College students share first-year experiences


Every year, the community shines a spotlight on high school valedictorians and salutatorians, focusing on which college they will attend and what they will study. This year we wanted to follow-up with some of last year’s top graduates, listen to their freshmen experiences and hear their summer stories. These young college students are wasting no time diving into their interests and pursuing their studies.

Luke Demas was the valedictorian of Valley Stream Central High School last year and is now studying human developmental and regenerative biology at Harvard University, a major that focuses primarily on stem cell biology. He said he thoroughly enjoyed his first year, especially his computer science, genetics and Greek language courses. Demas participated in campus productions of “Rent” and “Dreamgirls,” and is a member of an a capella group, the Harvard Callbacks, that went on tour to Puerto Rico and New York City.

This summer, he is studying Chinese at Sichuan University in Chengdu, China, participating in a two-month Chinese language and culture program through the Harvard China Fund. Demas attends afternoon Chinese culture lectures and takes language, kung fu and calligraphy classes. He said that his group goes on field trips every weekend to locales in Suchuan. “So far, we have visited the Leshan Giant Buddha and E-Mei Mountain,” Demas said. “We picked our own tea and saw pandas at the Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Facility.” After the program finishes in early August, Demas will visit Hong Kong for a week.

Brian Sinko, last year’s Valley Stream Central salutatorian, is studying business administration at Carnegie Mellon University. He is deciding between finance, consulting and statistics, and said that although college is stressful, it is a wonderful experience. On campus, he enjoys intramural soccer and tennis, and is vice president of consulting for the Undergraduate Marketing Organization. This position involves creating marketing strategies, speaking with clients and doing data analysis. “In the fall, I had those typical pre-college fears,” Sinko said of his freshmen year. “But after the first semester, I definitely knew I made the right choice.”

This summer, he is getting financial experience with his internship for Instinet LLC in Manhattan, an institutional brokerage firm. He enjoys seeing how the business operates and finds going to work every day a great experience. “It’s a chance to witness the daily routines of future career options,” Sinko said. As the clearing and settlement intern, he prepares contracts, files forms and contacts clients, acquiring important skills that he will need in the future. He has also been playing sports with his friends, biking with his father and spending some time relaxing at home before returning to school.

Silvia Arora graduated at the top of Valley Stream North High School’s class last year and is now attending Dartmouth College. Her major is currently undecided but she is interested in medicine and considering double majoring in biology and Spanish. She said she loves New Hampshire and had a wonderful freshman experience participating in peer education training and researching the West Antarctic ice sheet.

This summer, Arora is working with Planned Parenthood of Nassau County with funding from Dartmouth to do a 40-hour-per-week service internship. In addition to being trained in HIV counseling and testing, she helps in the recovery room, works with public affairs and does Spanish translating in the health center. Arora said she is enjoying her internship and “being involved with the political and medical aspects of women’s health and reproductive services.”

Charles Sanky graduated as Valley Stream North’s salutatorian last year at 16 years old. Now, he is a pre-med student at Columbia University considering a biology major with a business concentration. Despite the heavy workload, he said that he had an amazing first-year experience and is grateful for Columbia’s core curriculum that forces him to take a variety of courses. He is the mental health chair of the American Medical Students’ Association and alumni relations chair of the Wind Ensemble. Sanky is passionate about faith and music and is a member of the Gospel Choir, Wind Ensemble, Intervarsity Christian Fellowship and Columbia Faith and Action.

He also started working with Columbia University Information Technology as a lab consultant and field operations associate and is continuing that work part-time this summer. Remaining on campus, he also works on the New Student Orientation Committee “to help new students become acclimated to the university community.” Sanky is training to be an emergency medical technician and will volunteer in the fall upon receiving his certification. He is staying active by playing sports and enjoys coming back home to Valley Stream on the weekends. “I am grateful for a busy schedule and the learning opportunities it provides me,” Sanky said.