Meet the Valedictorians and Salutatorians of the Class of 2023

Get to know the Valedictorians and Salutatorians of the Class of 2023

Students across the building eagerly awaited Dr. Holtzman’s announcement.  Over the loudspeaker, Dr. Holtzman awarded Katharine Tang and Dani Kobrick Co-Valedictorians and Taylor Schnatz, Gavin Hakimian, and Nicole Nazar Co-Salutatorians.  This title is given to those who accumulate the highest and second-highest grade-point averages in the senior class.

Caption: The valedictorians (Katharine Tang and Dani Kobrick, pictured first and second from the right) and salutatorians (Taylor Schnatz, Gavin Hakimian, and Nicole Nazar pictured first, second, and third from the left) pictured with Dr. Holtzman. (Credit: Great Neck Public Schools)

Dr. Holtzman pulled each of the valedictorians and salutatorians out of their third-period class and proceeded to give them a tour of the school.  He led them to the library, where administration, teachers, and families were awaiting these students with a celebratory round of applause. 

“While Dr. Holtzman’s summoning in the middle of class certainly raised my suspicions, I certainly did not expect the celebration,” said Kobrick. “Both shock and, to some extent, relief washed over me, and I felt incredibly joyful to celebrate with my sister and parents.”

Nazar explained her reaction to hearing the news, “I immediately felt very proud. I smiled with joy and went to hug my family. It felt great to receive recognition for all my hard work.”

Hakimian shared who he immediately thought of after receiving his recognition, “My aunt was salutatorian 2 years ago so when we told her she was really excited and happy.”

In addition to their academic achievements, the valedictorians and salutatorians also participate in a multitude of different activities geared toward their personal interests. 

Schnatz explained one of her favorite activities that she has participated in, “The summer before senior year, I focused on physical training for the military academies I was applying to,” said Schnatz. “We had lots of morning sessions to prepare for the fitness exams that are included in the application processes.” 

Hakimian and Nazar most recently competed at the DECA New York State Competition and were both awarded 1st place in their respective events.

Caption: Nazar (pictured in the left-hand photo on the right) and Hakimian (pictured in the right-hand photo) pictured with their 1st place trophies at DECA New York State Competition. (Credit: GNNDECA)

Kobrick, a devout Latin student, has focused upon a variety of extracurricular activities pertaining to this interest: she co-founded the Classics Club, runs a Latin program for kids at the Great Neck Library, and, arguably most impressive of all, she coded an app entitled Your Odyssey, where learners are able to delve into Homer’s Odyssey and grasp a better idea of Greek mythology and Latin.  Kobrick’s app can be found on the App Store.

Tang created a non-profit called The Color Wheel.  The Color Wheel connects local artists to children in wheelchairs and the artists create customized spoke guards for the children to put on the wheels of their chairs.  It is very common for a child to get their fingers caught in the spindles of a wheel, so spoke guards help prevent this problem.  Tang explained that the mission of The Color Wheel is to connect those who want to harness their art for the greater good and those seeking custom art. 

“A child having to be in a wheelchair is a very overwhelming and scary experience, so putting the customized spoke guard helps the experience be a little less scary,” Tang said.

Caption: One of the many customized spoke guards The Color Wheel has created (Credit: The Color Wheel).

Kobrick spoke about what she felt was the biggest contributor to her success, “The support of both my family and teachers has greatly contributed to my success,” Kobrick said.  “My family has always been there for encouragement and comfort, pushing me to be the best person I could be while aiming for my academic goals. Additionally, my teachers have drawn out my curiosity and guided me to be the best student possible.”

With success comes challenges, which the valedictorians and salutatorians have faced and overcame throughout their high school experience.

Tang spoke about what she felt was her biggest hurdle throughout high school and how she was able to overcome it, “I’m a very shy person by nature and all throughout elementary school and middle school I was very quiet.  My goal was always to put myself out there and be more outgoing and I feel like I really achieved that during high school,” said Tang.  “I think a big contributor to me being more outgoing was actually my teachers, in particular Mr. Baluyut.  Being in his classroom environment and learning to speak up and participate more really carried into the rest of my life and it’s really allowed me to be more confident and more willing to share.”

All of the scholars agreed that it was important to create a balance between their school work and social life.

“My favorite part of high school has been developing lasting friendships and memories,” said Kobrick.

“In a heartbeat I would’ve sacrificed a few points off my GPA if it meant that I could make more memories and be able to feel that my high school experience was very balanced,” said Tang.

In agreement, Hakimian shared, “my balance between school, out-of-school activities, and my social life allowed me to enjoy certain aspects of school and my classes.

These stellar students have made a tremendous impact on the school and we wish them the best of luck in their future endeavors.