Saluting Our Vals & Sals – River Journal Online – News for Tarrytown, Sleepy Hollow, Irvington, Ossining, Briarcliff Manor, Croton-on-Hudson, Cortlandt and Peekskill

[Ed. Note: We invited Valedictorians and Salutatorians at the four public high schools in the communities we cover to tell us a little about themselves on a questionnaire we provided. Due to space limitations, these are edited excerpts from the information provided by each student.]  


Neel Raut

Neel Raut: Valedictorian

Extra-curricular activities: National Math Honor Society, Coding Café, Robotics Club, Mathletes and Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS)

Post-Graduation Plans: I intend to pursue graduate studies and I could continue after my undergraduate experience towards graduate studies. As for my career, I plan to become a software engineer.

Defining an exceptional educator: I would say that an exceptional educator is really passionate about what they teach and tries to help students understand difficult concepts. I would like to recognize Dr Shen for his dedication to teaching AP Physics (one of my toughest subjects), Mr Lo for inspiring me in my pursuit of a career in IT, and Mrs. Boyer for his mastery of the French language. I would also like to call my guidance counselor Mrs Safer for his invaluable advice throughout high school.

words of wisdom: To other graduates and students, I would like to emphasize the importance of time management and perseverance in achieving your goals.

Erin burns

Erin Burns: salutatorian

Extra-curricular activities: I am an active member of the Special Olympics Club, the Book Club and the National Honor Society. I’m on the varsity women’s lacrosse team. and I do competitive Irish dancing outside of school.

Post-Graduation Plans: I am attending Duke University next year and want to major in neuroscience or computer science. I intend to enter a scientific field after higher education.

Defining an exceptional educator: One of my outstanding educators was Dr. Robert Sarre. He taught me chemistry for two years, but I learned much more than chemistry in his class. He always shared a fact of the day and other niche information in various fields which made my passion for learning grow.

words of wisdom: I would advise students to focus their time on activities and topics they are passionate about as this makes learning a lot easier.

Marina Varriano

Marina Varriano: salutatorian

Extra-curricular activities: Piano – lessons, performances, competitions, College Football, Special Olympics Volunteer Club, President

Post-Graduation Plans: I’m going to attend Duke University and double major in political science and piano performance. I want to eventually become a lawyer, but I would also like to spend time as a pianist.

Defining an exceptional educator: I believe that the best teachers use their passion for the subject to inspire and inspire confidence in their students. In particular, my AP music theory teacher, Dr. Banks, served as my mentor both academically and musically. My AP chemistry teacher, Dr Sarreguided the class to think creatively to find solutions to seemingly impossible questions.

words of wisdom: I believe that to make a difference, it is important to find something that you are passionate about. You can then turn that into something that will have a positive impact on others.


Alexander Lee

Alexander Lee: Valedictorian

Extra-curricular activities: I’ve been a member of the Irvington mock trial team since freshman year. I’m the editor of an international literary magazine. I taught Latin and psychology remotely to students around the world at a non-profit organization during the pandemic

Post-graduation projects: I will be attending Brown University, where I hope to both continue to study languages ​​and use the time to explore. Currently, I am interested in a career as a lawyer or a teacher.

Defining an exceptional educator: I consider an exceptional educator to be someone who is dedicated to their area of ​​expertise, their passion and their personality.

words of wisdom: I would encourage both other graduates and underclassmen to always find creative ways to learn more; don’t let anything get in the way of your ability to gain knowledge in something you love.

Joshua Chang

Joshua Chang: valedictorian

Extra-curricular activities: I’m the editor of the online edition of Paw Print. I provide forecasts to the community for snow days. I’ve been coding since I was little.Yearbook. Food Insecurity Volunteerism – that is, Midnight Run.

Post-graduation plans: I’m going to Yale University and probably want to do computer science.

Defining an exceptional educator: My idea of ​​a great educator is someone who inspires students to want to learn and grow. A good teacher gives children the freedom to explore and expand their passions. A good example of this is my journal teacher, Mr. Williamswho helped me love writing for the first time.

words of wisdom: High school is a blast. Don’t forget to look around and appreciate this place and these people.


Juan-Carlos Desmaras

Juan Carlos Desmaras: Valedictorian

Extra-curricular activities: Some extracurricular activities include:

  • Ossining’s Scientific Research
  • Class of 2022 Representative
  • Ossining University Swimming (winter season)
  • Ossining College Tennis (Spring Season)
  • Marlins BGNW Swim Club (until last year)

Post-graduation projects: I plan to go to Northwestern or Cornell University where I will pursue a pre-medical path with aspirations of becoming a doctor. I also plan to major in biology or chemistry.

Defining an exceptional educator: An exceptional educator is someone who inspires me to take risks and use the fullness of my gifts, but also who supports me along the way. In my opinion, an exceptional educator is a teacher who not only teaches a curriculum, but who is genuinely interested and passionate about what they teach, as well as very supportive andstudent understanding. Mr. Piccirillo and Mrs. Holmes are my two scientific research professors. They care deeply about my own work and always support me in the process.

words of wisdom: It’s important to always be honest with yourself, even if it means doing something the hard way.

Mary Ford

Mary Ford: salutatorian

Extra-curricular activities: Research at the Center for Radiological Research at Columbia University on improving biodosimetry efforts following a nuclear event with mass casualties; editor of the school newspaper, The flow; captain on the varsity cross-country; varsity athletics;National Honor Society.

Post-graduation projects: Dartmouth College where I intend to major in government.

Defining an exceptional educator: An exceptional educator is someone who inspires me to take risks and use the fullness of my gifts, but also who supports me along the way.

words of wisdom: Turn the focus of class discussion both inward and outward. Push yourself and those around you to link ideas to facts.


Ryan Lyppens

Ryan Lyppens: Valedictorian

Extra-curricular activities: Led an international research team of high school students for the New York Academy of Sciences Combating COVID-19 Challenge; among the first Sleepy Hollow students to qualify for the New York State Math Meet; winner of the National Merit Scholarship; college track runner – ranked 30th in the nation, 17th in the state, and third in Westchester County for the 600m event. Broke the 38-year-old school record; FC Westchester MLS Next Academy Football Player; active member of Irvington Presbyterian Church, frequent performer of piano and trumpet at services.

Post-graduation projects: Will be studying at Cornell University majoring in Biomedical Engineering.

Defining an exceptional educator: Two exceptional, intelligent, kind and serious educators. Ms. Maureen Hickey (calculus teacher) – Instilled good study habits and made complex concepts easy to understand. Mrs. Sandra Renner (French teacher) – Emphasized the link between language and real world issues.

words of wisdom: Work hard, follow your passions and never lose your sense of humor. Everyone should use their special talents to make the world a better place.

Charis Polycarpou

Charis Polycarpou: Salutatorian

Extra-curricular activities: I am a writer, dancer and activist. I am co-editor of my school newspaper, hoof printspresident of the Student Advocates for Gender Equality Club and student mentor at the Rivertown Dance Academy.

Post-graduation projects: Next year I will continue my studies at Stony Brook University in the creative writing program.

Give thanks : I am very grateful to my Rivertown Dance Academy family who have always supported and encouraged me. I’m excited to continue being creative, whether it’s dancing, writing or whatever in college.

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