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Students to watch on Long Island: Winter 2018

They’re state-champion athletes and award-winning researchers. App developers and volunteer firefighters.

Meet eight Long Island students nominated by school staff members for Newsday.com's feature, Students to Watch. These well-rounded achievers work hard at honing their skills. They're also known for their positive, can-do attitudes.

If you know of a student who is doing great things while inspiring others, click here and fill out the form. Your entry may appear in a future edition of Students to Watch. Newsday.com is accepting submissions for only Long Island high school students.

Jake Gould, Syosset High School

HOMETOWN: Oyster Bay AGE: 17 GRADE: 12 WHY
Photo Credit: Courtesy Deborah Contino

HOMETOWN: Oyster Bay

AGE: 17

GRADE: 12

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH HIM:

Jake Gould's experiences have allowed him to see the country -- and the world. He spent the first half of his junior year at the Mountain School of Milton Academy in Vershire, Vermont, which accepts 45 high school juniors each semester to live, work and study on the school's farm.

Last summer, Gould worked in the Amazon jungle helping to build schools and teach English. The summer before that, he attended the Seeds of Peace camp, which brings together teens and educators from different countries; Gould met students from countries including Israel, Jordan and Egypt. The camp inspired him to form Breaking Borders, a student-run leadership program that aims to remove barriers between students from different backgrounds.

Deborah Contino, Gould's guidance counselor, said these diverse experiences have had a significant impact on him. She is "in awe" of the person Gould has become.

"I am impressed by his global perspective and maturity," she said. "He has the rare ability to express his empathetic nature."

What also impresses Contino is that Gould is not only a strong student, but he also enjoys educating himself and helping others. She said it's not unusual to find Gould tutoring a fellow student or leading a study group in the library.

"He is more interested in learning for the joy of learning and encouraging his peers to do their best," she said.

Morgan Grant, Half Hollow Hills High School West

HOMETOWN: Dix Hills AGE: 17 GRADE: 12 WHY
Photo Credit: Courtesy Amanda Hughes

HOMETOWN: Dix Hills

AGE: 17

GRADE: 12

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH HER:

An accomplished singer and performer, Morgan Grant won Half Hollow Hills High School West's "Hills Idol" competition and has played the lead in several school plays and musicals. She is also a member of the school's chamber choir and vocal jazz ensemble.

Grant has taken on a leading role off the stage as well, serving as the student council president and a member of the Superintendent's Roundtable, a group of students who meet with the district superintendent to discuss educational practices. Counselor Amanda Hughes said she is impressed with Grant's leadership qualities.

"I find her desire to better herself and those who surround her admirable," Hughes said. "Being a positive yet productive leader is something Morgan takes with great pride."

In her spare time, Grant volunteers at the Gerald J. Ryan Outreach Center in Wyandanch and Inheritance of Hope, a faith-based organization that helps children facing the loss of a parent.

"I am perplexed by her ability to manage it all while still maintaining a strong focus on her academic studies," Hughes said.

Billy Stouges, Holy Trinity Diocesan High School

HOMETOWN: Hicksville AGE: 17 GRADE: 12 WHY YOU
Photo Credit: Courtesy Jackie Lombardi

HOMETOWN: Hicksville

AGE: 17

GRADE: 12

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH HIM:

An athlete and an actor, Billy Stouges has performed on a variety of stages. He is the school's track and field captain and a two-time state champion in shot put. He has also sung at Radio City Music Hall with the select choir and performed in several school plays.

Holy Trinity Director of Admissions Jackie Lombardi said Stouges "truly embodies what it means to be a Holy Trinity Titan."

Stouges is also devoted to helping others, serving as a student ambassador at school and a mentor at Camp Kita, a summer bereavement camp that helps children who have lost a loved one to suicide.

However, Lombardi said she is most impressed by Stouges' humility, "which just might be his greatest accomplishment considering how exceptional he is."

Vincent Yao, Roslyn High School

HOMETOWN: Roslyn AGE: 17 GRADE: 12 WHY YOU
Photo Credit: Courtesy Melissa Lazzaro

HOMETOWN: Roslyn

AGE: 17

GRADE: 12

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH HIM:

An aspiring physician, Vincent Yao was motivated by his grandmother's herbal medicine business to conduct his own research. He became a Regeneron Science Talent Search semifinalist for his work identifying a plant-based chemical that attacks colorectal cancer cells.

"In my 17 years as a counselor at Roslyn High School, I have never met a young man like Vincent Yao," counselor Melissa Lazzaro said.

Yao also belongs to the forensics speech and debate team and serves as the chief operating officer of the school marching band. He co-founded both the Asian Cultural Exchange, of which he is vice president, and Humans of Roslyn, a response to Humans of New York, a photoblog of New York City residents sharing short stories from their lives.

