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Salutatorian heading to Peru to teach kids English

Aaron Schwartz, salutatorian, leads the processional at Half

Aaron Schwartz, salutatorian, leads the processional at Half Hollow Hills High School East's graduation ceremony on Sunday. (June 24, 2012) Photo Credit: Alexi Knock

While his classmates are picking out dorm decorations and getting ready for their first year of college, Aaron Schwartz will be heading to Peru where he will spend the next 10 months volunteering.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and it’s a great time to do this because I won’t have to worry about homework and responsibilities,” said Schwartz, 17, of Melville.

Schwartz, the salutatorian for the Half Hollow Hills High School East Class of 2012, was accepted to Princeton University and will be taking a year off through the university’s Bridge Year program. He will be living with a host family in Peru and teaching English to children there.

“I’m going to miss everyone here but I’ll be Skyping my brother a lot,” said Schwartz, whose twin brother, Nathaniel, will be attending Binghamton University in the fall.

On Sunday, Schwartz joined his 440 classmates at the Half Hollow Hills East graduation in the school’s auditorium.

Schwartz "personifies selflessness in a way that I’ve only seen in a few students,” said Roberto Trigosso, assistant principal.

Principal J.A. Woodberry described the Class of 2012 as the best the school has seen.

“Either I’m getting better at my job or the kids are better,” said Woodberry, who has been principal for five years. “It makes my job easier every year.”

In addition to the hundreds of graduates, Glenn Cochrane, a teacher and adviser to the senior class who is retiring after after 37 years at the school, also bid farewell.

“Like them, I’m moving on to some new things,” said Cochrane. “I’ve been doing this for so long and I’ve really bonded with these kids.”

Class President Cody Miecnikowski announced the seniors’ decision to name a newly renovated lounge after Cochrane. “Within these walls are amazing memories we’ve all shared,” he said.

Valedictorian Adam Needelman shared a few final words of wisdom with his fellow classmates.

Life and success is not about how many friends you have on Facebook,” said Needelman, who will be attending Brown University in the fall. “It’s about the real relationships you create and knowing who your friends truly are.”

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