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East Rockaway val, sal reflect on school spirit, look ahead

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As they look back on their four years at East Rockaway Junior-Senior High School and toward their futures, valedictorian Zackary Hirashima and salutatorian Gianna Wayar both remembered how the small class consistently came together to support one another.

“My favorite memory from East Rockaway has to be any time my class did something together as a whole, so Rock Rivalry is an obvious contender,” Hirashima said of the annual competition between grade levels. “A culmination of so much hard work, planning and rehearsal is just so fulfilling to see. Missing it this year is sad, but at least we’ll be able to look back proudly on our greatest achievements.”

Wayar said the showing of school spirit was among her top moments at ERHS.

“My favorite high school memory was the sense of community that was created within our class,” she said. “From hugging in the halls to banding together in Rock Rivalry, our class has always been one big family. That made high school an incredible experience for me.”

Hirashima took five Advanced Placement courses as a senior. In addition to his interests in reading, science and research, he served on the track team, was a devoted volunteer and a class leader. He took on many roles within the district, including being treasurer of the class of 2020, co-captain of the varsity boys’ track and field team, president of the Student Council, the National Honor Society and the AV Club, co-captain of Canstruction, treasurer of the Yearbook and Quiz Bowl clubs, drumline captain and section leader. He was also a member of the Robotics Club and varsity competition cheerleading. Additionally, he played on the junior varsity football team and was the president of the National Junior Honor Society as a freshman and vice president as a sophomore.

Hirashima’s academic awards include Award of Excellence Hofstra University, Bausch & Lomb Honorary Science Award, Saint Michael’s College Book Award for Academic Achievement with a Social Conscience, Varsity Scholar Athlete Award for Boys’ Track and AP Scholar with Honors. Along with working at Carvel, he also volunteers for many organizations, including Lupus Alliance of Long Island/Queens, Island Harvest Food Bank, Holiday Foster Children Party, and was an after-school teacher’s assistant during his freshman and sophomore years.

Though his success scholastically and his community efforts were time consuming, he said he was proud to represent his class. “It feels great,” he said. “When I reflect back, there are some things I regret missing out on due to school or other obligations. But all in all, I enjoy the distinction it gives me among my peers.”

Wayar challenged herself academically and has seen the benefits as an AP Scholar with Honor, and Supermaster in U.S. History, English 11 and Italian.

Her leadership is evident, as she is the captain of the varsity cheerleading team, co-president of Student Council, secretary of the National Honor Society, vice president of the Yearbook Committee, a member of New York State Mentoring Program and a member of Student Athletic Leadership Program. She has performed in Rock Rivalry and is also the songwriting chair.

Wayar said earning the distinction of salutatorian meant a great deal to her. “I’m so happy that I made everyone who supported me proud and I’m so grateful for all the opportunities it has given me,” she said. “I’m also proud of myself for never giving up on this goal of mine because that determination will stick with me through life.”

Hirashima said that his goal for the future is to be a consultant at a large firm and involved in a business regarding artificial intelligence, while Wayar said she hoped to pursue a career in a federal agency, such as the FBI, or to work in the educational system.