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Riya Gupta: Class of 2021 Salutatorian

Oyster Bay High School Salutatorian Riya Gupta learned from a young age to set her goals high and strive for excellence. Highly driven and determined to succeed, Riya proudly puts one hundred percent into everything she does.

As she sets her sights on college, Riya is confident that those qualities will propel her to the next level of  success. Intrigued by human behavior and how the mind functions,  she plans to study psychology at Seton Hall University this fall.

“I want to study psychology to learn more about derealization, paradoxes, and multiple states of existence,” she said. “I would also like to work with technology that could analyze states of consciousness and how one’s vulnerability may expose the secrets of one’s mind.”

A decade from now, Riya said she sees herself as a psychiatrist working to understand people on a deeper level. “I find it so intriguing how one’s brain may truly get lost in a fantasy, thus eliciting a state of psychosis,” she said.

Riya credits her parents and her siblings for pushing her to be the best version of herself. She recalls her mother staying up late with her studying and emailing her Advanced Placement teachers in the eleventh hour. Her older brother, Aavi, was valedictorian of the Class of 2020 and  inspires her every day, and her younger brother Aari is so advanced beyond his years she is in awe by his vast knowledge at such a young age. She also was inspired by all her teachers and close friends.

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.”