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The Top Two Talk

By Rachel Houng and Tina Torre

Valedictorian Priya Persaud and salutatorian Taseen Tanzil were interviewed regarding their daily life and successes.

Q: What was it like hearing on the loudspeaker that you were chosen as valedictorian/salutatorian?

Taseen Tanzil: They called us in before it was announced on the loudspeaker…I went in, and then he [Dr. Faccio] said congratulations…Everyone congratulated me. Honestly it didn't feel real at the time, but then Dr. Faccio had me call my mom to tell her I was salutatorian…Overall it was a really nice experience.

Priya Persaud: Basically, they [administrators] gave me my transcript, and then they just pointed out the rank. They didn't say anything to me, so I was kind of taken aback…Honestly, I didn't expect number one. Towards the end, they allowed me to call my dad. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience!

Q: Where were you when you heard the announcement?

PP: I was in the cafeteria, eating an apple slice and just talking to some friends, when they announced it. It was surreal to hear everyone clapping.

TT: I was in fifth period, so I had to go back to AP Gov. When they announced it, Mr. Galvin literally went crazy. He started shaking me and hugging me, so that was really nice, and then the whole class clapped.

Q: Looking back, how do you think you were able to achieve this position?

PP: I guess it comes from my good support system. I have two older brothers. They've went through this process before, and I've seen how hard they had to work, and I recognize that all the effort that they put in high school paid off for them down the road in college. So I said if I really want to achieve my goal, maybe I should put in the work right now. And I think that it was from having a good support system from my mom and my dad…It's also having good friends around you because when you're able to laugh and socialize with your friends, it's always a nice little relaxing thing to get your mind off the stress. Personally, I think that it was having a good balance that really helped me out.

TT: What really motivated me was I generally just try to do the best I can everywhere, especially going through so many schools from New Jersey to New York. I'd say having a support system is really good because my parents supported me and all my academic endeavors. They told me to take every opportunity I could. I don't have an older brother, I am the older brother. It's my younger sister. So I feel like I need to set the example. I had to try my best in order for her to do her best, and I think she's going to outperform me soon.

Q: In your experience, what was it like being a student at New Hyde Park?

TT: I'd say the biggest thing that stood out to me as a student at New Hyde Park was probably the teachers. I feel a lot of them inspired me to do my best in their classes. I remember in AP Bio, with Ms. Gelber, she supported her students amazingly…Through all the work and effort I put in, especially with her preparation for the AP exam, I did great in her class and on the exam. For AP Calc, Mr. Sime does a great job of teaching…Even outside of New Hyde Park I've gotten to experience what it's like at Sewanhaka with the CTE programs with Mr. Chen and his pre-engineering and then also AP Physics C this year. It's really tough, but I'd say that the teachers here have really inspired me to do my best.

PP: I would say, in my personal experience, what has really fostered my outlook on the school environment would be the social culture. My oldest brother graduated from New Hyde Park right as I was entering into seventh grade, so my family has really been here for 12 years. Through those years, I was able to form connections with some teachers, staff, administrators, talk to fellow students, and have good times during football events or whatever social events that they have in school. This defining social culture really made the school really positive in my mind—due to being able to make those connections. Also, I would say that taking science research has been integral in me being where I am today in terms of opportunities and research experience. Truthfully, I wouldn't be able to do any of the research that I had done without Ms. Stone or being able to have her guidance in taking those classes. Definitely, it's a mixture of everything for me, the school environment and the teachers as well.

Source by Anna Detke

Salutatorian Taseen Tanzil and valedictorian Priya Persaud offer advice for underclassmen at NHP and reflect on their experiences thus far.

Q: Do you have any advice for students that are more passionate about certain subjects and how to become well rounded?

