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Matthew Wong: Class of 2021 Valedictorian

Oyster Bay High School Valedictorian Matthew Wong has always been determined to succeed and make his family proud. Fueled by the sacrifices his parents made to give him and his brother a better life, he proudly wears the Class of 2021 top honor as a badge that validates his hard work and commitment to excellence.

This fall, Matthew will head to Cornell University to study Chemical Engineering and looks forward to the vast opportunities that will enable him to feed his passion.

“Technology is an emerging field in all industries, and I want to be part of the movement that creates innovative solutions to societal dilemmas through science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM),” he said. Ten years from now, he sees himself as a principal in a chemical engineering firm.

From a young age, Matthew and his older brother Jonathan, a student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute who is studying a similar STEM field, learned the importance of  a strong work ethic from watching their parents effectively balance their careers, school and family to make a good life for their children. His father, who came to America from Hong Kong when he was 10 years old, and his mother instilled in them the importance of finding what you are passionate about, discipline, and managing your time to be successful. Matthew’s greatest strength, he said, is his ability to lead others in the classroom, on the playing field or on the concert stage, and “incite a true passion in them for what they are doing.”

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’.”