We asked Newsday's 2023 Extraordinary Seniors what the past four years have taught them. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca, J. Conrad Williams, Jr.; Morgan Campbell, Linda Rosier, Johnny Milano

The universe offers no shortage of questions for us to ponder. Among them: What makes someone extraordinary?

One answer is how someone chooses to live their life. Do they use their voice to speak up for others? Do they try to better the world around them? Or do they dig deep within themselves to overcome the obstacles in their path and become the best they can be?

By those measures, the nine high school graduating students named Newsday’s 2023 Extraordinary Seniors certainly qualify — and then some.

Chosen from dozens of Long Island students nominated by their schools, the diverse group —hailing from both Nassau and Suffolk — stood out for their kindness, their perseverance and their passion.

Take Kelly Gaussaint, who always ends morning announcements at Central Islip High School by telling her classmates she loves them — because, she says, “There’s a lot of people who don’t even hear that at home.”

Or Brandt Morgan, who suited up as starting quarterback for Jericho High School while undergoing treatment for a rare, aggressive form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

And then there’s Grace Sutherland, a Longwood High School senior who used her own lymphedema diagnosis to advocate for others with the same condition.

Sutherland is “a true representative,” said the teen’s student government adviser, Jodie Allone. “She is the absolute role model. I can’t even imagine how far she’s going to go in years to come.”

Read on for more about this year’s class of Extraordinary Seniors. — Kim Predham, LI Life Editor

Jericho High senior Brandt Morgan was determined to return to...

Jericho High senior Brandt Morgan was determined to return to the football field after he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Credit: Danielle Silverman

Brandt Morgan, Jericho High

By Tara Smith

Encouraging others to see the light at the end of the tunnel has become Brandt Morgan’s personal mission.

The 18-year-old Jericho High School student understands that life is precious. In November 2020, Morgan was diagnosed with a rare, aggressive form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma — a devastating blow for a high school sophomore who was gearing up to play football after his season had been postponed due to the pandemic.

“My first question was, ‘Am I going to lose my hair?’ ” Morgan recalled.

His second question? If he’d be able to play football again.

The answer, at least in the short term, was no. By the time the season arrived in March 2021, rather than two-a-day practices, the quarterback was undergoing chemotherapy.

Determined to make a comeback, he didn’t sulk in bed. Instead, his hospital room became a makeshift gym where he trained, strengthened and learned how to walk again after neuropathy caused him to lose feeling in his lower extremities.

Morgan longed to suit up and step onto a football field again — a feat some doctors cautioned might not be possible.

Against all odds, Morgan returned to the field briefly as a junior, and again last fall as starting quarterback while continuing treatment.

“Two doctors told us that we were crazy,” his mother, Abby Morgan, said. Referring to her son, she said, “He inspires me and everyone around him to choose to get up out of bed, do what you need to do to prove all the doubters wrong.”

Morgan is on a mission to share his story and connect with other young people battling cancer. He launched a website, Comeback Kids, to offer advice and pep talks and answer questions kids might be too embarrassed to ask parents or doctors, like how chemotherapy will really make them feel.

“The doctors can give you the factual data, but they don’t know how you’re actually going to feel,” explained Morgan. “I was in their footsteps — I understand what they’re going through.”

Whether connecting on social media or at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park, Morgan is a source of inspiration. And those closest to him are awed by his accomplishments.

Greg Berry, his math teacher and junior varsity football coach, described him as a natural-born leader, both on the field and off.

“It gave me chills and brought me to tears — he was more concerned with how he can help other kids who are going through similar things,” Berry said. “To me, that’s something you can’t teach. It’s just who you are as a person.”

In March, Morgan rang the bell at Cohen Children’s, signifying the end of his chemotherapy and the end of a difficult journey for his entire family. “It was a war for all of us,” he said.

Now, he eagerly awaits the next chapter. Catching up academically wasn’t easy, but his guidance counselor, Sari Grebstein, said graduating on time and preparing to go away to college is yet another reminder of his tenacity. “He’s intelligent and very capable,” she said. “He’s pure kindness. I’m just so impressed with him.”

At college, Morgan is hoping to fuse two passions he’s well-versed in: football and overcoming adversity.

“I’d like to use my voice [to help] athletes with struggles on the field, off the field, in the locker room,” he said.

