks to the leadership we have here.”

    As he looks ahead to college, he offered this advice to rising underclassmen: “There comes a point in life when you can’t rely on your natural talent to succeed. When this happens, hard work will become the driving factor of achievement and you are in sole control of this factor. Having discipline and the self-motivation to improve are the keys to success in all aspects of life. But at the same time, life isn’t all about work. Balance schoolwork by enjoying the various opportunities offered at Oyster Bay High School. Join a club, a sports team, or a music program. Enjoying life outside of academics is just as important to your success. Also, make friends wherever you go. You never know what doors can open by just saying, ‘hello’.”

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    With their support, coupled with her passion and determination to be the best she can be, Riya became one of two students from the Class of 2021 to earn the distinction of National AP Scholar for receiving an average score of at least 4 (out of 5) on all AP exams taken, and scores of 4 or higher on eight or more of these exams. She earned a perfect score of 5 on the AP chemistry exam, one of her greatest achievements. 

    She has had perfect attendance since ninth grade, has earned numerous academic excellence awards across the curricula, including social studies, science, Spanish, mathematics, and English/language arts, and is a member of several honor societies. She received an excellence award in voice from NYSSMA and has been a member of the Oyster Bay High School Chamber Singers for the past two years. She also played clarinet in symphonic band and wind ensemble. As a leader, she was President of the mathematics honor society Mu Alpha Theta and was an officer of Mathletes. She played a leadership role in the Breaking Borders club and was a member of the Birthday Wishes club. Athletically, she played varsity badminton for three years.

    Her academic curiosity continued outside of school. She took enrichment courses including, Fundamentals of Neuroscience 1 at Harvard University and a science and research awareness series at Stony Brook University. Among her contributions to her community, she tutored in Spanish and chemistry, was a backstage volunteer for community shows and a volunteer at the Indian Cultural Center. She recently joined the Asian Mental Health collective, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and she is part of Help India Defeat COVID-19 with Sewa International USA.  Riya holds a job as a crewmember/barista at Dunkin’ Donuts and as a mathematics tutor.

    What contributes to her success, Riya explained, is her ability to manage her time and determine the best time for productivity. “I personally work better at night but would always compare myself to people who woke up early to work. But we all worked equally as hard and I understood that I was more alert at night and could produce better work more representative of myself,” she said.  

    Looking back at her high school career, her greatest memory was performing at Carnegie Hall as a freshman with band teacher Mr. Matthew Sisia and the wind and symphonic ensembles. What she will miss most about Oyster Bay High School, she said, is “the small environment and how we all know each other. Even if you are in a class with people you don’t typically talk to, striking up a conversation is so easy because we’ve known each other since kindergarten.”

    About the pandemic, Riya said, “It was difficult; but because we had to adjust to stay safe, I learned to become a more independent learner and I think that will help me in college.”

    Excited about having more independence and making her own decisions in college, Riya offered these parting words of advice to underclassmen: “Work smarter not harder, manage time and plan, pivot and adapt to change efficiently. Don’t be silent.”

     

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