They're young, gifted and full of good character.
Meet eleven Long Island students nominated by school staff members for newsday.com's monthly 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, fill out this form. Your entry may appear in February's edition of Students to Watch. Newsday.com is only accepting submissions for Long Island high school students.
Chris Tapia, Eastport-South Manor Jr-Sr High School
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH HIM: Tapia has earned grades above a 92 in every class since the seventh grade, teacher Robert Bolen said. He's passionate about engineering, computer programming and lacrosse.
"He is an incredibly gifted young man who possesses advanced intellectual ability and an unparalleled work ethic," Bolen said.
Tapia, an AP scholar with distinction, has been a contributing member of the science research program at the high school for four years. Outside of school, he has presented research work at Brookhaven National Laboratory, worked with protein crystallographers and researchers at the National Synchrotron Light Source at the Brookhaven National Laboratory, and was one of 20 students nationwide to be accepted into the Engineering Summer Camp at SUNY Stony Brook. He interned with Dr. Christopher Gobler at SUNY Stony Brook School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences last summer.
Tapia was recently accepted to the highly competitive Partners for the Future program at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. The program gives a small group of high school students the opportunity to work with researchers at the lab. Tapia was one of 14 students from Nassau and Suffolk selected to participate in this year's program. He travels to the lab at least twice a week to attend meetings and work with Dr. Gholson Lyon on molecular genetics and mechanisms associated with Ogden Syndrome, a rare genetic disease that afflicts male newborns and causes death within two years of birth.
Tapia also created Devaprise.com, a development team made up of teenagers.
Isaiah Genao, Elmont Memorial High School
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH HIM: Genao serves as the president of Model UN at Elmont Memorial High School. He recently led a team of 26 students from the high school to participate in the Princeton Model UN Conference. Many of the students are new to Model UN, and some are only in the eighth grade. The team still received awards in six of the eight simulated General Assembly Committees. Some of the topics discussed were freedom of the press, xenophobia, nuclear disarmament, commodity price dependency and global pandemics. Genao worked with the team every day at 6:55 a.m. for approximately eight weeks to prepare for the conference. Teacher and Model UN Advisor Nkenge Gilliam credits the victories to Genao's commitment and leadership skills.
Genao maintains a high grade-point average, a part-time job, a spot on the school's wrestling team and serves on the superintendent's Student Advisory Board. He is enrolled in Advanced Placement classes and is a member of various honor societies. Genao facilitates a Model UN conference for fourth-graders in the district every spring. He also recently served as a student panelist in a forum covering race relations in school settings, sponsored by the New York State Caucus of Black School Board Members.
Genao is currently working on the development of a nonprofit foundation that will enhance educational opportunities for children.
Amanda Aronoff, John F. Kennedy High School
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH HER: Aronoff has made a tremendous impact on students at John F. Kennedy High School, creating a positive and safe school environment, district Social Studies Chairperson Karen McGuinness said. She organized a student-run Anti-Bullying Committee and created the "Nice Is Always Cool" (NICE!) committee. As founder and president of the committee, Aronoff raised awareness about the issue of bullying and began a discussion to combat the effects of bullying school-wide. She planned and implemented fundraising activities to make the committee successful, McGuinness said. Aronoff created a photo contest for students to create an anti-bullying image. The images were then displayed throughout the school to bring attention to the cause.
She also organized the first school-wide talent show. She coordinates the Random Acts of Kindness recognition, where a teacher anonymously nominates a student who has helped a classmate in some way. She also created the Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) club and a weekly announcement called "Weekend Wisdom." Every Friday morning, a quote is selected by the SADD club and announced to the school community, encouraging wise decision-making over the weekend. The SADD club also coordinates Grim Reaper Day in which various activities and guest speakers alert students to the dangers of drinking and driving.
Scott Soifer, North Shore Hebrew Academy High School
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH HIM: Soifer is an extraordinary inventor, according to science research coordinator Lisa Runco.
"There is not one (electronic) thing in Scott's house that has not been taken apart and reconfigured," Runco said.