WHAT’S NEXT? Ohio State University, majoring in sports management or sports psychology

I’M LOOKING FORWARD TO: “I’ll get to branch out, meet new people. It’ll be a good, new start for me.”

THE PAST FOUR YEARS HAVE TAUGHT ME...“I learned not to take anything in life for granted.”

Syosset High School senior Sabrina Guo has helped fund scholarships...

Syosset High School senior Sabrina Guo has helped fund scholarships in Kenya and procure personal protective equipment for frontline workers during the pandemic. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

Sabrina Guo, Syosset High

By John Valenti

For Sabrina Guo, the moment of clarity — the first time, she said, “where my compassion stirred into action” — was during a visit to a local orphanage during a family vacation to China.

She persuaded her parents to help her find toys and candies and other goodies to bring the children — and they did.

Guo was 9.

Now a senior at Syosset High School, the Oyster Bay Cove resident’s compassion still drives her.

In 2018, Guo founded Girl Pride International, a nonprofit that has assisted “socioeconomically disadvantaged, marginalized, refugee and migrant girls” in more than a dozen countries, providing books, school supplies, and personal protective equipment. The nonprofit has also helped fund more than 100 scholarships for children in Kenya, Guo said.

Then at the start of the pandemic, Guo launched Long Island Laboring Against COVID-19, raising funds to buy personal protective equipment for medical professionals, first responders and other frontline workers — using more than $40,000 of her college savings to bankroll the effort, school officials said.

Guo said her parents cautioned her against using the savings, but she was persistent.

“It was really more of a personal tribute to the frontline workers and the essential workers, who were battling against COVID,” she said. “They were making their sacrifices — and so I should make my own.”

She added, “It wasn’t easy to donate that much money...But money is something you can get back. You can’t get back lives.”

In addition to her activism, Guo, 17, is also an accomplished musician and a poet and an author.

“We are all so proud of Sabrina for her amazing accomplishments both inside and outside of the classroom,” Syosset principal Giovanni Durante said in a statement. “It has been a joy and privilege to have her as a member of our student body.”

Guo said the biggest life lesson she’s learned to date is to build “a foundation of trust” in your dealings with others and do all you can to help where you can.

And most important, she said, “Just don’t be afraid to fail.”

WHAT’S NEXT? Yale University, plans to pursue a degree at “the intersection of law, business and public policy”

I’M LOOKING FORWARD TO: “Connecting with like-minded change-makers next year and seeking opportunities to create initiatives to further make a positive impact in my college community and globally.”

THE PAST FOUR YEARS HAVE TAUGHT ME... “To reach out to people from different communities, of different backgrounds, to unite communities by building bridges of trust and compassion.”

Longwood High School senior Bryan Diaz-Ximello hopes to graduate college...

Longwood High School senior Bryan Diaz-Ximello hopes to graduate college early so he can teach in his home district. Credit: Morgan Campbell

Bryan Diaz-Ximello, Longwood High

By Arlene Gross/Special to Newsday

Imagine graduating from high school and earning an associate’s degree from Suffolk County Community College — at the same time!

Bryan Diaz-Ximello, 18, of Coram will do just that, becoming the first student at Longwood High School in Middle Island to do so through its Early College High School program, which was introduced into the district four years ago.

“He has helped us to raise the bar and he paved the way and demonstrated what is possible for all students to take advantage of,” Principal Sam Ahmed said.

Working toward two degrees at once was hard work, said Diaz-Ximello, who was motivated in part by the promise of finishing college two years earlier so he could come back home and teach at his high school.

“I truly wanted to see what I could do with my potential,” said Diaz-Ximello, noting that he typically worked between three and five hours per day on course work for both degrees and tried to reserve the weekends for himself. “I tried my hardest to maintain a healthy balance: I’m only in high school once, so I tried to live each moment to the fullest.”

In addition to his scholarly leanings, Diaz-Ximello served on the district’s steering committee for its Culture and Community Committee, where he developed a survey to identify gaps in reaching students across different demographics. He also assisted special education students with after-school activities through the Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies program. Along the way, he earned a New York State Seal of Biliteracy (in Spanish) and Seal of Civic Readiness for encouraging community involvement, and took part in Stony Brook University’s Science and Technology Entry Program.

In his spare time, Diaz-Ximello does woodworking, which he taught himself during the pandemic, and carves American flags, laser-cut signs, and, for Shark Week, a “shark-cuterie” board.

