It’s that time of year again. Graduation has arrived.
For Long Islanders, it’s a time to honor students who have stood out amongst their peers over the course of the last four years. In Levittown’s Island Trees High School, there are a pair of students who have gone above and beyond.
The valedictorian from Island Trees is David Wendt, a notable student who has stood out in science, math, technology and engineering (STEM) programs throughout his high school career. The school’s salutatorian is Abel Marhajan, one of the most active and accomplished members of the community.
Wendt’s successes thus far are impressive, including being named an AP Scholar with Distinction, AP Capstone Scholar, a National Merit Scholar, Regeneron Scholar, USAPhO Silver Medalist and a top regional scorer on the National Physics Bowl exam.
That’s not all. Wendt was also a key member of the Island Trees Quiz Bowl team that won a championship, winning first place for the Science Quiz Bowl team in the Science Olympiad. When he was a 10th grader, he won the Nassau County Interscholastic Mathematics Tournament.
Throughout the last several years, Wendt has been attending Stony Brook University’s Sunday School Nova Program, studying math and physics with Stony Brook faculty. Additionally, he completed the Columbia University Science honors program on Saturdays.
As for Marhajan, the salutatorian is quite active around the school’s campus as well. He earned a designation as an AP scholar with distinction, is receiving an AP Capstone Diploma, is a member of the National Honor Society, National Art Honor Society, Spanish Honor Society and is a scholar athlete.
During Marhajan’s final year at Island Trees, he spent time as a freshman mentor, helping new students, as well as volunteering for the USAATF Track program. He is also a Sunday school teacher at his church.
The Tribune spoke with both students to discuss their time at Island Trees, highlights of their high school careers and the future.
Q: What does it mean to see that your hard work has paid off?
Wendt: Since I compete in and work hard for various academic competitions (Quiz Bowl, Science Bowl, Science Olympiad and others), doing well in these competitions and qualifying for states or nationals is nice recognition that my hard work has paid off. Primarily, though, the moment when I really saw that my hard work paid off was when I opened my decision from my early application to Stanford and found that I was accepted.
Marhajan: The effort that I put into work, such as my artwork, gives me confidence in my own abilities. When these efforts are paid off, like when my work is recognized by others, it shows me that I am able to overcome challenges and obstacles that I may face in life.
Q: What is your favorite moment from your high school career?
Wendt: I would say that my favorite moment in high school was at the regional Science Olympiad competition this year when we found out that we qualified for the state competition because I had been doing Science Olympiad ever since the sixth grade. We had never made states before, and also because it was really a team effort.
Marhajan: My favorite moment from my high school career is when one of my artworks got selected for an LIU Post art show. It felt amazing that something that I am very passionate in got recognized.
Q: What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given and who gave it to you?
Wendt: The best piece of advice I’ve been given is rather academic, but it is when a physics teacher of mine at Stony Brook once told me, “Always think of the mathematical equations and physical concepts side-by-side when doing physics,” which has allowed me to understand physics better, as well as see how mathematical phenomena could arise in the everyday world around me.
Marhajan: The best piece of advice that I have ever gotten was from my eighth grade science teacher Mrs. Anderson. She told me to never belittle myself because I can always do better than I believe. She gave me the confidence I needed to be successful throughout my high school career.
Q: Which club do you feel has helped you grow the most?
Wendt: I would definitely say that debate club has helped me grow the most because, while I was never really too nervous giving presentations to my classes or speaking in front of peers, it has greatly improved my public speaking ability and has helped me gain confidence and ability in thinking on my feet.
Marhajan: One of the best clubs I have joined that has also helped me grow the most is Quiz Bowl. Although I was not the best on the team, it placed me in a group of people that were all more intelligent than me. It gave me a sort of goal that I had to chase throughout my high school career.
Q: What college will you be attending and what will you study?
Wendt: I will be attending Stanford University, where I will study physics.
Marhajan: I will be attending Binghamton University and I will be studying computer science.
Q: What are your goals for college?
Wendt: I hope to conduct original physics research and prepare myself for going to graduate school afterward to pursue a Ph.D. in physics.
Marhajan: My goal for college is to learn all that I can, use it in the real world and support my future family.