Soifer has built a vehicular heatstroke prevention device to be featured in upcoming science competitions, a solar-powered UV sterilizer for Third World countries, a 3-D printer from scratch, a student-to-teacher telecommunication system to prevent class disruption, a remote-controlled light switch, a hovercraft and a foldaway workshop. Soifer also builds custom projects for people.
Soifer envisions a future as an entrepreneur in mechanical or electrical engineering. During the summer of 2015, he worked at Stony Brook University performing research in the laboratory of Dr. Fan Ye, assistant professor of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, on the Named Data networking project.
Soifer is a member of the school's Tech Bar. He will also be starting an engineering club after school.
Jason Harris, Roslyn High School
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH HIM: Harris' passion for aviation began approximately six years ago as a passenger on a JetBlue flight out of JFK Airport, according to school counselor Gail Kennedy. Since then, Harris has taught himself a great deal about the field. He has also accumulated a significant number of hours in flight through lessons he takes out of Republic Airport in Farmingdale.
"His knowledge about aircraft type, flight patterns and overall airport operations is astounding," Kennedy said.
As a volunteer for Nassau Suffolk Services for Autism, Harris participated in the annual Autism Speaks Horizons for Autism event at JFK Airport for the third year in a row. The goal of the event -- a result of a partnership between Autism Speaks and JetBlue Airways -- is to prepare families in the autism community for travel by having a positive airport experience prior to their trips.
"Jason's enthusiasm for air travel and knowledge has made him an invaluable volunteer at this event," Kennedy said.
Jared Del Orfano, Sanford H. Calhoun High School
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH HIM: Del Orfano was instrumental in leading the School and Community Leadership class in multiple fundraisers and service projects.
"With Jared's exceptional leadership, the class was able to help those most in need in the community," said Brian Joyce, teacher of the class.
Del Orfano was selected as student ambassador, representing Calhoun High School at district meetings and conferences around the country. He is in the process of developing a peer mentorship program to help freshmen who are struggling to adjust to high school.
"Jared is an exceptional student with great charisma and unquestionable character," Joyce said.
Brivia Bobby, Valley Stream South High School
HOMETOWN: Valley Stream
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH HER: Bobby has volunteered more than 500 hours to underserved communities, guidance counselor Karen Cooney said. She's an integral part of the Mary Brennan INN Soup Kitchen in Hempstead. As vice president of the INN's youth council board, she prepares and serves meals to the community. She also helps organize the donations of food and clothing for their boutique. Bobby has been the driving force behind many projects and drives held at Valley Stream South High School through her involvement at the INN.
Bobby has maintained an "outstanding" GPA while taking a rigorous schedule of accelerated and advanced placement courses. She is the president of Student Council, Key Club, Band and Gay Straight Alliance. Bobby is also this year's homecoming queen, and is the vice president of the Occupational Honor Society and Project Green. Bobby wants to be a doctor and her dream is to provide medical services to underserved communities, Cooney said.
Matthew Mastroianni, West Islip High School
HOMETOWN: West Islip
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH HIM: As a freshman, Mastroianni began creating local weather reports and posting them to his Facebook and Instagram pages.
"Matt was especially busy last winter," school counselor Amanda Eichen said. "During the many storms we experienced he would go out in the snow to broadcast his report."
Mastroianni is a member of Islip's Office of Emergency Management's Young Meteorologists in Training. He will be studying meteorology in college next fall.
Ana, Michelle and Cristal Lainez-Pixtun, Wyandanch High School
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH THEM: Michelle, Cristal and Ana Lainez-Pixtun were each born one minute a part. Seventeen years later, they are on the verge of graduating as the top three in their class, according to guidance counselor Dexter Ward. Michelle is ranked first; Cristal, second, and Ana, third. The difference between their GPAs is a mere 0.0183, and there's only a 40-point difference separating their SAT scores, Ward said. The final determination for the valedictorian and salutatorian will be determined at the end of the semester in January 2016. The principal of Wyandanch High School has promised that if the triplets are ranked as top three, they will be seated on stage at graduation and each will have the opportunity to speak, Ward said.
The triplets are now considering the possibility of separating as they begin their post-secondary planning, Ward said. Michelle and Ana are interested in attending Stony Brook University and Cristal is applying to New York University.
In this photo, Ana, Cristal and Michelle are shown from left to right.