Though her son has always loved learning, he started out as a very shy kid in school, his mom, Veronica Ximello said.

“Little by little he started to be more open — and now he’ll get up and do speeches!” said Ximello.”

Despite his impressive work ethic, Diaz-Ximello admits that he sometimes felt like giving up. “But I worked too hard to stand down and I would tell myself that I owed it to myself,” he said.

WHAT’S NEXT? SUNY Oswego, majoring in technology education and history

I’M LOOKING FORWARD TO: “Growing and developing as a person and, through new experiences, understanding the world more.”

THE PAST FOUR YEARS HAVE TAUGHT ME...“To always stay motivated even when there are hurdles that shoot you down.”

Michael Alvarez, a senior at Iris Wolfson High School, "transformed...

Michael Alvarez, a senior at Iris Wolfson High School, "transformed his life" after the death of a beloved uncle. Credit: Johnny Milano

Michael Alvarez, Iris Wolfson High

By John Valenti

Michael Alvarez was lost. Wrong friends, wrong crowd. Ambivalent about the present, uncertain of the future.

He shut down at school, spending much of his days at W.T. Clarke High School in East Meadow avoiding class and hanging out in the bathroom.

He began binge-eating and, at 5-foot-10, his weight soon ballooned to 378 pounds.

“I started to eat a crazy amount, eating my troubles...I started hanging out with the wrong group, kids who had no direction. Who didn’t know much about their own lives,” Alvarez said.

Alvarez, whose father was out of the picture, said it was the 2018 death of an uncle who had been his father figure that caused him to retreat.

“It made me lose motivation for the future,” he said. “I became very close-minded.”

Alvarez said it was conversations with Carmela Gencorelli, the school psychologist at Clarke, that made him realize he had become his own worst enemy and had so much more to offer. She persuaded him to enroll in Nassau County BOCES’ Iris Wolfson High School in Greenvale.

The school uses small class sizes — generally fewer than 10 students per class — to create a specialized environment for students who “have experienced difficulty relating to peers and/or adults in a traditional school setting,” according to its website. That helps nurture academic learning, Wolfson Principal Lisa Paolucci said, while encouraging self-reliance.

Now a senior, Alvarez has “transformed his life,” according to Paolucci and teacher Craig Fischer.

Taking up jiu jitsu and hitting the gym, a self-motivated Alvarez lost more than 100 pounds. As a wrestler for Clarke, he competed this past winter in the Nassau County Section VIII Championships.

A talented musician, Alvarez plays four instruments — guitar, drums, bass and piano — and said he loves classic rock: Led Zeppelin, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Joe Walsh.

School administrators said Alvarez, 18, has also excelled as a peer mentor for middle school students, using his “leadership, compassion and humor” to connect with the kids. Students gravitate toward him, they said, adding he would make “an excellent counselor, coach or teacher.”

“His coping method was really just hiding,” Paolucci said. “It was his way of processing the trauma, the grief and the loss. . . . Once he got the support he needed, once he began feeling heard, feeling validated, it opened doors he didn’t even know he’d closed. It was really remarkable.”

Added Fischer, “I’ve never seen a kid in my 26 years grow as he did in one year.”

This fall, Alvarez plans to begin pursuing a career as a plumber.

“I have direction now,” Alvarez said. “I’ve learned not to sell myself short, to not be afraid to fail. I can tell the difference between a negative person and a positive one now. And, I can see the positive in myself. . . . Money can’t buy the feeling of this.”

WHAT’S NEXT? Trade school to pursue plumbing

I’M LOOKING FORWARD TO: “Meeting new people who are dedicated to their skill and willing to work.”

THE PAST FOUR YEARS HAVE TAUGHT ME... "Building discipline, building tolerance, finding out what I really love to do.”

Grace Sutherland, a senior at Longwood High School, was inspired...

Grace Sutherland, a senior at Longwood High School, was inspired to advocate for others after developing lymphedema. Credit: Morgan Campbell

Grace Sutherland, Longwood High

By Joe Dziemianowicz/Special to Newsday

Grace Sutherland is in her happy place championing a cause.

“Being a leader is my comfort zone,” said the senior at Longwood High School in Middle Island. “I like voicing my opinion and helping a movement.”

