For West Hempstead High School’s Marisa Sheehan and Isabella Caldwell, learning they were named valedictorian and salutatorian lightened up a less-than-stellar day. Someone stole Caldwell’s chips during lunch, and as she was looking for the thief she heard the announcement over the P.A. system. “I never found the person who took my chips,” Caldwell said jokingly. “Looking back on it now, it was very nice to hear that our hard work paid off.”
The same day, Sheehan was sick and went home early. “It was a roller coaster all day,” she said, “but it was a good moment afterwards.”
Sheehan, 18, and Caldwell, 17, finished with grade point averages of 104.4 and 103, respectively. Both seniors thanked their parents for supporting them.
“My mom is always encouraging me and pushing me to do better,” Caldwell said. “She’s always shown me how strong of a woman she is, which makes me stronger.”
“My dad has sacrificed everything for us throughout his life, yet he still makes time for us,” Sheehan said. “I feel like that always made a big impact on me.”
Managing time between their studies and extracurriculars was a key to success for both students. Caldwell was captain of the school’s track and field and cross-country teams and played on the varsity soccer team. Both were members of the National Honor Society, the Tri-M Music Honor Society and the Spanish Club.
Sheehan noted that because she grew up with four siblings, she is used to balancing things in her life. “Since I’m the oldest, I’ve always had to focus on them and taking care them,” she said. “It’s definitely not easy, but I feel like when you push yourself and have the right mindset, it’s easier to set a goal for yourself. I also feel like among us, that it’s less [about] competing against other people, but more about doing it for yourself.”
Using time wisely, Caldwell said, made things easier. “It’s very hard and challenging, but you have to focus on not procrastinating,” she said. “It’s just a matter of making sure you get everything done and go to sleep on time, and just focus on what you want to do in life.”
As for their graduation speeches on June 30, both seniors said they planned to thank everyone who helped them, and that while it’s good to reflect on their high school years, it’s important to look toward the future.
“Just because we finished high school doesn’t mean we can’t push ourselves more for our future,” Sheehan said. “Giving up shouldn’t be an option for any of us, considering everyone put everything into us — we owe it to them.”
“There’s so many people that have done the most for us,” Caldwell said. “We should all take the time to thank them for what they’ve done.”
Caldwell will attend Nova Southeastern University in Florida to study marine biology, while Sheehan will attend NYU to study statistics.