TT: Even though I've been trying to go into medicine, I took pre-engineering (the CTE course), which obviously isn't meant for medicine, but I feel expanding your interests…is a great resource to see what you actually want to do in college because high school is meant for you to discover your identity…In high school, I'd say it's great to have a well-balanced curriculum, from sports to arts and humanities, as well as STEM subjects. Take a variety of classes, and especially try to make friends who are dedicated to academics, but try to make your friends as varied as possible, like maybe someone's into art, someone's into science, someone's into math, right? I feel like that helps you see how each subject changes a person because each person is kind of modeled by what they study, and I feel like just knowing all those aspects helps you choose what you wanna do in the future.

PP: You cannot pressure yourself into doing one thing over the other. I feel for me, and everything that I've done, there was a genuine interest there beforehand. I didn't appreciate when people placed unexpected pressure onto me. I thought that was unfair, and I thought that everyone should be respected for their boundaries. I kind of look at myself, say I would like to do this, and then go for it. I would like to also say this…I do think being able to balance a rigorous STEM schedule with humanities is really integral in being able to maintain a stable mindset, because the STEMs generally are very competitive and very hard. Being able to balance that, have good friendships, and talk about different cultures and diversity and traditions around the world is an incomparable experience that I would never trade. So advice: balance: create a good balance, and also just have it within you; don't have anyone pressure you, or don't pressure anyone to do anything.

TT: I'd like to add, especially with the changing workspace (with the introduction of technology) what's happened is you don't necessarily meet geniuses in one subject. The saying goes, “A jack of all trades is a master of none but oftentimes better than a master of one,”…The gist of it is…try to create a diverse selection of subjects that you're genuinely interested in, because with the interdisciplinary studies, especially like advances in computer science, you have CS majors and English majors working together to make AI generated models like ChatGPT…in the medical workspace, you have biomedical engineers who are revolutionizing medical technology. Surgeries are being done with robots instead of people. So you kind of need to have knowledge of more than one subject to be successful in your career.

PP: It's important to get out there, be involved in extracurriculars…I feel it gets stuffy if you're just always sitting down, just studying…Being able to have a life outside of school is very important…Understand that the world is about collaboration; it's about communication. And it's okay to not be able to do everything by yourself. It's okay to ask for help. It's okay to admit sometimes that you're not the best at something and you're not going to be the best at something…If I genuinely don't know something, I need to ask for help in order to get past that hump. Also, I think being able to communicate, collaborate and just have fun, it's high school, like yes, you know you want to prepare for college, but you need to have fun. I feel like for me, I never really sacrificed fun. Of course I studied, but I went out with friends, I did clubs with them, sports, whatever. And it's just being able to have an all around encompassing experience.

Q: What was your favorite high school class and who are some teachers you have enjoyed having?

PP: She [Ms. Gelber] humanized biology in a way that I thought was incredible. Personally, you know, when I've been taught science or when I've explored it myself, it always seems as if it's behind the glass boundary; you can never really interact with it, everything is always cut and paste. I felt like science was always black and white. There's never a gray. But then when I went into her class [AP Biology], she really humanized it in a way that made it connect with us individually. It was incredible for me to experience that firsthand that some of the things that she was talking about. I was able to apply her teachings to my own life. Also, being able to hear her perspective on biology really formed my interest in pursuing the career in higher education…It was one of the best classes I've ever taken in high school just because of the dynamic that we have between students and her.