But it isn’t always so easy for Sutherland, 17, to find her voice — literally. After a May 2018 lacrosse accident and a subsequent surgery, she developed lymphedema, a condition that causes fluid build-up and tissue swelling. It affects her chest and right arm.

“It is quite painful. When my swelling is worse, I have trouble breathing,” says Sutherland, who lives in Shirley.

Compression garments help. Her can-do attitude does, too.

“Honestly,” she says, “going through this has taught me a lot about myself — and what I could do with my voice.”

In a way it was a life-changing wake-up call. “It was definitely a motivator to start putting myself out there and fighting for what I believe in,” she says. “It really helped me push and highlight what I was really good at.”

Sutherland has been an active participant in student government and has taken her activism to her community.

She advocated for the Brookhaven Town Council to pass a proclamation in March 2022 to boost awareness about lymphedema, which impacts up to 10 million people in the United States.

Inspired by her own health condition, she looked beyond just herself. “I felt it was important to bring some light to this subject,” Sutherland says.

The aim of the decree is to help residents “familiarize themselves with symptoms and seek treatment if necessary.”

According to the proclamation, about half of patients with mild lymphedema report “feelings of heaviness or fullness in the affected limb.” As the swelling progresses, it says, “it may become difficult to fit clothing over the affected limb.”

Sutherland is “a true representative,” says Jodie Allone, a Longwood High School social studies teacher who is the teen’s student government adviser and also has lymphedema. “She is the absolute role model. I can’t even imagine how far she’s going to go in years to come.”

Sutherland has already earned more than 30 credits toward college.

Said her mother, Katie Sutherland, 41, “After everything, Grace perseveres and maintains her true heart” — along with her concern and compassion for others. “Grace has turned her situation into a positive,” the proud mom added.

An outdoors lover who fishes and hikes, Grace Sutherland has immersed herself in environmental research projects concerning the Carmans River in Brookhaven. One of her recent investigations was a deep dive into the water quality of the river and its impact on invertebrates in the area.

“Honestly, I love the sciences,” she says. “I like going beyond the bounds of the actual coursework.”

The teen says her goal is to be an anesthesiologist, specifically a pediatric pain management specialist.

“Children often need an advocate and someone who will speak for them honestly,” she said. “During my experience with pain management, there were not a lot of pain management doctors. I want to make a difference in someone’s life.”

WHAT’S NEXT? SUNY Geneseo, majoring in biochemistry and pre-medicine

I’M LOOKING FORWARD TO: “Continue bringing science and medicine into politics.”

THE PAST FOUR YEARS HAVE TAUGHT ME... “How to make a difference for not only myself but for other people.”

Minnahil Tariq, head of Brentwood High School's recycling club, oversees the...

Minnahil Tariq, head of Brentwood High School's recycling club, oversees the reprocessing of about 15,000 bottles and cans every month. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

Minnahil Tariq, Brentwood High

By Joe Dziemianowicz/Special to Newsday

It may not be easy being green, but Brentwood High School senior Minnahil Tariq always finds a way.

The 17-year-old STEM whiz is fully committed to environmental causes. As head of her school’s recycling club, Tariq oversees reprocessing of “approximately 10,000 bottles a month,” she says, along with nearly 5,000 cans. Proceeds from recycling, which cuts down on waste, go toward scholarships, she says. Win-win.

Tariq, who hopes to become an environmental scientist, has focused her high school research on the delicate local ecosystem. Her investigation of invasive seaweed around Long Island recently earned her recognition as a Regeneron Science Talent Search scholar. Recipients span 194 American and international high schools in 35 states and China.

Tariq’s “stick-to-it-ness” is exemplary, says Rebecca Grella, her research teacher. “She involves herself in every aspect of her research to see that the problem is solved.”

In her downtime, Tariq has rolled up her sleeves as a junior commissioner for Keep Islip Clean, a group that’s all about grassroots efforts to keep towns green and litter-free.

At the same time Tariq has been responsive to people’s needs as well. In 2020, Tariq co-founded the Brentwood chapter of Letters for Rose, which aims to lower loneliness among the elderly.

As a co-director, she rallies students to write letters and send artwork to nursing home residents. “I wanted to just give them a sense of community and belonging and reassurance that they’re not alone,” she says.

Tariq also spearheaded a school effort to expand menu options for students like herself with halal dietary restrictions. “I’m proud of this,” says Tariq, who was born in Pakistan and came to the United States when she was 3.

