Valentina Castro Getting to the Heart of the Matter

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by Barbara Moroch – 

Hackley School graduate Valentina Castro is on a journey —one that will ultimately lead to a profession of high calling: healing others. Her dream is to become a cardiothoracic surgeon; and her time on the “Hilltop” (as the school is sometimes referred) is setting her on a strong course, with Boston College as her next stop.

All of Hackley’s students are expected to meet the private college preparatory school’s high standards of achievement. “Being a Hackley student is not an easy task,” Castro explained. “It takes a lot of passion, dedication, and self-advocacy. Nevertheless, the hardworking environment at the Hilltop allowed me to acquire many life skills that I know will be crucial in my college education. Through the years, I’ve not only grown as a student but as a person.”

Castro and her mother moved to Tarrytown from Queens after she was accepted to Hackley for the eighth grade. The transition proved difficult. “I went from believing I was one of the smartest kids in my class to realizing there are so many people who are way smarter than I will ever be,” she said. “Not only was this a humbling experience, but with the support of my teachers, I pulled through and eventually excelled.”

Some of her most memorable experiences at Hackley are those she’s had working with her peers in helping the community, in addition to her role on the Steering Committee for Hackley’s Strategic Planning process — where she worked with parents, teachers, administrators, and students to devise a five-year plan for the school that was centered on preserving its identity while evolving with the future. She also served on the school’s Board of Magistrates, aimed at adjudicating disciplinary cases.

Castro’s most memorable experience by far, she said, was shadowing a cardiothoracic surgeon for her senior project and interning as a Clinical Research Coordinator at Columbia University Medical Center. “The ability to observe surgeries and work on groundbreaking breast cancer clinical research has opened my eyes to the huge number of people who benefit from the modern medicine,” she said.

While she calls the rivertowns home, Castro has ventured far during Hackley spring breaks  — to such countries as Germany and Israel, where she was able to meet with local students to discuss world events and issues particular to their countries. “One topic we touched upon was the stigma of being German and having other people relate you to Hitler,” she said. “The German students made an excellent point about the importance of recognizing their past but not being defined by it! Additionally, in Israel, I met kids from an organization called
Kids4Peace, which aims to bring Israeli and Palestinian kids together in hopes of mitigating their differences.”

Conversant in three languages – English, Spanish and French — Castro hopes to make the world a smaller place through help, hope, and healing. The next stop on her journey will no doubt bring her closer to that goal. She said, “My expectation is that Boston College will continue to challenge me as a student and put me on the best path for getting into medical school and becoming a surgeon one day.”

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