Irvington High School seniors Ryan Meng-Killeen and Zoe Mermelstein, valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively, of the Class of 2017, said it was validating to receive the recognition.
Meng-Killeen and Mermelstein said they have worked incredibly hard throughout their high school career, but were surprised to receive the school’s top honors. They attributed their success to their friends and family and being given the opportunity to pursue their passions both in school and outside of school.
“Being the valedictorian means that I have some very supportive friends who have always helped me do the best that I can do,” Meng-Killeen said. “You should try to be the best you can be because when you have opportunities and resources that maybe other people don’t have, there’s a responsibility to make sure you make the most of it.”
Meng-Killeen is a member of the varsity cross-country and track teams. He has also completed extensive and challenging independent research as part of the school’s Science Research Program and was awarded second place in the Cellular and Molecular Biology category at the Westchester Science and Engineering Fair. He is the recipient of the Peter K. Oley Historian’s Award and was named an AP Scholar for completing challenging college-level courses. In addition, he was inducted into the school’s Cum Laude Society for his outstanding academic achievements and pursuing the most rigorous coursework. Meng-Killeen was also named National Merit Scholarship finalist this spring.
Mermelstein said it’s an honor to represent her class and recognized that everyone worked hard throughout their high school careers.
“I always tried to pursue things that I liked,” she said. “I never took every single Advanced Placement class that I had to take. I did a lot of history and language and I really enjoyed what I was doing and I studied a lot. It was easy for me to do the work if it was something I was passionate to be doing.”
Mermelstein is the captain of the varsity cross-country and track teams. She is the co-president of the Latin Club and a four-time National Latin Exam gold medalist. She is a National Merit Scholarship winner and a U.S. Presidential Scholarship nominee, as well as the recipient of the Yale Book Award and National Greek Exam Blue Ribbon. In addition, she was named an AP Scholar with Distinction for completing challenging college-level courses. Mermelstein was also inducted into the school’s Cum Laude Society for her outstanding academic achievements and pursuing the most rigorous coursework.
The soon-to-be graduates said if they could give any piece of advice to the incoming freshmen, it would be to pursue their passions and push themselves in the areas they’re strong at.
“They should do what they’re passionate about and interested in and not worry too much,” Meng-Killeen said. “I think a lot of the freshmen can be stressed out about starting high school and try to be perfect and make the perfect resume, but I think it’s good to keep things in perspective. School is important but it’s not everything. They should cultivate friendships and spend time with their families.”
As far as his speech, Meng-Killeen said he will reflect on the year and everything that makes their grade unique.
“Everyone is very passionate about what they do and I think that makes us a less competitive and more collaborative grade,” he said. “Irvington is a very special place and we have a pretty tight-knit community, which is nice.”
In the fall, Meng-Killeen will attend Cornell University, where he plans to major in biology. Mermelstein will be attending Brown University, where she plans to pursue a Classics and Middle Eastern Studies major.