Her mother, Haleema Tariq, 43, a teaching assistant at Southwest Elementary School in Bay Shore, marvels at her daughter’s achievements. She calls her “a go-getter with a strong protective instinct.”

In addition to handling a rigorous high school curriculum, Tariq has already earned college credits that will transfer in the fall.

Her secret to getting everything done? “Being persistent and moving forward regardless of what happens is the key,” Tariq says.

That’s a formula worth bottling.

WHAT’S NEXT? Stony Brook University, majoring in environmental studies

I’M LOOKING FORWARD TO: “Meeting new people and expanding my community circle.”

THE PAST FOUR YEARS HAVE TAUGHT ME...“Whatever I put my mind to, I’m capable of accomplishing it.”

Central Islip High School senior Edelmira Avila "always has a...

Central Islip High School senior Edelmira Avila "always has a smile on her face and is always willing to help her fellow students,” teacher Darren Ehrhardt said. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Edelmira Avila, Central Islip High

By Michael R. Ebert

While FaceTiming during class would probably land most students in the principal’s office, Edelmira Avila used the tool to demonstrate her dedication to her studies.

The Central Islip High School senior, who was diagnosed with sickle cell disease shortly after her birth in Honduras, moved to the United States with her father at the age of 2 so she could receive better treatment. Since then, her medical care has included undergoing a cerebral bypass three years ago as well as blood transfusions every three weeks at Stony Brook University Hospital.

The full-day transfusions, which she has received since the seventh grade, are what motivated Avila to FaceTime a friend so she wouldn’t miss an important lesson. She estimates having done that about 10 times this school year alone.

“It was hard for me, I won’t lie,” Avila, 18, said. “There were times it just frustrated me a lot that I had to miss class because of my medical condition, but there was always that importance of keeping up my grades and my academic standing. My parents especially have sacrificed so much, and I want to do something good in this life.”

Despite the disease, Avila ranked 18th in her roughly 600-student class and serves as vice president of the senior class, co-captain of the girls varsity swim team, and corresponding secretary for the National Honor Society. Her other efforts have included volunteering at her district’s food pantry and coordinating a toy drive to benefit the Family Service League.

“I immediately fell in love with it,” Avila said of the pantry. “Seeing these people come out and receiving the boxes of food, it’s a warm feeling that I can’t replicate with anything else.”

The active Avila is also part of her school’s marching band leadership group, Student Action Committee, Women 2 Women Club and Future Business Leaders of America Club. In addition, she participates in the New York State Science and Technology Entry Program.

“Edelmira always has a smile on her face and is always willing to help her fellow students,” said her school‘s technology teacher Darren Ehrhardt. “She is an inspirational human being.”

WHAT’S NEXT? St. Joseph’s University in Patchogue, majoring in computer information technology

I’M LOOKING FORWARD TO: “Getting accustomed to a new environment and bigger world, having unbreakable bonds, and finding balance in school, work and life.”

THE PAST FOUR YEARS HAVE TAUGHT ME...“The importance of being involved and giving back to the community. I truly believe that gratitude is the greatest tool."

Farmingdale High School senior Waseem Ahmed in the school garden that...

Farmingdale High School senior Waseem Ahmed in the school garden that he helps maintain. Credit: Linda Rosier

Waseem Ahmad, Farmingdale High

By Michael O'Keeffe

The thing about Waseem Ahmad that Farmingdale High School English teacher Lori Oldham finds most impressive is not his academic achievements, his passion for environmental science or his devotion to his faith — although they are very impressive indeed.

The thing that impresses Oldham most, she said, is Ahmad’s leadership skills and his desire to connect and work with others.

“To use his own words from his college essay, Waseem likes the idea of putting collaboration over competition,” Oldham said. “I see it in the classroom. He is always helping other students. He is so humble and so unassuming. He is a star, he really is.”

Ahmad, who has a passion for environmental science, “wants to make significant changes within our community, country and world,” Farmingdale school counselor Jill Greeney wrote in her letter nominating Ahmad as an Extraordinary Senior.

The 17-year-old says he hopes to one day develop technology that will solve environmental problems, with a special focus on finding ways to clean the ocean water.

He was inspired to take up environmental causes, Ahmad said, after reading “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind” as a freshman.

