By Fiona O'Reilly
As the 2021-2022 school year comes to a close, New Hyde Park recognizes the valedictorian, Laurence Lai, and salutatorian, Emma Ouyang, on their academic achievements. Though the two seniors are both successful academically due to their dedication to their grades, their well-roundedness is what truly sets them apart.
Lai will be attending Cornell University in the fall and is planning to major in engineering. He is secretary of Mathletes, a member of the Science Olympiads and a National Merit Semifinalist. Additionally, Lai is part of the Career Technical Education Program, where he specializes his interests in instrumentation and automation. Outside the classroom, he is vice president of the Asian American Community of Culture, competes in the Sewanhaka District Rifle team and is on photo staff of The Lance. As a secretary of Youth of Ethical Societies, Lai is passionate about societal challenges and has helped distribute thousands of masks to the local community.
Ouyang, who will be attending Johns Hopkins University in the fall and majoring in electrical engineering, is the president of Mathletes and president of The National Science Honor Society. As the co-design editor of The Lance, Ouyang collaborates with fellow designers and edits photos to create eye-catching spreads. Ouyang spends her time pursuing music as a violinist in String Ensemble, 2020 All-County Orchestra and the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra, including playing in a concert at Carnegie Hall. Being accepted into the Columbia University Science Honors Program, she also shares her interests in science by tutoring New Hyde Park students in chemistry. Outside of school, she is a member of the town Feral Cat Committee and helps reduce threats to feral cats by feeding wild cats and catching them for neutering.
Source by Sam Tsui
Valedictorian Laurence Lai and salutatorian Emma Ouyang are elated to have been awarded these titles.
“Emma is a fantastic violinist who has proven over the years to be dedicated and completely devoted to her music and the New Hyde Park orchestra program. She has worked very hard at advancing her skills as a violinist and has been an asset to the orchestra program and a pleasure to work with,” orchestra director Linda Tomkiw said.
Because both Lai and Ouyang were accepted into academically rigorous and highly selective universities, both can attest to the difficult college application process.
“Start your applications early! I procrastinated and did not start mine until October, which led to a bunch of all-nighters right before the application deadline,” Lai said.
“In your college applications, be honest, and write about challenges you’ve faced and how you overcame them, whether they are familial, academic or social issues,” Ouyang said.
Both Laurence and Emma did not achieve their success overnight, but rather by developing sustainable study habits throughout high school. Laurence's best piece of advice is to study with a group of friends. Similarly, Emma stresses the importance of having multiple methods of studying by splitting your time into personal and group sessions.
“If I only studied by myself, I would’ve procrastinated more. With a group, everyone holds each other accountable. It’s also more entertaining and engaging to be with others,” Lai said.
Despite the high grades they have achieved, both Lai and Ouyang stress the importance of extracurricular activities to not only make you stand out in the eyes of colleges, but also to better know yourself as a student and explore your interests.
“Grades and extracurriculars are both important, and it’s definitely good to find a balance between the two. If I felt that I was being overwhelmed by my activities and schoolwork, I would often drop one extracurricular activity to prioritize other activities and myself,” Ouyang said.
“Extracurriculars give you interesting activities, while grades are just a number. An important thing to remember is that what you do within your extracurricular activities is more important than how many activities you have,” Lai said.
To the younger students, Ouyang and Lai emphasized not stressing too much about academics.
“Pursue what you love, whether that’s cooking, Model UN, or photography. Keep your options open and explore new extracurriculars too, but don’t force yourself into doing activities that aren’t genuinely exciting for you,” Ouyang said.
“Just enjoy high school and have fun without worrying too much about grades. In the future, you’re not going to remember all the studying you did in high school but rather the friends and memories you made,” Lai said.