Josh Schultzer and Maggie Hua are this year's William Floyd valedictorian and salutatorian, two years after their older siblings achieved the same feat. NewsdayTV's Shari Einhorn reports. Credit: Newsday/A.J. Singh; Photo Credit: Newsday / A. J. Singh; Josh Schultzer, Maggie Hua, William Floyd High School, Thomas J. Lambui

Everybody seems to have a theory on Joshua Schultzer and Maggie Hua being this year's valedictorian and salutatorian at William Floyd High School, two years after their older siblings also were the school's top two whiz kids.

Joshua was named 2024 valedictorian and Maggie the salutatorian at the Mastic Beach high school. Two years ago, their older brothers were the school's top students — only back then the order was reversed: Adam Schultzer was 2022 salutatorian and Ian Hua was valedictorian, school officials said. 

This head-scratching, not to mention rare, stroke of serendipity has amazed their parents, teachers and siblings, all saying it's anything but coincidence.

Graduation is Saturday at the high school. Joshua and Maggie will both make speeches.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • Joshua Schultzer was named 2024 valedictorian and Maggie Hua the salutatorian at William Floyd High School. Two years ago, his brother, Adam Schultzer, was salutatorian, and her brother, Ian Hua, was the valedictorian.
  • Joshua and Maggie credit their siblings, as they've tried to emulate them without living in their shadow, and to match their achievements while remaining their own person.
  • Joshua will attend Harvard University in the fall, majoring in integrative biology with a minor in government. Maggie will go to Carnegie Mellon University, where she will major in literature.

This is a big weekend for graduations on the Island. Ceremonies will be held Saturday for a number of high schools, including Oyster Bay-East Norwich, Center Moriches, Pierson, Floral Park, Uniondale and H. Frank Carey. On Sunday, there will be graduations at high schools including West Hempstead, Elmont, Sewanhaka and New Hyde Park.

For Joshua, the honor of valedictorian in the class of some 700 students comes after four years of hard work, including stints in the Youth and Government program and the Future Business Leaders of America. Turns out, earning a perfect 100 grade-point average isn't enough these days to land the top spot. Joshua's average is 103.7 because he earned extra points for taking Advanced Placement classes.

Joshua, 18, said he credits his competitive, yet collaborative, relationship with his older brother. They compete on just about anything, such as who can dig the most dirt from a hole in their backyard. In the end, they helped each other dig, one lowering a bucket for the other to fill. The pair now have a hole 6 feet deep, he said.

Joshua noted that while's he's a faster learner and better writer, Adam is great at logical thinking. "He helps me with math and physics. I proofread his writing," Joshua said.

That said, Joshua landing in the top spot has earned him formidable bragging rights at home.

"I like to say I'm one rank higher and three inches taller. My brother is short," Joshua said, adding that when their debating heats up, "I say I came in the No. 1 spot, so I'm right."

Joshua said he credits his competitive, yet collaborative, relationship with his...

Joshua said he credits his competitive, yet collaborative, relationship with his older brother. Credit: Tom Lambui

His brother, Adam, pointed to the cumulative power that comes from the two sets of siblings, who live in Shirley, being close friends.

"We've had a competitive friendship. I know that's what drove me. I wanted to do better than my friends," said Adam, who is studying computer engineering at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Maggie, 18, threw some verbal bouquets to her older brother, Ian, whom she gives full marks as a mentor and role model.

"I super-rely on him. ... He's my voice of reason. I have his voice in my head," said Maggie, whose grade-point average was 103.1, a smidgen below Joshua's. "[My brother's] strength is really just him. When he's focused, he's focused. If he's doing something, he can't have a conversation."

Maggie plans to major in literature in college.

Maggie plans to major in literature in college. Credit: Tom Lambui

Maggie, the former student body president and concertmaster of the school orchestra, also credits the inspiration of her parents. They emigrated from China after her father studied here as an exchange student, she said.

"They've taught me that when I feel too far spread out, to take care of myself," Maggie said. "I have a lot of extracurricular commitments and schoolwork. They've taught me that you're allowed to say you can't make it."

Maggie's mother, Yanping Chen, said she and her husband always have held high expectations for their children without pushing too hard.

"You have to do your work, and then have fun. That's just a basic rule," she said. "I feel like we're very lucky. ... They've loved school since they were babies."

Headed to Carnegie Mellon, Harvard

For now, Joshua and Maggie have picked up their caps and gowns for Saturday's graduation ceremony.

Maggie plans to attend Carnegie Mellon University in the fall and major in literature. She especially likes postapocalyptic, dystopian novels such as those about zombies, as well as Cormac McCarthy's "The Road."

"It's horrifying," she said of the book. "I like the dichotomy between monstrousness and humanity."

Joshua will attend Harvard University, majoring in integrative biology with a minor in government. 

His father, David Schultzer, praised his sons' mental strength. Their mother, Dawn Schultzer, died in 2020 from breast cancer. Joshua was 14, he said.

The Schultzer household always has had a strong sense of structure, he said, such as the family eating together at a set mealtime. When their mother passed away, the boys took a day off and then wanted to return to school, he said.

"They wanted to get back to structure. ... It was a good nod to their mom," the father said.

Joshua said he's a little worried he'll get to Harvard and overextend himself "joining 2,000 clubs." His brother's advice will help, he said.

"He talked to me about burnout," Joshua said. "He said, 'Take a little time for yourself. Chill, and everything will work out.'"

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