Class of 2019 Valedictorian and Salutatorian Ready for Future Success

Class of 2019 Valedictorian and Salutatorian Ready for Future Success
Rye Neck High School seniors Rafael Zyngier and Grace O’Rourke have been named the valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively, of the Class of 2019. Both accomplished students said it was validating to receive the school’s top honors and rewarding that they were able to accomplish a personal goal. 

“The recognition is nice externally, but what really matters to me is the fact that I reached a personal goal,” Zyngier said. “Internal drive is really important; no one ever put pressure on me except myself.” 

Both students attributed their success to their self-motivation, as well as the support of their parents. 

“They have always trusted me implicitly to succeed on my own, and I feel that that trust caused me to rise to the occasion, and allowed me to find motivation within myself, rather than from outside pressure,” O’Rourke said. “I can say with certainty that this lack of intervention allowed me to flourish academically and created an incredibly supportive emotional environment.” 

Over her high school career, O’Rourke dedicated most of her time to the theater program. She has been in four musicals and three plays and was the clerk and treasurer of the Thespian Society. In addition, she has been a member of the Science Olympiad team for four years and served as co-president of the Gender Sexuality Alliance for two years, after having been a member of the club for four. Zyngier has spent time volunteering at the Rye Marshlands, as well as surfing and playing ultimate frisbee in his spare time. 

The soon-to-be graduates said if they could give any piece of advice to the incoming freshmen, it would be to not be afraid of change, work hard and find a good balance in their lives. 

“High school, to me, can be summarized as a very important landmark along the journey of finding who you are,” O’Rourke said. “Leaving high school, I feel like a totally different person than I did coming into it. My interests have shifted, my goals for life have changed dramatically, even my personality is different than it used to be. All of those changes are due in a large part to the cumulative experience of high school – the classes, the extracurricular activities, the friends I have made. To me, high school is, in a major way, a crucible for personal development and a major step forward towards becoming yourself.” 

O’Rourke and Zyngier said they will miss the personal connections they have made with teachers and peers and the friendships they’ve developed over the years. 

“I definitely had a good high school experience and am well equipped for future success,” said Zyngier, adding that he’s grateful to all of the people in his life who have supported his endeavors. “Thinking back to everyone who’s helped me along the way, I’m starting to tear up thinking about how kind and supportive everyone has been from teachers to family and friends.”

In the fall, Zyngier will attend Brown University as an applied mathematics major with a specialization in its applications through an economic lens. O’Rourke will attend Mount Holyoke College as an English major.