By Ava Aschettino
After years of challenging coursework and sleepless nights, Riya Gupta’s hardwork has earned her the title of Class of 2021’s Salutatorian. Riya’s tireless commitment to her studies makes her worthy of this much sought after title. Balancing her extracurricular obligations while maintaining academic excellence is no small feat, yet Riya managed to secure the second highest GPA in her class, and she will be attending Seton Hall this fall to study psychology. Intrigued by this year’s Salutatorian? Riya recently offered some insight into her high school experiences.
What will you miss the most about high school?
“I’ll miss the sense of timelessness and cohesion certain classes gave me. For 40 minutes every day, we were individuals driven by each other and our experiences. Specifically in my AP U.S. History class, we would have discussions at the beginning about historical events and its current implications, and each person would have something intriguing to contribute. In these moments, it was like a derealization for me as I was immersed in something that was on a larger scale than myself. I’m grateful to have been part of such great conversations in high school such as the ones held in my history class.”
Were there any special awards or recognitions you received during your high school career?
“I received awards for Excellence in Math, Social Studies, and English in 11th grade, Excellence in Social Studies in 10th grade and Excellence in LOTE in 9th grade. I also received the AP Scholar with Distinction award and National AP Scholar award in 11th grade, and I appreciate my teachers for giving me every opportunity to succeed.”
What is your favorite high school memory?
“A moment etched in my mind is our Symphonic Band trip to Carnegie Hall. Mr. Sisia chose some pretty challenging repertoire for us to perform. To prepare, over spring break I brought my clarinet with me on my trip to Washington D.C. and played in the bathroom while my parents were asleep. I wanted to be sure of my part in order to make this performance the best it could be. I will never forget the date: April 19th, 2018. I had the privilege to perform where hundreds of talented musicians played before. In the massive hall, we delivered a performance that struck the hearts of many. After we completed the last piece of our repertoire, we even received a standing ovation. That day I had felt seen, heard, and admired. It was simultaneously terrifying and exhilarating. It was human.”
During your time at OBHS, was there something in which you partook that especially inspired you?
“Taking part in Concert Choir, Chamber Singers and Breaking Borders, and learning from Dr. Dissinger. She taught me the value of music and how music can impact generations through song. Her words sit with me, and everyday I would look forward to her class. Her passionate, kind nature was one that I truly admired, and she always pushed us to be the best we could.”
Did you learn anything about yourself from your many years at OBHS?
“While I had to balance a whole lot going on simultaneously, such as AP tests and concerts, I learned how to manage my time and multitask. In addition, I learned the importance of utilizing my resources and prioritizing myself, despite the long to-do list I had to complete each day.”
How do you think OBHS has prepared you for college?
“I learned how to maintain a sense of professionalism in my conversations and emails, and I tried to develop meaningful relationships with students and staff in the building. I also came to understand the rigors of an academic curriculum and found an integrated balance between athletics and fine arts.”
Over the years, was there something or someone that motivated you to do your best?
“I used to be someone driven extrinsically, and I wanted to do well so I would be perceived as capable. However, having Mrs. Breun as a teacher, I learned the everso important lesson of self appreciation. I became more confident in myself and my abilities thanks to Mrs. Breun, and I realized that supportive teachers are part of the reason I am the student I am today.”
What would you want future students to know about this school?
“Don’t be anxious to ask for help or stay after school to go over confusing concepts in your classes. If there is something you don’t understand, taking the time every day to review and ask questions not only benefits your grades, but builds stronger work habits.”
If you could give students any piece of advice, what would it be?
“Take breaks and don’t immediately start work after coming home. Take one hour for yourself to reflect and then make a plan. It is perfectly acceptable to let yourself relax. Sleep is essential; and there is more out there after high school ends.”
What do you believe was the most challenging part about maintaining your academic excellence during this pandemic?
“Holding onto my motivation and schedule. I think that during this pandemic, I lost aspects of myself, such as routine and structure, but I learned how to pivot to a virtual platform in due course of time and understand how to accept change faster and perform effectively in a virtual environment.”
Congratulations to the Class of 2021 Salutatorian, Riya Gupta. Her accomplishments and success in high school will certainly take this star student far! OBHS wishes you the best at Seton Hall!