TT: Yeah, I'd have to say the same thing. AP Bio completely changed my perspective on biology in general…Ms. Gelber made me realize the memorization itself isn't necessarily just flashcards you have to burn it into your memory. It's more so that the logic kind of ties into all the processes that you have to memorize. So if you start somewhere, you can end up somewhere completely different. You could start at one cell pathway and then end up to a whole biological system that affects most of your body, right? So I think that kind of showed the beauty of biology…it just kind of reaffirmed my interest in the subject in general. Also…pre-engineering is a great CTE program that I think every freshman coming in should look into…Mr. Chen has just been amazing at quite literally everything from giving you advice on college to teaching you how to do your own little hobbies and projects. He kind of brought in character to engineering. People say it's like a subject where everything is just math, it's all like cold. Everyone that comes out of engineering school is like a robot, right? But there's like an unforeseen beauty to the inner mechanisms of such a class, right? Every piece that you design, every Arduino project that you make, you're making in collaboration with others, and that kind of intertwines many different disciplines of subjects. You're taking ideas from nature to maybe make a prosthetic arm, or maybe you're using that to create a fish tank that automated itself, which is what I did. So yeah, it was really interesting. That class gave me so many useful skills…Also, Mr. Sime, what Mr. Chen and Ms. Gelber did to bio and engineering respectively, Mr. Sime does that with math. Math is kind of a daunting subject to many people, but the way Mr. Sime breaks down each unit and transitions you from one unit to the next, I feel like that's an incredible skill that he has. It's made learning math almost like riding a wave…Everything that he starts at the beginning of the year ties in at the end of the year, and it all kind of makes sense at the end. It feels like I read a good book, and I can just look back on it and take in all the information I want.

PP: I would also say for classes that I thoroughly enjoyed, AP Spanish…I think that we really enjoyed being able to learn about different cultures and not have tests where you would have to write everything about a culture…In that class, it was non-traditional in the way that it was taught. I feel that we were able to learn about different places, different traditions and then tie them all together for some uniform connection…I really like learning about different cultures because personally, you can look at the world of STEM, of course, but then being able to learn about what makes up the other half of the world, being able to see there's so much beauty in humanities. If I wasn't a biology major I would have loved to be a contemporary literature…I really like the way that literature connects to the real world cultures and just tying it into diversity in that regard…Being able to talk about philosophy or talk about some different philosophical ideas, tie them to culture, being able to write about them and allow for creative interpretation. I feel like sometimes I got so stifled in science classes or math classes because I felt that there's only one way to do something. So, being able to have an outlet for creative interpretation where I could speak my opinion sometimes, and be able to defend it was absolutely great. I think that it was great to take those classes and be able to experience an outlet of freedom.

Q: How tall are you?

PP: 5’4”

TT: 6’4”

PP: I’m going to be wearing flats to graduation so everyone can see the height difference.

TT: Yeah, I'll make sure to wear heels.

Source by Tina Torre

"I'm going to be wearing flats to graduation so everyone can see the height difference," Persaud said. "Yeah, I'll make sure to wear heels," Tanzil said.

Q: What are your future plans?

PP: Throughout my life, I always had this idea that I wanted to do something in science. However, at a certain point, I actually thought pursuing contemporary literature was a nice viable option for me. The turning point for me to pursue science, though, was when I did research this past summer. There, I was exposed to the world of translational cancer research, and for me, being in that environment was so emotional because I was able to see the real impact that my research could have on people. Therefore, I decided to pursue biology in hopes of going to medical school. Definitely some part of my life will always be dedicated to research, but, recognizing that I had that original interest in going to medical school, I applied for combined degree programs (you can get your bachelors and a medical degree throughout seven to eight years). As I knew that I always wanted to pursue some sort of research, get a great humanities education, and pursue biology, I chose Stony Brook’s Scholars for Medicine program. In the program, I will automatically matriculate to the Renaissance School of Medicine after four years of undergraduate study at Stony Brook.

TT: I always knew I wanted to either go into engineering or the medical sciences…In the summer…I shadowed an oncologist, so I wasn't doing cancer research, but I was watching everything happen real time and how that research was applied to real people…I've seen people walk out for their last day of chemo, and it's an amazing experience…but what really made me consider oncology in the first place was not just the happy endings but the fact that…you have to be grounded or else you're gonna lose yourself. You have to see so much tragedy, and you just have to hear so many stories…My goal in life is to leave an impact…I saw oncology as a method to achieving my goal…I was shadowing my doctor, and she was constantly learning even though she was clearly like 10-15 years out of med school…I guess that's one thing you have to have when you're trying to become like a sal/val…because you kind of have to enjoy learning…I wanted to be in that field [oncology] as soon as possible so that kind of influenced my decision to go into the Sophie Davis biomedical school of education.

