by Ruby Hanna –
Rachel Sklar, Irvington High School’s valedictorian, is the perfect representative of the motivation and passion for learning that best characterizes her generation.
National Honor Society member, winner of the Harvard Book Award, soon to be a student at Brown University, and flutist; Sklar’s achievements paint a picture of hard work and dedication that easily explain her successes in such a broad range of areas.
Alongside a strong support system of family, teachers, and friends, she also said that as a longtime fan of the Harry Potter series, with the strong-willed and intelligent Hermione Granger as a personal hero, she has “always held [herself] either consciously or unconsciously, to [Hermione’s] model of academic excellence.”
Though the influence of pop culture is nothing new in our technology-saturated society, to be so positively impacted by a literary figure speaks to Sklar’s meaningful emotional connections to the years spent maintaining impeccable grades and excelling in and out of the classroom. With the idea of becoming valedictorian “not on the forefront” of her radar until recently, she further credited her grandmother – valedictorian of her own high school class – as a potential factor in her outstanding high school career.
The road to such a high honor as valedictorian is not an easy one, but Sklar recognizes the personal growth that had to occur to get her to where she is today. When asked what words of wisdom she has for those underclassmen wishing to follow in her impressive footprints, she stressed the importance of leaving one’s comfort zone and taking risks.
Some could view these words as cliché in such a place of learning and experimentation as high school; development cannot be solely academic. Though extremely afraid of public speaking, in her freshman year Sklar joined Irvington’s Model UN team. Pushing oneself is no easy task, but the payoff, at least in Sklar’s case, was major. Over time, participation in the club helped her conquer any such fears, and she has gone on to win numerous awards at many challenging conferences, in her senior year even becoming the group’s Head Delegate.
“I think everyone should take advantage of these types of opportunities,” she said, “because they provide so much room for growth.”
It’s no secret that Irvington’s Latin Program is much beloved, but for the school’s valedictorian – a girl with many high level classes and incredible experiences under her belt – to consider her best academic decision thus far to be signing up for the course in ninth grade, is a true credit to the system.
“Teachers Michèle Cella and Jonathan Silverman have nourished my love for the subject and passion for academic excellence. Miss Cella has also been a role model and huge support for me over the past four years. I hope to love whatever I do someday as much as she loves Latin,” Sklar said.
There’s no doubt that success is in her cards, and as Sklar heads off at the end of the summer for Brown, she’ll be leaving behind an academic legacy that will surely translate into a prosperous future.