West Hempstead High School has named Nathaniel Vaduthala and Tina Tudisco the valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively, of the Class of 2017. Both seniors reflected upon their tenure in the district following years of dedication to academics, extracurricular activities and community involvement.
Garnering No. 1 ranking in the class with a weighted GPA of 102.31, Nathaniel enrolled in as many Advanced Placement, college-level and honors courses as he could take. With a passion for science, he applied to multiple research programs prior to his sophomore year. He attended Bio Tech camps at both the Dolan DNA Learning Center and Stony Brook University, being one of only 15 students accepted into the latter program. Through the high school’s Science Research program, he further developed his research skills at Hofstra Univerity under the guidance of Dr. Roche C. deGuzman. There, he studied the mechanical characterization of gels formed using different PEG structures. Over his high school career, his research work has won awards at the Long Island Science Congress, Molloy Science Fair and Long Island Science and Engineering Fair. Equally driven by his love for mathematics, he enrolled in Calculus II and Linear Algebra courses at Nassau Community College.
Beyond his coursework, Nathaniel also served as co-president of the National Honor Society and was a member of the student council, Key Club, and the Tri-M Music and Spanish honor societies. Gifted musically, he is a first chair cellist with the school’s orchestra, chamber orchestra and pit orchestra. In addition, he was on the track team his freshman and sophomore years.
Community service has played a significant role in the top-ranking senior’s life. As youth coordinator of the Indian Knanaya Catholic Community of Greater New York, Nathaniel acclimates children newly immigrated from India to American culture by tutoring them and engaging them in recreational sports. He has also organized various community-wide projects such as blood drives and donation walks. One of his most noteworthy efforts was the "We Can with Cans" project, in which he organized a massive can collecting campaign in order to purchase bicycles for children in need at the holidays.
Nathaniel has merited numerous honors for his academic excellence and charitable deeds. These include being named an AP Scholar by the College Board, being one of 25 students from West Hempstead High School to receive the President’s Academic Excellence award, receiving the Herald Tribune Award for his work in the school newspaper, Rampage, and meriting departmental awards in math and music. In addition, he has earned the Community Service and Academic Excellence Award from Town of Hempstead Supervisor Anthony Santino, the Nassau County Legislature Good Deed Merit Award, the New York State Academic Excellence Award, the West Hempstead Community Scholarship Award, the Good Deed Award for Long Island Teenagers and the West Hempstead Education Association Academic Award. He was also named a semifinalist in the National Merit Scholarship Program.
Reflecting upon his time at West Hempstead, Nathaniel said he will miss his teachers the most for their constant support and guidance during his academic career.
“All of the teachers I have had throughout my years in West Hempstead have been a major influence on the person I am today,” he said.
Nathaniel will attend the University of Notre Dame in the fall, where he will major in mechanical engineering and mathematics. As he prepares to embark on this new journey, his advice to future graduates is to find a balance between working hard and having fun.
“If you find something you enjoy doing, whether that be a class, club or hobby, push that forward,” he said. “You’ll be working hard academically but also doing what you love.”
Like Nathaniel, Tina challenged herself with a rigorous schedule of AP, college-level and honors courses, a passion for science research, and heavy involvement in school organizations and community outreach. She graduates as Class of 2017 salutatorian with an impressive 102.25 GPA.
Her interest in research began in the ninth grade, when she studied astronomy and conducted an experiment on black holes titled “How can scientists represent black holes in three dimensions?” She went on to conduct research on sustaining urban environments, a study that landed her a $12,000 scholarship for placing third in the New York University Tandon School of Engineering Competition for High School Students. She has also presented her work at LISEF, Molloy College, Google and the South Asian American Women’s Alliance.
From the time she was a toddler, Tina has had a passion for the arts. She has performed in the high school’s drama productions since her freshman year. After playing smaller roles in “Hairspray” and “A Christmas Carol,” she earned her first lead role as Olive Ostrovsky in “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” She is also president of her school’s drama and theater clubs.
A leader among her peers, Tina has been class president for all four years of high school, a position where she motivates her classmates and works with them to improve the school. Her contributions have included coordinating class trips, decorating the halls for homecoming and choreographing the senior dance for Class Night. She is also president of Mathletes, a member of the National and Italian honor societies, was on the softball team as a freshman and sophomore, and played varsity tennis her senior year. In addition, she has volunteered at South Nassau Communities Hospital and her church.
Along with graduating at the top of her class, Tina has been named an AP Scholar, one of the high school’s top 25 students to receive the President’s Academic Excellence award, and a New York State Public High School Athletic Association Scholar-Athlete. She has received departmental awards in English and Italian, an American Lodge #2445 Order of the Sons of Italy in America scholarship, the Community Service and Academic Excellence Award from Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, the New York State Academic Excellence Award and the West Hempstead Education Association Academic Award.
On top of her vast achievements, Tina is also a recipient of a Presidential Scholarship award and the Leon Pollack Scholarship, accumulating a total of $35,000 in scholarships to attend Adelphi University, where she will major in education and history. She is enrolled in the honors college and Scholar Teacher Education Program, a unique five-year combined bachelor’s/master’s program for students preparing to teach at the elementary and secondary levels. Her dream of becoming an educator stemmed from her mother and the faculty of West Hempstead.
“I wanted to be a teacher since I was 2 years old,” the salutatorian explained. “Watching how amazing my mother was at teaching, coupled with all of the guidance, devotion and passion I’ve seen in my teachers at West Hempstead, has made me want to have my own class of students to educate and support.”