This story is part of Newsday’s 2020 Extraordinary Seniors series showcasing 12 high school students from across Long Island with the vision and determination to transform their corners of the universe — and perhaps beyond. See more Extraordinary Seniors at newsday.com/extraordinaryseniors.
At Valley Stream South High School, students struggling in the classroom could always turn to Justin Cange.
Cange, 18, a whiz in math, science and computers since elementary school, turned complicated lessons, formulas and problem-solving techniques into understandable ones for other students. Beginning in ninth grade, he began tutoring — mostly seventh- to 10th-graders — through “Homework Helpers” and later in extra-help sessions.
“Justin’s so genuine about everything he does, and contrary to what people might think, high school students really respect that,” said his Advanced Placement calculus teacher, Ross Lipsky. “He really values people’s understanding . . . whoever is next to him is going to be better off as a result.”
With minimal support from from him, Lipsky said, Cange also prepared the school’s Mathletes team of the It’s Academic Club for STEM competitions at state, national and international levels. He assembled more than a dozen dedicated students, met each week, led the practice sessions and engaged everyone in an array of topics, some beyond the high school curriculum. Before the shutdown, the group participated in the national-level American Mathematics Competition and international-level Rocket City Math League, the latter for the first time, though other competitions were canceled.
“Since he was little, he was fascinated by science and always asking questions,” Natalie Mitchell-Cange said of her son, who built his own computer before he was in 10th grade. “It seems like he was just born with this gifted mind.”
Cange, who hopes to be involved in the school’s implementation of a FIRST Robotics Team after he graduates, said, "I found tutoring and just helping other students to be one of the best ways I could give back.”
HIGHER ED: Columbia University, majoring in computer science, electrical engineering or computer engineering.
FRESHMAN YEAR: He is looking forward to “all the opportunities and just the amount of classes I’ll be able to take. I can pursue pretty much exactly what I’m interested in from the start.”
DURING THE PANDEMIC, I LEARNED: “That technology could lend itself to bettering a situation like this in the future.”