Ovoke Abamwa, 17
Amityville High School
Abamwa has taken three Advanced Placement courses, as well as three courses at Suffolk County Community College. She plays the flute in the marching band, the baritone saxophone in the symphonic band and alto saxophone in the jazz band, and she’s a member of the National Honor Society. Her parents were born in Nigeria, but she and her three younger siblings are native New Yorkers. Inspired by her mother, a nurse, Ovoke wants to be a neurosurgeon.
Stony Brook is her first choice: “It's pretty much my ideal school. It’s not too close to home, but close enough. It’s got very good standards, and my parents can afford it.”
Rafael Hernandez, 17
Long Beach High School
Hernandez immigrated to the United States from a small city in Argentina five years ago because his younger sister, who has Down syndrome, needed medical care. His mother is a cook at Hofstra University and his stepfather works in a bagel store.
Rafael didn’t know English, so he put note cards on everything in the house to learn the names of objects. Now he’s in Advanced Placement English. He also speaks Italian, and for fun he went to the library and got books so he could teach himself to write in Japanese and Portuguese. “He’s a voracious reader, always devouring two or three books,” said his guidance counselor, Crescencio Morales. Rafael is especially proud that he taught his sister English.
He hasn’t been able to make the 50-mile trip to visit Stony Brook, but it’s his first choice because he contacted students there who praised the science courses. “I can tell that it fits me,” Rafael said. He wants to be a doctor like his father, who lives in Argentina.
Sarah Jean Morales, 17
Glen Cove High School
Morales, who hopes to be a film director, has been hearing about Stony Brook for as long as she can remember because her mother earned a bachelor’s degree there.
“When I visited, I was impressed with the learning environment, and I like that it’s close to home,” she said.
Sarah, who has an older brother in college, is eager to keep costs down. She has a 94.32 grade point average, and Glen Cove High School guidance director Sal Bellafiore says the young woman’s drive has impressed teachers.
Morales also is managing editor of the school paper and active in the film program of her church. True to her Puerto Rican heritage, she’s fluent in Spanish.