“The character was poor, but he built a windmill that saved his village from famine,” Ahmad said. “It doesn’t matter where you start. Everybody has the potential to be great.”

He said his biggest concern regarding the environment is apathy.

“A lot of people know about the issues but don’t do anything about it,” he said. “I’d like to get more people involved.”

Ahmad has been a leader in various green clubs at school, including the Go Green Recycling club, the Environmental club and the National Green Honor Society, Oldham said. He was also captain of his school’s Marine Science Bowl and helps maintain a school garden.

“He is a role model who has earned the esteem of all who know him,” Greeney wrote.

Outside of environmental pursuits, Ahmad is vice president of his school’s Key Club and president of the Red Cross club.

He also volunteers time every weekday teaching the Koran to younger children and spends 2½ hours every Sunday meeting with older members of his mosque to discuss their faith — all while taking 13 AP courses and earning a GPA of 105.321.

Ahmad, who is Farmingdale’s Class of 2023 valedictorian, was born in Pakistan and moved to the United States when he was 9 months old, according to his father, Shakil Ahmad, who said the family immigrated for more opportunities for Waseem, who plans to attend Harvard University next year, and his sister, Kiran, who is currently attending Harvard.

“My son is very bright, and I am so very proud,” Shakil Ahmad said of Waseem, whom he called “God’s blessing.”

WHAT’S NEXT? Harvard University, plans to study applied mathematics and environmental engineering

I’M LOOKING FORWARD TO: “Meeting brilliant people.”

THE PAST FOUR YEARS HAVE TAUGHT ME...“The only limits are the ones you put on yourself.”

Kelly Gaussaint, who does the morning announcements at Central Islip...

Kelly Gaussaint, who does the morning announcements at Central Islip High School, tries to brighten her classmates' day with jokes and stories. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

Kelly Gaussaint, Central Islip High

By Michael R. Ebert

While Kelly Gaussaint might have appeared in every theater production over the past two years at her school, her favorite role has been being the student to deliver the building’s morning announcements every day at 7 a.m.

The daily monologue, which she starts with a singsong, "Good morning! Good morning! Good morning!," gives the gregarious Gaussaint a chance to share a joke as well as some unscripted stories and dance music to help her peers begin the day with a smile at Central Islip High School. Sometimes she'll even mix in different dialects including a southern drawl and a British accent.

"I'm really glad I can leave an impact on someone's day," said Gaussaint, 17, who has been responsible for the announcements as president of the school's Student Council. "I always end the announcements by saying, 'I love you all very much.' There's a lot of people who don’t even hear that at home, so if I can be the person that tells someone I love them for the day, then I'll do that."

But Gaussaint's activities go far beyond the morning broadcast. The diligent senior, who is her class valedictorian with a weighted grade-point average of 106.48, also serves as class president and vice president of the National Honor Society. In addition, she is a member of her school's girls lacrosse team, Drama Club, Student Action Committee and Women 2 Women Club — the latter two of which were started and advised by Isabelle Mitchell, who Gaussaint calls one of her "greatest mentors" throughout her four years of high school.

Gaussaint's other activities include coordinating a collection of backpacks last year for needy children in her district and holding several starring roles in her school's theater productions. Most recently, she portrayed Evillene, the Wicked Witch of the West, in "The Wiz."

"You have to force yourself to step out of your comfort zone to play a character," Gaussaint said of performing on stage. "It's definitely a good character development tool, especially for out in the real world."

Gaussaint also serves as secretary for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's Islip Town Youth Council and was one of 400 recipients nationwide this spring of a $40,000 Amazon Future Engineers Scholarship.

"Kelly is the voice, heart and smile of Central Islip High School's Class of 2023," said her school's technology teacher Darren Ehrhardt. "She is a people magnet with an infectious personality that draws people in from all walks of life, making everyone she meets feel loved."

WHAT'S NEXT? Duke University, majoring in computer science

I'M LOOKING FORWARD TO: "Creating new friendships and meeting people from all over the world. I definitely want to expand my own worldview, connect with as many people as I can, and learn new things that I'd never dreamed of experiencing before.”

THE PAST FOUR YEARS HAVE TAUGHT ME..."I've learned that life shouldn't really be taken so seriously. Everything you know can change in a second. Tell the people you love that you love them and laugh as often and as much and as loud as possible."

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