PP: We really just want to pursue medicine. Regardless, the world needs everyone; the world can't function strictly on doctors, engineers, lawyers, you need everyone.

Q: What are your hobbies outside of school?

TT: Junior year, I picked up weightlifting. I never realized how similar that was to academics…You're trying to do your best. And you're trying to squeeze out one rep the whole time. So I'd say that's a really good hobby, and it obviously helps you physically. And I go with my gym bro…I work with a lot of tech…So I kind of just mess around with custom PCs, custom keyboards, just messing around with random microelectronics…I picked up taking care of animals…I'm trying to set up a fish tank.

PP: During the summer, I love to watch movies, hang out with friends, play tennis, and go to the beach. During the winter, I love going to the mall with friends, and just maximizing the time that I have to socialize. I think that for me a big portion of my life has always been maintaining that balance between studying and socializing. Other hobbies that I have include biking, baking, and writing in my free time. Also, I write for North Shore Leader while doing some political volunteering here and there (I did for Rich Nicolello).

TT: I kind of got into fashion recently.

PP: I also love to do skincare!

TT: I started getting into the skin care stuff as well…The bottom line is we're all talking about things like skincare, sleeping, working out, fashion. You gotta have self-care if you're gonna do good in literally anything.

Source from Taseen Tanzil

"I work with a lot of tech…So I kind of just mess around with custom PCs, custom keyboards, just messing around with random microelectronics," Tanzil said.

Source from Priya Persaud

"I do extensive research about which products would work best for my skin and love to share my thoughts and experiences with friends," Persaud said.

Q: What’s your favorite movie?

TT: Probably “No Country for Old Men.”

PP: My favorite movie is “ The Lorax.”

Q: What advice would you give to someone who doesn’t have a support system at home or who has a lot of pressure?

PP: You need to look at yourself in the mirror and say that you are you. You deserve what you have, and you deserve even more greatness in the future. If you don't have a support system, you can always try to look to the school environment. At school, you can always find solace in your friends and even the teachers. The teachers are always willing to lend a hand, or teach more concepts or even provide some life advice. And I would say that everyone is always there for you. You have excellent guidance counselors and administrators who are always willing to talk to you. You're not alone. There is always support and help for you. In terms of dealing with pressure, I would say you cannot let others dictate how you feel about yourself. They’re not living your life, so you need to be happy with what you’ve done. In the end, definitely understand that you're not alone, and that you are your own person. You should not let others influence what you think because in the end, you should be true to yourself and what you believe in.

TT: Yeah, I'd have to say the same thing. If you don't really have a support system, one thing that really helped me was just talking to people. I know it sounds really daunting at first…but especially when I got to the stage of visiting different colleges, talking to people…gave me a lot of good advice and tips on how to become better at what I was doing in my own school…A lot of kids…come in with this idea of cynicism that it's like a zero-sum game when you're trying to apply to colleges, which in a sense you could look at it that way, but I'd say the better route to look at it is that these people are your peers. You're not only competing against them, you're also trying to help them and learn from each other. I feel like that's a really important aspect that a lot of people lose sight of, especially junior year. They just get really competitive, and it's like you guys really don't need to be doing that, you guys should be helping each other and learning from each other. Try to talk to people. You'll find out that people are more sympathetic than you might think they are…As for pressure, one really good advice that my CTE teacher gave to me, Mr. Chen, he said that you should obviously have a goal in mind, a long-term goal, but try to set little goals so that you can accomplish something and then you get the ball rolling.

PP: The last thing I want to say is don't compare yourself with others. No one is the absolute best, and no one is the absolute worst. Everyone is in a different circumstance, and so many people are dealing with things that they don't want to share. It’s just the nature of life that you cannot automatically assume one thing about a person, because in the end you can be completely wrong sometimes. I would say, work on your positive attributes and work on your weaknesses as well, but focus on what makes you happy.

TT: Comparison is the thief of joy, as they say.


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