Dobbs Ferry Valedictorian Taking Year Off Before Harvard

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by Anna Young – 

Rebecca Cadenhead

Dobbs Ferry High School valedictorian Rebecca Cadenhead has experienced more in her academic career than most have in a lifetime.

Cadenhead has spent her adolescent years strictly focused on school and her many extra-curricular activities. The teen, who is currently interning with Marvel Comics as a writer, has studied satellites with NASA at the University of Texas, analyzed how microbiology correlates with diabetes at New York University, works with the high school’s Science Research Program, plays violin with the school orchestra and jazz band, performed the harp at school concerts, and has played viola with the New York State School Music Association (NYSSMA) Area-All State Orchestra.

“I used to sing but I figured that was too much,” Cadenhead said. “It was a lot and I cut back.”

The teen’s dedication to science research was recognized earlier this year as she was named one of 300 scholars in the annual Regeneron Science Talent Search, the nation’s oldest science and math competition for high school seniors.

Cadenhead’s project titled, “The Effects of the Gut Microbiota on Gene Expression Related to Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus,” was completed with the guidance of Dr. Martin Blaser during her internship last year at NYU.

“What we realized was when we ingest antibiotics you end up killing off parts of your microbiome,” the 17-year-old said. “That’s correlated with a lot of health effects like obesity, asthma, anxiety, and diabetes.”

The academic is no stranger to accolades. At 15 years old, her project titled “Improving Flood Predictions Through Analysis of Satellite Imagery,” won her first place at the 2016 Genius Olympiad, an environmental international high school project competition.

Cadenhead’s philosophy about keeping an open mind and trying new things rings true to her journey throughout school and her plans for the future. While the senior was accepted to Harvard University, she opted to take a year off before attending the prestigious school in 2019.

“I felt kind of burnt out,” she said. “I really want to travel and take a break from being strictly academic.”

With plans for the next year undecided, she said she’ll go anywhere in the world that will allow her to volunteer her time, experience new things and become a certified sea instructor.

“I’d really do anything as long as it involved building things. I just want to experience life,” Cadenhead said. “I think that would be a great time to see and do things I’ve never done before especially because I don’t know what I want to do with my life. I’d rather figure out what I want to do before I go to school.”

Cadenhead said she’s feels anxious, liberated and excited to start the next phase of her life. But with graduation nearing, she was humbled and surprised to learn she was named valedictorian.

“During my senior year I didn’t get a lot of sleep, but I’m glad that I got the recognition,” Cadenhead said. “I wasn’t doing all of this with that goal in mind, but it’s really nice to have it.”

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