Lazzaro said Yao, the school president, is well-respected among his peers.

"He is one of our most accomplished students in and out of the classroom, yet he is down to Earth and affable in a way that makes him relatable," Lazzaro said.

Julia Giannoutsos, Locust Valley High School

HOMETOWN: Locust Valley AGE: 18 GRADE: 12 WHY
Photo Credit: Courtesy Jaimie Dickstein

HOMETOWN: Locust Valley

AGE: 18

GRADE: 12

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH HER:

No lunch. No free periods. That was the request Julia Giannoutsos made to her guidance counselor, Jaimie Dickstein, when creating her schedule this year. Giannoutsos asked for the arrangement so she could finish school early and head straight to the firehouse, where she serves as a volunteer firefighter.

"She loves helping others," Dickstein said. "She gets so frustrated when her pager goes off during the school day, because she's not allowed to leave school to help."

Passing the Bayville Fire Company on her way to school every day made Giannoutsos curious about it, so last year she began taking EMT courses and continued her training last summer at the firehouse.

Dickstein recalled a recent house fire that Giannoutsos responded to in which she recovered a wedding photo. Dickstein commended her quick thinking under pressure.

"She saw it on the floor and knew that the family would want to have it," Dickstein said.

Jordan Busch, Half Hollow Hills High School East

HOMETOWN: Melville AGE: 17 GRADE: 12 WHY YOU
Photo Credit: Courtesy Laura Elgavisch

HOMETOWN: Melville

AGE: 17

GRADE: 12

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH HIM:

Jordan Busch has been volunteering at the Gurwin Jewish Nursing & Rehabilitation Center since he was in ninth grade, participating in art projects with residents and sharing with them his passion for gardening and cooking. The residents look forward to Busch's weekly visits, his school guidance counselor Laura Elgavisch said.

"Residents adore having Jordan volunteer there," she said. "He has formed special bonds."

Busch's interest in cooking stemmed partly from a personal endeavor to maintain a healthier lifestyle. He began exercising regularly and changed his eating habits in 10th grade, learning to cook healthy meals. Since then, he has lost 60 pounds. Elgavisch said the lifestyle change "taught him that he has the willpower and determination to set high goals."

In school, Busch has taken on leadership positions in several clubs. He is the president of the Model United Nations Club, treasurer of Amnesty International and vice president of Future Doctors of America. Elgavisch attributed him holding these various roles to his determination.

"People look up to Jordan, because they admire his work ethic," she said.

Caroline Chen, Jericho High School

HOMETOWN: Glen Head AGE: 17 GRADE: 12 WHY
Photo Credit: Courtesy Jason Rubinstein

HOMETOWN: Glen Head

AGE: 17

GRADE: 12

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH HER:

Caroline Chen has conducted research on lung tumors at the NYU School of Medicine, captains her school's varsity swimming and diving team, and organized a book drive for disabled children that collected more than 500 books.

"She is a true renaissance woman," her guidance counselor Jason Rubinstein said.

Chen's scientific achievements include taking first place along with a group of her classmates in the Northwell Health Medical Marvels Competition, in which they produced a project tackling the challenge of increasing cultural awareness among healthcare providers. She was also awarded the Bausch & Lomb Honorary Science Award for excellence in the subject and achievement on her SAT and PSAT, and chosen to be an ambassador by the Young Scientists Journal.

"She makes every effort to be independent and has demonstrated a level of maturity beyond her years," Rubinstein said.

Beyond science, Chen has an interest in the written word. She is the editor of Jericho High School's literary magazine and a student council representative for its online newspaper. She was also selected to attend the Canon Solutions America Future Authors Project, a summer writing workshop for students.

And she has interned for Rep. Grace Meng, who represents part of Queens.

"Caroline Chen is one the of the most extraordinary students with whom I have worked in my career," Rubinstein said.

Vineet Malhotra, Bay Shore High School

HOMETOWN: Bay Shore AGE: 17 GRADE: 12 WHY
Photo Credit: Courtesy Erin Garland

HOMETOWN: Bay Shore

AGE: 17

GRADE: 12

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH HIM:

Vineet Malhotra developed an app to improve communication between lung cancer patients and healthcare professionals through a mentorship at Stony Brook University last summer.

He has shown "a passion for helping people," said Erin Garland, a science research teacher at Bay Shore High School. Working with him for four years has given Garland a first-hand look at the fresh approach Valhotra brings to every challenge.

"I have learned about his unique insights into the world's most important problems and how he chooses to solve them," she said.

Since his freshman year, Malhotra has also been using his computer science and programming skills to develop an app to benefit his school. He conducted student surveys to determine their needs and then worked to program and design the app.

Malhotra monitored a beta test of the app last year with a group of volunteers, Garland said, and the app is scheduled to be released for school use this year.

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